REVIEW: DENNER/SHERMANN – “Masters Of Evil”
Mercyful Fate has been in my life since I was very young. Hank Shermann and Michael Denner have blasted their riffs at my house in the form of vinyl, cassette and CD, and continue to do so until today when I plug Mercyful Fate or Force of Evil in my stereo. So yeah, I’m clearly a fanboy of these guys, and when in 2014 Denner and Shermann announced a new project I was overly excited, eager to listen to their new sound. A year later the EP ‘Satan’s Tomb’ came out but I was a little bit different than I had imagined, and frankly disappointed me a bit; I had high hopes, though, that the full-length would be better. So here we are with the highly anticipated ‘Masters of Evil’, and with two legendary guitar players and an above average drummer in Snowy Shaw the album is destined to deliver guaranteed high quality, right? Well, answers below.
Starting with “Angel’s Blood”, Denner and Shermann manage to restore that cool evil atmosphere present in Mercyful Fate’s albums, but the song never quite reaches a peak. Instead, it’s just an ok song with awesome atmosphere. “Son of Satan” (you’re going with that title, really?) and “Pentagram and the Cross” are two really generic tunes with bad lyrics. The band tries to show a “bad-boy Satanist” attitude, but all the lyrics in these songs does is transform otherwise good songs into questionable ones. It’s one thing to write this type of cheesy lyrics when you are satirizing, but when you really mean it its just pathetic. Between those two tracks lies the best one of the album, in my opinion, “The Wolf Feeds at Night”. This sits well above the other songs and features killer groovy riffs and a good performance by Sean Peck, maintaining sobriety and inspiration throughout its course. “Masters of Evil” has quality, but Peck’s Halford-esque type vocals don’t quite match with the other elements of the song. “Escape From Hell” and “Servants of Dagon” keep on covering various spectrums of the characteristic Mercyful Fate sound (even resembling some riffs of the ‘Don’t Break the Oath’era), but both of them succeeds at standing on their own, with quality riffing and energetic pounding by Snowy Shaw, who is by far one of the greatest assets on the album. Closer “The Baroness” is the most detailed and lengthier track here. The haunting atmosphere and the diversified riffing make for a standout track, and while the song is not a masterpiece, it doesn’t let down either.
‘Masters of Evil’ is an ambiguous album; while there are, of course, inspired riffs, badass drumming,and a good production job, which fits the idea of the album perfectly – raw and simpler than the average mix of today’s standards, emulating the 1980’s characteristic sound, which I absolutely approve of -there are two main problems with it: the lyric content and Sean Peck vocals. The lyrics, as I said above, are barely passable and at times are actually comical. There is absolutely no originality present in any of the tunes lyric-wise, and this hurts the final product considerably. Peck’s normal vocal approach is good, but his falsettos are not. The lack of personality in his performance turns his voice into a strange mix of things; when he’s screaming, it sounds like Tim “Ripper” Owens is having a heart-attack, and he even makes an impersonation of Ozzy Osbourne in “The Wolf Feeds at Night”, which makes no sense at all giving that there were absolutely no signs of this type of vocal lines in any of the other songs of the album – or in his work with Cage – whatsoever. Weird.
All in all, ‘Masters of Evil’ is an OK album, with bits of inspiration and great execution, but poor in the songwriting department and highly unmemorable. Mercyful Fate/King Diamond hardcore fans should find it a good display, but the casual listener will most definitely need a couple of spins to appreciate the album, if they do appreciate it, that is.