Thursday, June 16, 2022

Denner/Shermann - Satan's Tomb EP (2015)

I can't have been the only one excited when this new collaboration between Michael Denner and Hank Shermann was announced. It had been a good 19 years since they worked together on Mercyful Fate's Into the Unknown, and another couple years added to that since their last truly GREAT Fate work on Time, so I think a project such as this was overdue. Add in their fellow alumnus and prolific metal superstar Snowy Shaw on the drums, and some artwork and occult aesthetics which mirror their formative years of Don't Break the Oath, and the frothing of the fandom would reach pure rabies. It was probably too much to ask that they could also hook in one Kim Bendix Petersen, because then it would have to have become a proper Mercyful album, but they did end up with US power metal crooner Sean Peck...

And he's a capable singer, having fronted a lot of the albums his Cage, and other acts, though I can recall a tendency to go a little too overboard. Thankfully, he's rather restrained here, sounding pretty nasty at his mid-range but then keeping his highs in the range of Harry 'Tyrant', who come to think of it, would have also sounded quite nice on this. The only issue is that his presence thrusts the music itself into a little more of a USPM space, which isn't what I expected. Don't get me wrong, lots of the trademark groove and lead harmonies you'd expect from Denner and Shermann are prevalent here, but the voice and the way the tunes are put together don't always mirror that classic Danish vibe. You get a little Painkiller riffing structure (especially in "New Gods"), and then a few of the lower, leaden heavy parts do tread dangerously close into more of a groove metal thing. That said, for the majority of the four tracks and 21 minutes of material, this is pretty damn exciting, with Shaw and the lead guitars in particular giving kickass performances, and Sean getting to flex those pipes with plenty of personality over new territory.

I do feel some of his chorus lines never quite end up where I want to be note-wise, and there's just a fraction of try-hardness, but nowhere near as much as a Tim 'Ripper' Owens-fronted album, and Peck is genuinely, insanely talented. If you direct that voice properly, you've got an intimidating weapon, and I think for the most part, they do here. I even like the few surprises in store that escalating sequence deep into "New Gods" with the backing choir vocals hovering in the mix. Ultimately, Satan's Tomb does play out like a combination of Mercyful Fate and USPM like Cage, Jag Panzer or the Bruce Hall-fronted era of Agent Steel, and I have absolutely no problem with that. Maybe this is what Liege Lord would have sounded had they originated out of Copenhagen? If nothing else, a strong promise of what this project might pull off with a little more effort.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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