Denner/Shermann “Masters of Evil” (Metal Blade)
“Masters of Evil” is the second release featuring 3 out of 5 musicians from the last Mercyful Fate lineup, as guitarists Michael Denner and Hank Shermann are joined by Snowy Shaw on drums. The opening salvo was “Satan’s Tomb”, the 2015 EP that generated fan and industry interest, which according to Denner paved the way for this full release. The guitar duo of Denner/Shermann was last heard together in Force of Evil in the early 2000s. Snowy Shaw has also kept busy with a long roster of bands and projects, performing as multi instrumentalist and singer. Vocals are handled by Sean Peck, a veteran American singer, known mainly for his work in Cage. On bass is another American, Marc Grabowski, who worked with Hank Shermann in two of his previous bands, Demonica and Shermann Tank.
So here we have a supergroup of sorts as all members have long standing successful music careers. With that in mind, “Masters of Evil” sounds fresh, although with a nod to their respective pasts. The production and performances are outstanding, and the guitar work, especially the layered harmonies and leads that define the signature Denner/Shermann sound. Snowy is in top form and locks in with Marc’s solid bass work. Sean Peck has a very flexible range, at times hinting at a certain face painted singer that we all know, though rarely using piercing falsettos. Sean also covers more traditional metal territory, at times sounding like Ripper Owens, and even like Ozzy on the chorus of “The Wolf Feeds at Night”.
The lyrical theme of the album has the expected occult tinge, done as tongue in cheek, or at least that is my impression. I wouldn’t call the lyrics especially clever but they work with the music.
The first two songs on the CD, “Angel’s Blood” and “Son of Satan” feel like they belong in the Mercyful Fate catalogue, with riveting dual guitar work and vocal performance reminiscent of the band that Hank and Michael’s careers.
“The Wolf Feeds at Night” is in a more traditional metal territory, with feel closer to Judas Priest and even early Ozzy. The song is again punctuated with killer guitar solos thanks to the maestros. “Pentagram and the Cross” continues along the same vein. The album title track, “Masters of Evil” picks up the pace somewhat, back into more MF territory, with shifting tempos, and dual tracked harmony leads.
“Servants of Dagon” slows into a more hard rock tempo and seems to slow the pace somewhat. “Escape from Hell” features Snowy’s best drum work on the album. The lead work on “Escape from Hell” brings some of the heights of Mercyful Fate glory, and again is a masterclass in itself. The last track, “The Baroness” seems to change direction several times, morph into ballad and end up on a faster note, somewhat akin to “Melissa”.
The production is flawless, with a thick and heavy guitar tone that a lot of younger bands should take notice. Great performances and songwriting make this a worthy comeback for the Mercyful Fate veterans and their new band, and hopefully this will be one of many albums to come.
Reviewed by: A. Dorian