Mercyful Fate - Melissa (Roadrunner) 1983
Mercyful Fate - Don't
Break The Oath (Roadrunner Records) 1984
"Don't Break the Oath" is held in high regard by many as an all time classic heavy metal platter. I must confess that when this album first came out I thought it was simply amazing. This album was quite unique for it's time, mixing together bits of traditional heavy metal, speed metal and King Diamond's bizarre, haunting, falsetto vocals. The guitar tag team of Hank Shermann and Michael Denner completed the package. No one could touch them in '84. The production was full of flaws, but production was never as important as energy, atmosphere and songwriting in the heyday of classic metal. It was for those reasons that I enjoyed this disc so much when it was released. Songs like "Dangerous Meeting", "Gypsy" and "Come to the Sabbath" are undeniably full of hooks, atmosphere and attitude. Likewise "The Oath" is a brilliant epic song with stunning guitar work. King Diamond's vocals are chilling throughout. I also always liked the album cover art. Unfortunately this CD is marred by the "all hail Satan" lyrics. Was this just done for shock value? Perhaps, although Mercyful Fate mainman King Diamond is a confessing Satanist. Perhaps most will view this as simply equivelant to watching a horror film or reading a Stephen King novel. I don't think anyone in their right mind would take them seriously, but either way the lyrics eventually ruined the experience for me. It's sad that a band with as much talent as this chose to use it to praise a loser rather than use it for the glory of the God that gave them their talent and abilities. Mercyful Fate split up soon after the release of this album, leaving King Diamond to form his solo band that dumped the "all hail Satan" lyrics for ghost stories. Mercyful Fate reunited in 1993.
I originally owned the remastered version of this disc, but eventually tracked down an original copy. The remastered CD came with a bonus track: 10. "Death Kiss" [demo] (4:32).
According to MetalArchives.com, the actual name of track 7 should be "Welcome Princes Of Hell", not "Welcome Princess Of Hell". It was a title misprint, where the lyrics were correctly written in the original pressing but the title wasn't. The distinction can also be heard in the song (the prince "is" vs. prince "s"), as well as the plural connotation of the lyrics "I'm alone with my friends, We will be back, we will be back".
"A Dangerous Meeting" was recorded by Six Feet Under.
Mercyful Fate - In the Shadows (Metal Blade) 1993
1. "Egypt" (4:52)
As a teenage I loved Mercyful Fate. Of course the lyrical direction of the band always bothered me, especially once I became a Christian. I must admit that I have steered clear of Fate's music because of that, although I remember how much I loved "Don't Break the Oath". King's vocals, along with some of the finest heavy metal, were quite compelling. "In the Shadows" is the first Mercyful Fate album I have heard since that time. It was their reunion record after a ten year hiatus. For all intensive purposes, however, it sounds much like King Diamond's solo material and doesn't really remind me of "Melissa" or "Oath." Still some of the axe work is quite good. King Diamond's vocals sound as haunting as ever, and the "all hail Satan" lyrics have all but disappeared for haunting ghost stories. Another point of interest, besides the nine new tracks, is a new version of an old Mercyful Fate song "Return of the Vampire", which features Lars Ulrich of Metallica-fame on drums.
Mercyful Fate - Time (Metal Blade) 1994
1. "Nightmare be thy
Mercyful Fate make music like few other. They play dark, straight forward heavy metal, yet they sound like no other band I can think of. Sure they have their musical influences, but with King Diamond's signature falsetto vocals fronting the band, those influences are nearly unnoticeable. After releasing two acclaimed full length albums in the 80's that many tout as some of the best heavy metal albums of all time, Mercyful Fate broke up and gave way to King Diamond's solo band. Mercyful Fate then reformed in 1993. This was their second release after that reformation. As was the case with their early released, "Time" features the awesome tag-team guitar work of Shermann and Denner. As well we are treated to the equally proficient bass work of Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy) and the outstanding drum work of Snowy Shaw (King Diamond). Another trademark of the band is their sinister lyrical approach. I've read review after review by disappointed fans that the lyrics aren't as 'evil' as those early releases. I am not sure what lyrics they are reading, but the lyrics to "Angel of Light" are about as evil as they come.
I suppose that most people see this as nothing more than comic book horror, and I concur for the most part. What has changed is that the lyrics specific to Satanism have been replaced by generic, horror type storytelling. However, "Angel of Light" in particular seems to echo back to the type of thing you might find on "Melissa" or "Don't Break the Oath". Either way, it's pretty disturbing and dark stuff. Unfortunately, it's also this element that keeps me from really enjoying the fabulous music the band creates. This song in particular is a haunting, catchy number and one of the finer tunes the band has written. As well, "Nightmare Be Thy Name" is an excellent opener and "Witches' Dance" is a another standout cut. The title track features is straight-up creepy and will make the hair on the back of your neck stand-up, which I suppose is the point. This track features some eerie harpsichord and mostly falsetto vocals. As usual, King's vocals are the focal point of the music and as usual, I find them absolutely spellbinding. If only King were working for the Creator rather than the created, I might enjoy this band that much more.
Mercyful Fate - Into the Unknown (Metal Blade) 1996
Mercyful Fate - Dead Again (Metal Blade) 1998
1. "Torture (1629)"
Hard to really critique this album. As with most of the post "Don't Break the Oath" releases, Mercyful Fate has put out consistently high quality, haunting, traditional heavy metal albums, although most fans don't seem to hold any of the newer releases in the same regard as those initial two albums. King's voice is distinctive and adds to that haunting, sinister feel of the music. The highlight of the entire album is probably the epic length title track which clocks in at nearly fourteen minutes long. Despite the song's length, I didn't find myself wishing the song would end or wondering where the skip button was. In other words, this song is very entertaining. It starts off with a bit of clean guitars before breaking into some eerie doom metal. The song picks up a few minutes into the track becoming a heavy speed metal number. Another highlight from this album is "The Lady Who Cried". The song tells of a crying Virgin Mary statue that houses an evil force within. An odd tale for sure, but I suppose that is what King Diamond is all about. Overall, "Dead Again" is exactly what you would expect from Mercyful Fate. Heavy guitars, smokin' guitar solos and King's signature falsetto wails.
Mercyful Fate - 9 (Metal Blade) 1999
1. "Last Rites"
"9" is cleverly named because it is indeed Mercyful Fate's ninth album. On this album Mercyful Fate updated their sound a bit. No worry, updating their sound simply means they moved from 1983 to 1988. There are no metalcore grooves or nu-metal vocals here. Rather, this is good old-school, traditional, heavy metal done in a minimalistic modern 1990's fashion. The band seems to have an energy that has been missing in some other albums. The songs are mostly fast and heavy. “Last Rites” in particular and "Burn in Hell" are both a bit faster than most of the songs we’ve seen on the last few albums. "Kiss the Demon" is a pummeling song that builds into one chaotic guitar break in the middle. One thing missing from this album is the presence of Michael Denner (who left the band after "Into the Unknown"). However Hank Shermann still delivers the goods along with his new counterpart Mike Wead. The two trade off licks, harmonize solos, and blast through an album of blisteringly dark and heavy riffs. I can't see how the music on this disc would disappoint any fan of real heavy metal. And what could be more metal than a skull faced, horned creature descending into a lake of fire? The cover to "9" harkens back to the band's "Don't Break the Oath" album, as do the lyrics. For me, this is the band's downfall and has always been the one thing that keeps me from being able to completely enjoy their music. Unlike some of the concept oriented albums that were nothing more than ghost stores, "9" features songs like "Last Rites" which is a man refusing to believe in God on his death bed and "Sold My Soul", whose title is self explanatory. I lost count of how many times King said "I Sold my soul" on this song. Let's just say that King give Grim Reaper a run for their money on "See You In Hell". Enough said.