Round two of the Denner/Shermann project helmed by the eponymous Mercyful Fate guitar duo takes the agonizing tease of a Mercyful Fate reunion to a whole new level. While "Satan's Tomb," the group's first EP, did a swell job rubbing its Mercyful Fate breasts in our face, "Masters of Evil" finds a way to further explore the unrelenting agony of hearing Michael Denner and Hank Shermann create new music in the vein of their legendary heavy metal titan. "Masters of Evil" is developmentally superior and more enticing on a musical level compared to the four-song platter which served as the first collaborative effort between the two in years. "Satan's Tomb" was the appetizer to warm up the black mass for the Satanic feast Denner/Shermann offer here in the form of multiple dishes covering many Mercyful Fate eras. It makes my inner self squeal like a succubus.
The only wheel of the Denner/Shermann vehicle that brought the circular gyration device count to an odd number on "Satan's Tomb" was Sean Peck, but that's because he was tasked to fill the shoes of King Diamond-good f***ing luck. But "Masters of Evil" allows Peck to venture outside of his safe-vocalist cage (it was unintentional, I swear) and truly show his power as a singer in this setting. His traditional stern voice and high-flying screams sound excellent; there was never any doubt the man is a banshee. Peck, however, comes dangerously close to mirroring the wild falsettos and mannerisms of King Diamond at times. He twists his voice to match the sinful atmosphere of classic Mercyful Fate while sticking to his own perks and talents as a vocalist. What the hell is he doing on "The Wolf Feeds at Night," an Ozzy impression?
"Masters of Evil" changes nothing musically from the template of the EP. The tracks are geared to support Mercyful Fate-esque riffs and ideas that are drenched in the robust riffing style of Judas Priest in a "Painkiller" coat and even Satan's Host at times. The project sounds a hell of a lot more comfortable than "Satan's Tomb," which I assume was used to shake off the creative cobwebs before Denner and Shermann whipped out the big guns. Denner and Shermann cover various flavors of the Mercyful Fate spectrum, launching into faster bits echoing "Don't Break the Oath" and more mid-tempo pieces which sting with the bite of "Time" or "Into the Unknown." Their idiosyncratic solos are clearly the highlight of the record, and ring with the same magnetism that was a paramount feature of the Mercyful Fate sound.
The Denner/Shermann troops even have the cojones to tease an epic in the form of "The Baroness," far and away the most detailed anthem here. The soft nod to "To One Far Away" popping out of its tail offers a nostalgic tribute to times past without giving the impression that Denner and Shermann are desperately clinging to their former glories. Atmosphere, a vital component to Mercyful Fate-esque stuff, is thankfully nailed down, due in part to the wicked vibe and the lyrics, which are ridiculously tied to familiar themes. You know "Masters of Evil" is the real deal when Sean Peck, longtime vocalist of Cage-a Christian band-proudly sings of Hell's triumph and harlots swallowing demonic seed in the name of Satan. I guess Mercyful Fate just has that effect.