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Sunday Old School: Black Metal History Month Part 1. Master's Hammer

It's back! February means only one thing for Metalunderground.com, a month of darkness and controversy, with a few history lessons thrown in and some of the most extreme music ever recorded; Black Metal History Month! Throughout February, we'll be featuring black metal bands past and present in various columns and Sunday Old School will be taking a look at four bands from the genre, each from a different country. Speaking of countries, today will be the first time the column features a group from the Czech Republic and one cited as a big part in the development of black metal as we know it; Master's Hammer.

Master's Hammer was formed in the Czechoslovakian capital of Prague in 1987 (the Czech Republic and Slovakia would not go their separate ways until 1992,) by vocalist and multi instrumentalist, František "Franta" Štorm, along with bass player Milan Fibiger and drummer Ferenc Feco. The trio recorded their first demo, "The Ritual Murder," that same year before bringing in a second guitarist named Míla Krovina and recording another demo, "Finished," in 1988. They continued to self-release their own material, including a live album in 1989, entitled imaginatively enough, "Live in Zbraslav 18.5.1989."

1989 was an important year for the band, as it saw the addition of Tomáš Kohout, also known as "Thomas Necrocock" to the ranks, taking over the second guitarist role, while Master's Hammer also brought in a new drummer and bassist in Mirek Valenta and Tomáš "Monster" Vendl respectively. By the time the band recorded their fourth demo, "The Fall of Idol" in 1990, their reputation had been growing considerably in the metal underground, especially among tape traders in Scandinavia, where their sound would prove to be considerably influential.

The growing buzz and credibility Master's Hammer generated led to them inking a deal with Monitor Records, who released the band's debut album, "Ritual" in 1991. The album received great feedback from metal fans and has gone on to become an essential record in the collection of black metal devotees. Its influence was stated very highly by Darkthrone drummer Fenriz, who claimed that "Ritual" was "the first Norwegian black metal album, even though they are from Czechoslovakia." The album itself spawned two music videos for the songs, "Cerná Svatozár" and "Géniové" and also contained other staples such as "Útok," which was dedicated to Anton LaVey of the Church Of Satan and "Jáma pekel," which would later be covered by Polish blackened death metal favourites, Behemoth.

Following an album like "Ritual" would be no easy task and would take something quite ambitious to live up to the standards Master's Hammer had set for themselves, but they are nothing if not ambitious and so in December 1992, the band self-released their sophomore full length, "Jilemnický Okultista," with international distribution being handled by Osmose Productions the following year. The record was described by the band as the first black metal operetta and told the story of a young occultist named Atrament, who arrives in the town of Jilemnice in 1913 and falls in love with a beautiful witch who is kidnapped by the captain of the village. Reviews for "Jilemnický Okultista" were almost universally positive and the band were praised for both their musicianship and song writing.

Despite the critical success they were enjoying, Franta Štorm decided to fire the rest of the band members with the exception of keyboardist Vlasta Voral and record the third Master's Hammer album, "Šlágry" as a duo. The result wasn't enjoyed by all to put it nicely, in part due to the decision to bring in many elements outside of metal and noticeably featured many covers, including one of the Chuck Berry song, "Rock and Roll Music," as well as Czech folk tunes and poems. It was stated in the linear notes that they intended to release "Šlágry Part 2" as well as an accompanying CD-ROM, but before they could do so, the band broke up.

Like so many bands before and since them, Master's Hammer eventually decided to reform, returning in 2009 with a new album, "Mantras." The record marked the return of Necrocock and Monster, though drums were handled by Franta Štorm and saw the group blend their old black metal sound with the experimentation heard on "Šlágry," garnering a much more positive response from fans than their previous release. This would be the only release since their reformation to feature Monster and Voral however, as the two would part company with the band soon after.

As a result of these departures, the next Master's Hammer album, "Vracejte konve na místo," (which translates into English as "Return your watering cans,") featured Štorm performing bass, though a new drummer named Jan "Honza" Kapák was brought in to perform on the record, which again received strong reviews and praise from critics and fans alike and featured tributes to some of their non musical influences such as writer H.P. Lovecraft and astronomer Camille Flammarion on songs bearing their names.

Following the release of "Vracejte konve na místo," the group decided to form their own label, Jihosound Records and released their first album through the label in 2014, entitled, "Vagus Vetus." This was their second concept album following "Jilemnický Okultista" and told their story of a wanderer in an "unfamiliar Labyrinth... who enjoys listening to Aeolian harps and sounds of postmortal flatulence and finds consolation in hedonic experiences of natural origin." Strange as that may sound, it was another success critically.

In 2016, Master's Hammer released their seventh studio album, "Formulæ," which was partly composed in India and featured the addition of ambient music and melodic black metal in places and was another hit with fans. The band then made an announcement at the end of the year which delighted their followers to no end, namely that they would be performing their first show in 25 years at the 2017 edition of the Brutal Assault festival. This has led to fans the world over wondering if the black metal pioneers will be performing in their country any time soon, though for now, we can be happy that one of the most creative and daring black metal bands in Europe made the decision to return and to take to the stage once more.

Master's Hammer - "Cerna Svatozar"

Master's Hammer - "Mezi kopci cesta je klikatá"

Master's Hammer - "Rock and Roll Music"

Master's Hammer - "Typograf"

Master's Hammer - "Vracejte Konve Na Místo"

Master's Hammer - " Panuška"

Master's Hammer - "Maso Z Kosmu"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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