Denner / Shermann - Masters of Evil - (7.5/10)
Published on July 25, 2016
The two guitarists from legendary heavy metal band Mercyful Fate have regrouped for a follow-up to their 2015 EP, this time delivering a full-length album. As before, they are joined by Sean Peck, the vocalist of the Californian metal band Cage, whose wide vocal range is an apt fit for their sound. Unsurprisingly, this album sounds every bit like you would expect it to sound: a lot like Mercyful Fate. You can expect to hear all the great guitar work complete with the odd syncopated riffing and superb lead work. And of course, there is plenty of the vocal acrobatics, much of which are executed quite well. However, they have deviated a good bit from those classic albums in a couple salient ways.
The most obvious difference is that this album is a lot heavier. The guitars are far more bass-heavy and the percussion is a lot denser. Interestingly enough, it sounds a lot more like Cage and Peck’s vocals only add to this vibe. Now I’m certainly not one to object to an artist’s wanting to take a heavier route. But much of the attraction a lot of heavy metal is that it doesn’t rely on heaviness alone to make its statement. I don’t think that’s entirely the case here, but I do think that a less-is-more approach would have really improved the final product here. As it is now, the percussion is so thick and the layers are so closely packed together that the album is at times straining to the ears. For lack of a better word, it’s just too busy. It’s like trying to eat a bowl of soup with a thousand different ingredients held in a broth made of grouting compound.
Secondly, there are some interesting aspects to the vocal delivery here. Just like King Diamond has a wide range, all the way from a grittier, lower-end sound all the way up to his signature falsettos, Peck has the same wide range, but he executes it completely differently. At times, you can hear Painkiller-era Halford, and other times he seems like he’s channelling Ozzy. On the track “The Wolf Feeds at Night” he sounds exactly like he just finished auditioning for a Sabbath cover band. His vocals certainly fit without a doubt, but in the sections where the vocal melodies take his voice into the higher registers, you can’t help but feel like he’s just a less competent King Diamond.
If you’ve read this far, you might be tempted to think that this album isn’t very good, but that actually isn’t true. It’s definitely a good example of some of the great classic artists coming together to keep the torch of heavy metal alive and well. But when your resume includes such incredible classics like Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath, you just have a lot to live up to after setting the bar that high. Denner and Shermann haven’t lost much when it comes to their ability to compose compelling and interesting songs. In fact, the depth of a lot of the work here is in some ways greater than their previous stuff. So this album is in no way an example of some old guys resting on their laurels and hoping to cash in on a fan base to make an easy buck. Not remotely.
I think it really comes down to the fact that I just wasn’t able to tap into the increased density. But for what it’s worth, I feel the same way about Painkiller and most of Cage’s work as well. So I think based on that, it goes without saying that if you like Mercyful Fate and Cage, and you also think that Painkiller was the best album Priest ever did, you’ll probably want to check this out.