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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Denner/Shermann

Masters of Evil

Review by Mike Korn

When it comes to heavy metal guitar duos, you won’t find many names more respected than Hank Shermann and Michael Denner: Tipton and Downing, Smith and Murray…that’s about it. What Mssrs. Denner and Shermann created with the classic band Mercyful Fate was nothing less than legendary. But Fate has been on the inactive list for many years now, and their subsequent band Force of Evil is also AWOL. The guitar wizardry of the two Danish axemen has gone silent.

Until 2015, that is. That’s when I heard an EP titled “Satan’s Tomb” by the bluntly named Denner/ Shermann. It was like two old friends returning after a long absence. The melodic, classically inclined shredding mixed with speedy riffs was a breath of fresh air from the crypt. Add in the awesome vocal stylings of Sean Peck (also with Cage and Death Dealer) and you have a band that all true metal fans can devour with relish.

In an interview with Mr. Peck last year, he told me that Satan’s Tomb was just a warm-up for the upcoming full-length. Well, here it is and let the headbanging begin. This will surely rank high on the 2016 year-end list,s and anyone who is a fan of Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Judas Priest or Cage will find it irresistible!


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Angel’s Blood

This sets the tone for the rest of the album brilliantly. Gritty guitar riffs and the awesome vocals of Sean Peck are terrific, but when you hear the exquisite lead work of Shermann and Denner, it takes you back to the classic Mercyful Fate albums Melissa and Don’t Break The Oath. As much as I love King Diamond, he just does not have the pure god-like tones of Mr.Peck, who brings Geoff Tate and Ripper Owens to mind.

Son of Satan
A tolling bell and choir-like vocals chanting Latin create an ominous mood. One thing’s for sure, Denner/Shermann doesn’t shy away from the occult and black magic of their past.  This tune is longer, faster and more complex than the opening cut, and Peck even uses some falsetto Diamond like screams. This tune could have fit perfectly on the old Fate albums. It is pure evil heavy metal with class and fury!
The Wolf Feeds at Midnight
The album continues its upward trajectory with this rapid-fire screamer. The old school feeling this tune exudes is just magical, and there’s a touch of the fastest and most wicked Judas Priest to its straightforward thrust. There’s also a vocal part that sounds like Ozzy Osbourne stopped by to sit in with the guys. I’m not sure if it’s Peck or an actual guest singer. The guitar soloing here just jams like crazy!
The Pentagram and the Cross
A Snowy Shaw drum roll and awesome twin guitar melody kicks this one off. Yes, folks, it’s another killer tune, with crushing riffs on the verse and singing that even Rob Halford would have a hard time matching. Both Mr. Shermann and Mr. Denner get to burn their frets here. It’s amazing how they can cram so much into such a relatively brief song!
Masters of Evil
The title track opens with an almost heartbreaking semi-balladic motif reminiscent of Fate’s “Melissa.” Then it speeds up into a powerful, driving metal tune. More glass-breaking screams from Peck arise. His performance is faultless.
Servants of Dagon
Some cool bass by Marc Grabowski paves the way for one of the catchiest riffs you are ever gonna hear. I mean, this is something that sticks in the head like “Smoke in the Water” or “Sweet Leaf.” It’s that good. This also picks up nicely in the middle with crunching, near-thrash hooks. This album only seems to get better as it goes on. There are no weak spots.
Escape From Hell
This song could have been on the last album from Sean Peck’s band, Cage. It’s a killer tune but sounds less like Mercyful Fate or King Diamond than any other song here. Thrashers should enjoy the furious pace, and the dueling guitar solos from Shermann and Denner will have you reaching for the tennis racket or a suitable guitar substitute.
The Baroness
The album ends with this epic track. This features some of the most intricate, Fate-like guitar gymnastics on the album. Like Mercyful Fate, it changes tempos and riffs frequently and also gives Sean Peck the opportunity to use his lower register vocals.  There’s a lot going on here, and it may take more than one listen to fully appreciate.
 
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