Mercyful Fate axe alumni Michael Denner and Hank Shermann finally return with a full length album and the results are… mixed.
Much like last year’s amuse–bouche EP, Satan’s Tomb, there’s a lot to like about Masters of Evil – not least the excellent, Fateesque cover – but there are still a few teething problems that seem to be stopping this project from fully finding it’s feet and taking flight.
The first is the songs – there just aren’t enough classics here to make this album an absolute must-listen. There are classic riffs everywhere – both our heroes are in top form throughout – but truly great songs are thinner on the ground. The second problem remains the vocals of Sean Peck, who, despite acquitting himself better than he did on the EP, is still the possessor of a fine though slightly personality-free voice that doesn’t sell the songs as well as it should. Sure, he’s more than adequate on the straightahead Priest revups like Escape From Hell, but on the more progressive numbers one is left wishing that perhaps someone with a bit more emotional heft to their voice was anchoring the mic rather than a purely leather-lunged wailer.
Still, we were spoilt by listening to the songs of Denner and Shermann for so long with Kim Bendix Petersen doing the ol’ voco-loco, so maybe it’s just a case of getting used to the man over time? Let’s hope so, because, if this unit can build on the progress made in excellent tracks like the album’s standout cut Pentagram and the Cross and the only slightly less excellent The Wolf Feeds at Night (wherein Peck adopts an Ozzy-like bawl with strangely successful results) then hopefully they’ll be around for a little while to come – and I’m certainly willing to give them a bit – actually a lot – of leeway to gel if they can get up to these levels of brilliance on a more consistent basis.
So ‘does it sound like Mercyful Fate?’ I hear you ask… Not overmuch, really; Perhaps only closing track The Baroness positively reeks of Hank and Michael’s old alma mater, with the balance of the tracks running the gamut through all the shades of the classic metal palette. There’s the odd flash of terrible beauty that’ll have you whipping out your copy of Melissa to do a bit of cross referencing – some of those wonderfully dissonant yet melodic key changes will really rev up the memory function in listeners everywhere – but wisely the boys have generally resisted the temptation to pick up from where Don’t Break the Oath left off.
Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of true metal grandeur to be found here, and the album as a whole does make for a pleasant listening experience, it’s just that a mixture of slight under delivery and my raised expectations has rendered Masters of Evil a slight disappointment – try it yourself, though – you might disagree.
Masters of Evil is out now on Metal Blade