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Master Spy "The Train" Review

I've been collecting hard rock and heavy metal CDs since the late '80s.

Master Spy, The Train EP

Master Spy, The Train EP

Master Spy – The Train EP

Country: Canada
Genre: Traditional Heavy Metal
5 Tracks, Run Time: 43:29

At the start of the pandemic, I took it upon myself to re-watch the entire James Bond film series in order—even the non-canon, unofficial entries like 1967's Casino Royale and 1983's Never Say Never Again. As fate would have it, Master Spy's debut EP, The Train, arrived just as I'd finished my two-year marathon with the latest 007 installment, No Time To Die.

With my fanaticism for all things spy-related at an all time high, I was immediately intrigued by this EP's cover art, which looks like the poster to a long forgotten '80s action movie (starring a scar-faced Mel Gibson lookalike) and song titles like "Operation Black Veil" and "Cannibal Island." It seems like this Canadian combo happen to be movie buffs as well as metal maniacs!

Master Spy released The Train independently in 2021 as a digital download and the true metal specialists at Stormspell Records pressed it onto CD for the first time in Spring 2022. The Train may only have five songs on it, but listeners will still get the maximum bang for their buck, as each of the five tracks is a lengthy saga that pushes the total run time to nearly that of a full album.

The Songs

The promo sheet that came with The Train describes Master Spy as "unabashed, faithful, devoted worshipers at the altar of classic IRON MAIDEN," and that pretty much sums it up. Lead singer Flávio Lino is definitely a student of the Bruce Dickinson Vocal Academy, with similar tone and range.

Musically, Master Spy falls somewhere in the Somewhere In Time/Seventh Son of a Seventh Son era of Maiden, i.e. when they began experimenting with longer songs and more "epic" arrangements. In other words, if you're an aficionado of Maiden's book length extravaganzas like "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Alexander the Great," or "Sign of the Cross," then Master Spy should be right up your street.

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"The Policeman" gets things off to an action-packed start, and it even features a guest guitar solo by former Helloween six-stringer, Roland Grapow, which is a name I haven't heard in quite awhile. The lyrics appear to be inspired by '80s shoot-em-up cop movies like Lethal Weapon, though it must be noted that they're somewhat awkward (not only here, but throughout the album), which leads me to assume that English is not this band's native language.

The galloping "Operation Black Veil" spins a tale of a dangerous rescue mission to save prisoners of war in enemy territory, and it's loaded with sweet twin-guitar riffing straight out of Maiden's Somewhere In Time.

"Cannibal Island" is my favorite track on the EP. The lyrics are clearly based on the infamous gory "cannibal films" trend of the late '70s and early '80s like Cannibal Holocaust. This tale of jungle survival cracks the nine-minute mark and features some fine guitar soloing by the mysterious "Officer X."

"Alien Encounter" is an X-Files-esque story of an extra-terrestrial experience which brought back memories of renting the cult classic Fire In The Sky from Blockbuster Video as a teen.

The closing track, "The Train," justifies the band's name with its tale of spies vs. terrorists on the Russian rails. I couldn't help replaying the famed Connery/Robert Shaw fight scene in From Russia With Love in my mind while listening to this one. It's the longest track on the EP at a hair over ten minutes, and it brings things to a properly cinematic close.

In Conclusion

I'm not 100 percent sure how much of a "band" Master Spy is, as opposed to a studio-only "project" (Metal-Archives lists their home base as Canada, but the lineup features a Portuguese singer, a Russian guitarist, and a Greek drummer) but either way, the combo has whipped up five quality tracks of very Maiden-ish metal on The Train, and this EP is an effective "rookie card" introducing them to the metal world.

If I had to pick nits, I'd say that they may want to work on developing bigger hooks and more memorable choruses on future efforts, which would help differentiate the songs from one another. When you listen to this EP in one sitting, everything tends to run together into one long prog-metal blur. Then again, their heroes in Iron Maiden have been doing the exact same thing over their past couple of albums, so maybe these Master Spies are just being extra authentic...

For more information on Master Spy, you can find them on Bandcamp, and The Train CDs (limited edition 500 copies) can be ordered via Stormspell Records.

© 2022 Keith Abt

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