Well, the day has come once more. The AMG staff is ashamed, Dr. Grier is a giddy school girl, and pure fanboyism is about to play out. Yep, the full-length debut from Denner/Shermann has finally hit the record shelves. “Oh, shit…,” you might be saying. Or maybe “Fuck me, here comes another 5.0/5.0.” But, keep this in mind: at least it isn’t a new King Diamond record. By now it is no surprise that I love everything that King, Shermann, and Denner touch. Last year’s four-song EP, Satan’s Tomb, got more than a little bit of love from me (many will say too much love). Though some of the excitement has faded since October, I still listen to that thing on a regular basis. Nostalgia and a twenty-minute runtime result in constants playback in the Grier station wagon [Those Right Said Fred EPs just never get olde, eh? – Steel Judgment]. But what happens when you slap four more songs onto the disc and jack the length up to forty minutes? A gushing review? Childish tears from Doc? Hell no, I’m a professional.
My biggest fear going into Denner/Shermann‘s Masters of Evil were the vocals. Sean Peck’s Halford style is, for the most part, pretty one dimensional. But what makes the style work are his occasional gruffs and grunts. But when comparing his performance on Satan’s Tomb to Force of Evil‘s Martin Steene, Steene is more well-rounded. What has me rooting for Peck though is his ability to let the other instruments take the lead. Something Steene seemed unable to do; filling every nook and cranny of every song with his voice. But one time through Masters of Evil and Peck has surprised the shit out of me. His performance is quite the improvement on Satan’s Tomb (and I liked his voice on the EP). With full-length room to spread his wings, Peck unleashes everything he’s got—much like Illwill. He lets loose a combination of high-pitched Halford wails, deep-throated barks, and Ozzy-like emotion to tracks like “The World Feeds at Night” and “The Baroness.” His performance will never convert those Mercyful Fate reunion seekers, but it works.
“Angel’s Blood” opens the album with about as much energy and Mercyful Fate-esque qualities as “Satan’s Tomb” did for the EP. Peck unleashes his Halford-esque best on the mid-career MF structure. It’s got killer solos, melodic passages, and a “classic metal” tramp stamp on its ass. Other straight-and-narrow cruisers are the all-out MF title track and “Pentagram and the Cross.” The foundation of the former is the chorus while the catchy guitar leads of the latter marry themselves to Peck’s snarls.
For melody and/or variation, look no further than “The World Feeds at Night,” “Servants of Dagon,” and “The Baroness.” Peck digs deep into his inner Ozzy on “The World Feeds at Night” as the song burrows into its inner melody. “The Baroness” swings around groovy riffs and Melissa-like clean guitars while Peck gives a voice to the song’s characters. To these ears, “The Baroness” seems to be a continuation to the closer of Satan’s Tomb. You know, that one about a boy resurrecting his grandfather (I know, too Them-y). “Servants of Dagon” focuses on simplicity, unleashing one of the catchiest riffs of the album. Combining said riff with a memorable chorus, it turns out to be my favorite.
In the end, Masters of Evil is just fun. Nothing earth-shattering, nothing crippling. The bass has lots of presence (especially on “Servants of Dagon”) and the drums? Well, Snowy Shaw is behind the kit, which means the performance is above average. Look to tracks like “Escape from Hell” to find his trademark badassery. Album issues include the cringe-worthy lyrics on “Escape from Hell” (which is way too similar in title to Force of Evil‘s “Back to Hell”) and “Son of Satan.” The latter is one of the best on the album, but serious? “Son of Satan?” Fans of FoE‘s Black Empire album might be wondering if this a “S.O.S.” rehashing. It isn’t, but I swear the main riff of the former is the closing riff of the latter. The production on Masters of Evil feels a bit flat, but this may be the result of cutting back on the FoE and Demonica distortion, in favor of that old-school feel. It takes a couple spins to appreciate, but the diehard fan should love this.
Rating: Very Good
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade