Master Sword - Shadow and Steel - (9/10)
Published on February 14, 2018
Zelda-Themed Album Puts the Power Metal World on Notice!
Video games and metal have somewhat of a curious relationship. While there is a lot of crossover in the fanbases, metal musicians have yet to really capitalize on this fact by making video game themed metal. Sure you have 8-bit covers and the greatness that is Powerglove but nobody has really come out with original material based on video games. That is what makes Washington D.C. based power metal outfit Master Sword so unique. Instead of trying cover a broad spectrum of video games, Master Sword focuses solely on a popular series of games, specifically Legend of Zelda. Even if the lyrics go over the heads of folks who are not video game nerds, the music brings a lot to the table. Shadow and Steel is only Master Sword’s debut full-length but one that hopefully marks the start of a long and great career for them.
Most of the songs on this album are mid-paced bangers but the riffs are always there and they are always great. The melodies and solos are pretty good too, like the one around the six minute mark of “Kiss of the Flame.” There is nothing cheesy or over the top about the guitar work on this record. It is real, it is heavy and it has the grit of an old school heavy metal album. Songs like “Let Me Show You the Night” and “Isle of the Sky Spirits” are incredibly riff-driven, with the latter presenting a speedy, march-like pace. People often talk about the difference between USPM and the European style but this album really showcases that difference. As an added layer, this album utilizes eerie keyboards to great effect on songs like “Beneath the Skin.” This makes the sound fuller and enhances the punch of the riffs for a more dynamic listen.
The drumming on here is actually really good. Andy showcases plenty of variety in “Isle of the Sky Spirits” and plenty of great beats throughout the album. He even throws in some excellent soft cymbals toward the end of that song after showing his strong percussion skills in its beginning. Despite being a cover, “Hyrule Field” also offers plenty of variety and really showcases Andy’s unique skill set and ability to shift styles to fit the mood of the music. The bass only stands out occasionally on this album but when it does, there are some great lines that have a bit of funk to them. “Master of the Seas” has so much stylistic variety it is not even funny, with short bursts, hard-hitting beats, semi-danceable beats, solid cymbals and rim drumming all packed into a space just shy of nine minutes. No matter the style, Andy always plays with a ton of conviction and his performance is a huge asset to the band.
Lily Hoy is not a name most people would know but if her performance on this album is anything to go by, it is a name that people will get to know very quickly. Her voice has an incredible amount of raw power in it, which she uses to absolutely CRUSH songs like “Behind the Mirror” and “Let Me Show You the Night.” Lily also has a more melodic side to her voice that makes the softer moments on this album that much better. “Sanctuary” is probably the best example of this even though it is not a ballad. Even then, Lily goes back to belting out high notes with a ton of power midway through the song as a precursor to the tempo change.
Master Sword have put together one hell of a debut here. It is one of the few recent albums in power metal that is both unique and original. This album puts the POWER in power metal and should mark the start of a fantastic career for Master Sword as they have nowhere to go but up. Even without getting any of the references in the lyrics, it is easy to recognize why this album is special. You can also tell it is inspired by a video game because some of the keyboards have that classic “video game” atmosphere to them, which makes this album even more fun.