Thursday, December 12, 2013

Master Charger: Unity in Black (2011)

Taking on the Gods

joanismylover alleges that this record (reissued from 2011) puts Sabbath to shame.

What if the best Black Sabbath release in 2013 wasn't released by Black Sabbath? Judging by an eyeball of the cover art, Master Charger are a bunch of Hawkwind loving space rock gods who pay homage to Deep Purple for good measure. Fireball, anyone? Listening to an earful of these 10 tight, hefty tracks on Unity in Black, and we can confirm their rock influences are, in fact, certainly strongly ensconced in the early 70s. But not as much from the influence of those bands as from the ever present hand of doom that lords over this world from the children of its grave to forever in black. Black Sabbath.

Master Charger have put up a contender in the Black Sabbath album of the year award category. They drop the hat with the appropriately titled "Super Death Charged" which plays like its a lost track to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath only with a crisper production. It's a heavy, infectious, if simplistic, riff that drives the song through six minutes of doom. "So High, So Low" nods to Masters of Reality in spirit and execution, but the song merely serves as a holding place for the album highlight - the title track. (More below). Another highlight is the low end modern take on Sabbathian doom of "Greedfeeder," that almost calls Electric Wizard to mind, but not quite. Its loud and low, but not nearly as heavy as those modern day Sabbath overlords. But its good stuff nonetheless. Overall the production is warm and loud, and we aren't dominated by anyone instrument or distracted by the weakness of any others. The singer is a little out of tune and sometimes his timing feels off - see "Violet Wand" - but this is metal and these quirks add to the charm of this release. The seven minutes of "I Ride With Vengeance" give us some great drumming, interchanging the simple but confident rhythm keeping with some almost Mastondon-esque fills and skin smashing tempo raisers as the riff takes off. It's great stuff.

The best song on Black Sabbath's 2013 release 13 is "End of the Beginning". But it's pretty much all down hill from there. Word was that Rick Rubin did his usual with reunited bands trying to recapture their early career magic. He sent them out to listen to the back catalog. Master Charger did that homework better than the original wizards in black. The song "Unity in Black" is what those original metal progenitators should've come up with, but didn't. It starts with a simple middle eastern acoustic along with an ominous bass line, before electrifying the acoustic into a huge riff pounded into place by the drums, and then dropped into another heavier riff that'll have your head nodding with the best of them. It's the best Black Sabbath song of the year and Unity in Black is the best Black Sabbath release of the year. Definitely not the beginning of the end of Master Charger.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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