Interview with MASTERS OF DISGUISE
The Band: Masters of Disguise
Answers by: Kalli Coldsmith (guitar)
Since I first listened to this German act some years ago I knew they had the essence of the classic Metal stuff. But with time they have developed their very own sound and they are not a child of Savage Grace any more, you can be sure of that listening to their new album «Alpha / Omega» out in October 20th, addictive guitars and one of the best vocalists of the moment, Alexx Stahl. Enjoy this great chat with axeman Kalli.
Hello Kalli! «Alpha / Omega» is your third album, to be released in October 20th, how do you feel about it regarding your previous releases?
Kalli: Hi Alberto, regarding our past releases, we feel like we might have forged the hottest piece of metal in our career. Everybody who heared «Alpha / Omega» so far seems to like it as much as we do.
That sounds pretty good. Masters of Disguise was formed in 2013 and with «Alpha / Omega» you reach your third full-length, plus 2 Eps, you work hard…
Kalli: We released our first album «Back With A Vengeance» in 2013, that’s right, but we formed the band in late 2010/early 2011 already. But you are right, we try to keep paces high and since «BWAV», we literally released new material each year.
One of those Eps is “The Fine Art of Aging Gracefully” released in 2016, where you deliver a bunch of great covers from fantastic bands of the underground as Cirith Ungol or Omen. How did you decide to go for it?
Kalli: «TFAOAG» was the first recording effort with our new guitarist Wolle. We wanted to try things out and I needed to know how we would work together in a recording situation. So we decided not to go the obvious way and record our third album but rather build a comfortable working atmosphere while recording some of our favorite songs. It was more like taking any pressure from the band and having some fun. Plus we were playing some gigs with the mighty MANILLA ROAD, so we wanted to offer something new for the tour. We did not release «TFAOAG» over our label Limb Music but wanted it rather to have that special touch of an underground release, strictly limited, with handnumbered copies, and no booklet and stuff. Just us and six cover songs. Pretty basic. And that’s the story behind it.
A clever movement, indeed. So, it seems that Ep was a warming up for this great «Alpha / Omega», when did you start composing it and how was the process?
Kalli: You are right! After «TFAOAG» I knew how we would work together. Although I was not in a hurry, it took only three months to finish songwriting. I knew that Wolle would contribute tasty leads and I already had much confidence in our rhythm section. And I never worried about that Alexx, our singer, wouldn’t do a great job. So it was pretty relaxed since this time I didn’t try to follow the songwriting paths of the past, when I was wondering how SAVAGE GRACE, the band we emerged from, would sound nowadays. The songwriting for «Alpha/Omega» shows a cross section of my musical preferences, so to speak.
You are a band that follows the classic roots, two blasting guitars and a great vocalist to lead the sound, any guy leading the pace or more a team effort?
Kalli: It was always more or less Alexx and me playing «leader of the pack». As you can imagine, Alexx’ voice is maybe the most important part for MASTERS OF DISGUISE, followed by the song material. Nevertheless, every band member contributes to the success of the band and I’m very thankful that we have such a great line-up. There are no big egos and we are more than five guys sharing rehearsal room and stage. It’s more like a bunch of buddies accidently playing in the same band!
By the way, for those who doesn’t know the origins of the band, you got your name after Savage Grace’s debut album, but currently you stand with a sound totally of your own
Kalli: Yeah, SAVAGE GRACE was one of the big US speed metal bands back in the 80s and we actually were part of the SAVAGE GRACE revival in 2009/2010, at least Mario and me! We toured Europe and wanted to record a new album in late 2010, but SAVAGE GRACE leader and original band member Chris Logue did strange things and needed to leave the country and SG disbanded. Having a whole album in the tradition of SG’s debut album «Master Of Disguise» from 1985 up our sleeves, we soon decided to form MASTERS OF DISGUISE and release the songs. This resulted in our debut album «Back With A Vengeance» from 2013. In 2015, we recorded the successor «The Savage And The Grace» with which we kinda veered away from the pure SG song writing for the first time. Now, for «Alpha/Omega», our third full length, the idea is reinventing the band instead of walking old paths. For the first time, we do not feature Knutson, the sadistic cop, on the album cover. Nevertheless, we still keep telling his story with the third part of our «Knutson saga» with «Knutson III: Nemesis (I Am The Law)». But this song in particular is maybe the most unorthodox song of our career and would have never fit into the narrow SG context.
Yeah, it seems the beast has grown up and is totally unleashed . Alexx Stahl is a singer with a long curriculum, but maybe he is in the best moment of his career according to his performance on «Alpha / Omega»
Kalli: That’s exactly what I think, too! Alexx always was a great singer, but his performance on «Alpha/Omega» really nails it! Our approach for recording the album was more loose and spontaneous, just like the songwriting was. Often, the first takes had such an intensity that we did not change them anymore. Alexx came, sung, and conquered!
Amazing. No filler in your album, and a big range of styles from speed metal, heavy metal and even some epic tunes
Kalli: Thanks, we tried to be a little more diversified compared to our past efforts. I mean I love albums that don’t throttle down from the first to the last second, but if you get to write more than one album with your band, it will most likely happen that you want to keep things interesting. You don’t want to write the same album over and over again.
Sure, that’s the point! Shadows of Death is in my opinion a very complete song, a good picture of what will find in the album
Kalli: Yeah! «Shadows Of Death» is an epic tune, one of the band’s favorite songs on «Alpha/Omega» and I can tell you that we’re working on a lyrics video for it. This is a very special song because we never tried something like this before. Alexx’ performance makes me shiver and maybe «Shadows» has the biggest chorus of our career. It’s outstanding and unique while the rest of the album is slightly different: We got pure and pounding 80s heavy metal feeling delivered by «The Rise (And Fall) Of Kingdoms» and «Sign Of The Cross». The latter was written by Chris Logue and has never been recorded and released before. So that’s something special for the old SAVAGE GRACE fans out there. But the biggest part of the songs is fast and speedy. We have «Sacrifice», «Witchhammer», «Killer’s Redemption» and «The Leech» at a breakneck pace. «Demons From The Past» is fast, catchy and takes a little break before it comes to its fulminant ending. And last but not least there is the title track «Alpha/Omega», which is melodic thrash metal with another huge epic part. To me the best song on the album!
A great summary Kalli, and Nemesis shows your more aggressive face, for sure it will be a hammer in your gigs?
Kalli: Right, as I stated earlier, it’s quite unconvenient for us, but has a powerful and catchy chorus. It will surely be a live smasher with hundreds of voices in the audience singing «I Am The Law».
Brilliant and addictive riffing and solos thoughtout the whole album, any war between you and Wolle to be under the spotlights?
Kalli: The riffing is crucial to any heavy metal record! If the rhythm guitars suck, the whole album sucks! So to me, this is the most important instrumental part while recording and we put a lot of effort in it to deliver tight and scintillating rhythm guitars. Regarding leads: I like the different lead guitar styles on «Alpha/Omega» very much. Wolle has a smoother, maybe more technical approach while I’m a rougher player and I like to use the Wah pedal a lot. So you could say that we try keep the leads interesting with our different approaches and styles. But we both always keep the melodic aspect in mind and never shred just for shred’s sake.
Talking about gigs, any tour already in your agenda to present your new album?
Kalli: In the past, we toured with our American friends from MANILLA ROAD and OMEN and always had a good time. For «Alpha/Omega», it will be difficult, because last year Alexx got an offer to join a bigger German band and now he can make a living on being their singer, which would have never happened with MASTERS OF DISGUISE, because we are too small and special. I really don’t know any band in the speed or thrash genre that was formed in the new millenium and earns enough to quit their day jobs. So that was and is a great opportunity for Alexx and we respect his decision and support him in any which way we can. Alexx already offered to leave the band because of his tight schedule, but we all agreed that we want to keep him in the band, no matter if it effects touring and gigs. And I must say, I’m glad that he is still with us, because his singing is awesome on «Alpha/Omega» and he still gets better!
Well, I suppose you are talking about Bonfire, yeah, it’s a big deal for him. Many of you guys have played in many bands, but I suppose Masters of Disguise is right now your priority, right, apart of Alexx maybe?
Kalli: We have played and still play in other bands, but MASTERS OF DISGUISE is very special because there are not many bands playing this style any more. Close to thrash metal but yet melodic, not cheesy, with commitment and craftsmanship and a vocalist that acts beyond doubt. So it IS a priority to keep going and I think «Alpha/Omega» is the perfect album to express our attitude.
With your experience, what do you like and what do you hate of the current Metal scene?
Kalli: I like that the scene is still friendly, no brawls and stuff at gigs and that you can rely on most people being involved. I don’t like that the more people and bands want to be part of the game, the more money gets lost. This means that you might barely cover your expenses. You only get peanuts for selling albums, with Spotify you literally earn nothing. I don’t know any professional that works free of charge! Do you know any baker that gives away his bread?! Most records sound all the same because they need to be produced on low budgets. Many studios don’t know how to properly record a whole drumkit anymore because it’s usually all out of the box! I think people should regain awareness that if you don’t want to pay for quality, you can’t expect any quality in the long run.
Yeah, you are very right, future will tell what is to come. Great chat, man, thank you very much Kalli and congratulations for your great new album!
Kalli: Thank you for the interview! We’re looking forward to the release of «Alpha/Omega» and also wanna say «Gracias!» for the great review we got from Metalbrother.es! The video for «Shadows Of Death» will be released around October 20th and I hope that many of you will check it out! All the best to you guys and keep the fire burning!