Satan’s Tomb (Metal Blade)
By Mike Delano
Every self-respecting metal fan places Mercyful Fate’s Melissa and Don’t Break The Oath on the pantheon of all-time classic albums. They do so not only to honor King Diamond’s inimitable vocal performances but also, just as importantly, to pay tribute to the mind-bending riffs and solos of guitarists Michael Denner and Hank Shermann, whose individual guitar work melded so perfectly together that it seemed as if every subsequent song on those albums further crystallized their amazing chemistry. Now, more than 30 years later, the duo still has their chops, but the scenario is a bit different. Operating under the name Denner/Shermann, the two shredders are joined by drummer Snowy Shaw, bassist Marc Grabowski and vocalist Sean Peck to create Satan’s Tomb, a four-song EP with a sound and cover art that will appear intensely familiar to any Mercyful Fate fan. The songs are solid enough, but what they do more than anything is make you appreciate the magic that came about when Denner and Shermann collaborated with King Diamond. It was a mutually beneficial relationship: King’s wild screams and unconventional delivery pushed the duo to get wild and unconventional with their guitar work, and the two sides fed off each other. Nothing on Satan’s Tomb is as dynamic as “Desecration of Souls” or as catchy as “Gypsy” — maybe that’s because Peck (a Ripper Owens sound-alike, which is not a bad thing) and Denner/Shermann don’t have the same push/pull relationship as they did with King, and maybe not. Free from context, the songs here are straightforward and entertaining, an intriguing mix of classic metal with occasional touches of modern metal circa Diabolus in Musica. But it would be great to hear this crew push into more uncharted territory.