Home > Music > Master’s Hammer – The Jilemnice Occultist (1992)

Master’s Hammer – The Jilemnice Occultist (1992)

This is a perfect example of what I usually call “1.5th wave black metal”, for whatever reason. Basically, such includes extreme metal recordings from the late ’80s and early ’90s that were clearly influenced by previous important underground metal, but aren’t as clearly defined as, for example, the seminal Norwegian or Greek scenes. Examples include “Anno Domini” by Tormentor, “INRI” by Sarcofago, “Morbid Visions” by Sepultura, “The Awakening” by Merciless,  etc. Even Mayhem arguably went through this, as Euronymous’s musical interests changed and for some time, early death metal cavorted with more refined, sinister songs in the band’s live sets.  On the whole, things are rarely as refined, but you can often see later ideas in development, or find concepts that went by the wayside.

Master’s Hammer’s second album here fits this very nicely, except for having an unusually high degree of polish and musicality considering its origins (the tumultuous period where Czechoslovakia threw off Communist rule, followed by its fracture). As far as I know, this band, along with Root have been the Czech Republic’s most successful metal exports, although Root quickly morphed into an accessible ‘epic’ metal band, while this band imploded upon itself shortly after this album’s release (although they reformed recently and have put out Mantras, which is apparently quite good). This is apparently a concept album, but no official English translation of the lyrics exist (but fans have attempted it), so my ability to appraise this, as usual, relies primarily on other aspects of the music.

Enough talk about this recording’s background and nature; I postulate that this is the soundtrack to the literary works of E.T.A. Hoffmann. That’s a pretty odd claim to make, and it was assuredly influenced by the fact I first listened to this album during a class requiring me to read the guy’s stories, but they both share a great deal of what people studying horror and suspense literature call the ‘uncanny’ – in short, what horrifies us humans most deeply are things similar to us, but lacking in some important aspect of humanity – a typical example being the undead. This is nothing new in the metal world, but Hoffmann and Master’s Hammer have also both tapped into a great well of surrealism, fantasy, romanticism, etc. Things might seem realistic and mundane, but even on the surface, things are subtly, intentionally amiss, getting more so with time. On this album, it manifests as a gradual transition from songs driven by slightly primitive riffing straddling the line between typical heavy/thrash metal and black metal towards those driven by more dissonant riffs and greater orchestral presence. This is mostly in the form of keyboards, but Master’s Hammer also added a full-time timpani player for this album, strengthening the percussion beyond what metal beats would get you.

Franta Štorm, the vocalist and composer behind these songs clearly had a lot of ambition in him, and judging from the rather odd (and not very popular) character of the band’s next album (Slagry), this is about the level he was capable of producing around 1992. Most of these songs have well defined verses and choruses, but the band wrote a good deal of transition material between the riffs to extend their length. The vocals are generally ‘horrid screeches’ – not as abrasive as Wolf’s Lair Abyss era Mayhem, but with the phrasing used and lower harmonics, they end up adding to the atmosphere. Probably the most ambitious song on here is “My Captain”, which almost morphs into a completely different song by the end, but for the presence of a few earlier riffs as callbacks. This is in the middle of the album, where things are seriously starting to get screwed up, as the symphonic presence escalates and Franta adds some operatics to his regular vocals. The exception here is the final track (“Sucharda’s House”), which isn’t directly related to the story, and returns to some of the ideas introduced in earlier songs. The music is a *partial* return to the more anthemic, primitive works at the beginning of the album, and it suggests that after the resolution, the protagonists have learned something.

Overall, whether it’s historically important to metal is up for debate. I’m sure a lot of Czech bands have taken influence from it, but in English speaking circles (you know, the type that I actually can read), they don’t get a great deal of mention, even in internet influenced days like this. On the other hand, Master’s Hammer has a member who goes by the name “Necrocock”. That’s another reason to look into this, if not necessarily a rational one.

Highlights: “I Don’t Want, Sirs, to Pester”, “A Dark Forest Spreads All Around”, “Sucharda’s House”

  1. No comments yet.
  1. 2015/10/12 at 17:32

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: