12/18/2015 - Review by: T. Ray Verteramo
For the Mercyful Fate/King Diamond buff, the Denner-Shermann project was an axe-gasm waiting to happen. These two heavyweights in composition and skill, working together, promised to deliver metal through an iron fist to the teeth. In a very large sense, they don't disappoint.
"Satan's Tomb" is richly produced and balanced. The quintet of Michael Denner (guitars), Hank Shermann (guitars), Snowy Shaw (drums), Marc Grabrowski (bass) and Shawn Peck (vocals) are well showcased with no toes stepping on the others. Soundwise, it's a beautifully packaged EP. The skills are unmistakable. Denner and Shermann's legend aside, Shaw demonstrates a smooth onslaught on the kit, delivering the complex timing and tempo changes as effortless as blinking. Grabrowski animates his instrument to vocalize a living creature with a dangerous disposition and Peck's vocals are strength incarnate, though would have been more engaging if he had used the lower register as much as the high. Nevertheless, this is a band of formidable talents.
However, this is a guitarist's project. The songs, though well-crafted, are clearly designed to get them off, regardless of what the rest of the band does. Peck could be singing about butterflies and pink polka dots through the pussy willows, for all it matters. The guitars designate and navigate the journey. And each song truly is.
The problem is, once you've taken the tour of "Satan's Tomb," grand as it may be, you've pretty much heard the rest of the sights.
The title track is made up of nice hooks sandwiched between signature Mercyful Fate-familiar dynamics; with riffs weaving in and out of solos and changes and shifts and Metal Metal Metal. It's a lovely experience, a fun listen, wonderfully delivered and memorable. But, "War Witch" is pretty much the same…and "New Gods," with the latter starting off with a purr and a growl before eventually breaking into the established formula. The only other tune that distinguishes itself at all is "Seven Skulls," with its touch of classic NWOBHM flavor and thoughtful storytelling. However, even then, getting through mid-way it is difficult to hang in to see where it goes because it eventually goes where all the others do – everywhere.
But, regardless, Satan's Tomb, even with its campy cover, is a solid project worth at least a listen. If you like the taste of what Michael Denner and Hank Shermann have to dish, you'll get at least four very large mouthfuls of it.
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