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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Force of Evil

Force of Evil

Review by Mike Korn

When the subject of great heavy metal guitar duos comes up, Hank Shermann and Michael Denner will never be far from the lips of the knowing metalhead. These two dynamic Danes from the legendary Mercyful Fate are right up there with other celebrated tandems like Downing/Tipton and Smith/Murray, making Fate records like "Melissa" and "Don't Break the Oath" some of the best of the 80's.

Though they have not worked together in quite some time, the two have reunited for a new project called Force of Evil. They are joined by King Diamond alumni Hal Patino and Bjarne Holm on drums and bass respectively as well as crooner Martin Steene from German power metallers Iron Fire. The result is rock solid heavy metal that comes across like the perfect mixture of Judas Priest and Mercyful Fate. The album runs the gamut of classic metal styles, from full bore speed ("The Calling") to atmospheric doom ("Samhain") to catchy, radio-friendly anthems ("Misery Man"). Steene makes a good contrast to Shermann and Denner's usual frontman King Diamond. He hits plenty of falsetto screams himself, but it's more in the vein of Rob Halford than the King. He's a versatile frontman much better suited to Force of Evil than the corny and unoriginal Iron Fire.

This is definitely a record that does not try to reinvent the wheel, but it takes the one we know and perfects it. Ecstasy for guitar lovers and headbangers alike, this would probably have even Pat Robertson throwing the devil horns!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Dawn of Dominion
This is just a brief sound effects piece that leads right into the next cut.
Hell On Earth
Fast and catchy, this really seems to be the perfect cross between Judas Priest and Mercyful Fate. Denner and Shermann haven't lost a step...there's a break in the middle that sounds like it could have come from "Curse of the Pharaohs" or "Evil" from that very first Fate album all those years ago. Martin Steene shows his vocal chops right away.
Mindbreaker
This is another fast rocker, definitely in the mode of Priest or their blatant worshippers, Primal Fear. Not the best song on the disc, it still features some smoking solos.
Eye of the Storm
If I had my way, every band that uses cliché titles like "Eye of the Storm" or "Under the Blade" should be flogged with a Cat O' Nine Tails! Can't complain about the music, though...it's a bit more mid-paced and moody, with a faint Middle Eastern feel and some very interesting vocal melodies.
Misery Man
This is actually a fairly commercial power metal number. It has a delightfully catchy medium riff with some cool twin harmony guitars on it. Short and punchy, this would have made a great single back in the days of 80's metal radio. The overlapping "babble" that ends the song is very original for music of this type.
Samhain
A very ominous, doomy cut, with Steene proclaiming "Tonight my soul belongs to Lucifer." dark, slow and pounding, it's still pretty hooky.
The Calling
The pace quickens with this driving speed metal track. It's pure metal mayhem, with an outstanding chorus shouting "Force! Force of Evil...is coming your way!" This is good headbanging fodder, with more superlative guitar work.
Fountains of Grace
This is another slower, grinding track with a hint of Black Sabbath to it. Force of Evil is not afraid to show that slower cuts can rock just as much as the faster ones. The Michael Denner solo here will make any Mercyful Fate fan cry.
Demonized
They hit the accelerator again for this one, which starts with a barrage of speed metal riffing. It eventually mutates into quite a complex number, with a lot of tempo and riff changes. Steene shows good vocal range, with a mixture of higher pitched screaming and lower tones.
Under the Blade
Lame title aside, this is the kind of pounder that made bands like Accept and Saxon so appealing. Simple, heavy guitar hooks embed themselves in the listener's brain. In the hands of a lesser band, this would be really dated, but here it seems fresh and shows yet another side to Force of Evil.
Eternity
The album ends with this soaring semi-ballad, whose beginning recalls such Mercyful Fate classics as "Melissa" with its Schenker-like guitar solos over a mournful acoustic memory. The chorus gets a lot heavier, and the song becomes a showcase for Shermann and Denner's guitar mastery. Not a furious rocker, this demonstrates that the more melodic side of FOE is very accomplished as well.
 
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