MERCYFUL FATE. Do I even need to say anything?
Oh well. Formed in 1981 in Denmark, MERCYFUL FATE released two immensely popular, groundbreaking LPs in 1983 (“Melissa”) and 1984 (“Don’t Break The Oath”), standing out in two very good years not only because of the magnificent guitar duo of Hank Shermann (GUTRIX, FORCE OF EVIL, FATE) and Michael Denner (KING DIAMOND, FORCE OF EVIL) and the unique vocals of King Diamond (KING DIAMOND), but also because of the overt Satanism in the lyrics. Everyone seems to have forgotten that “Come To The Sabbath” was one of the songs Tipper Gore crusaded against in the mid-80s. Anyhow, they broke up in 1985 before getting back together in 1993.
A lot of folks don’t like the albums MERCYFUL FATE released after the reunion. As a metal reviewer, I am expected to be crass, so I will give them the one-fingered salute. This isn’t the same as early 80s MERCYFUL FATE - the sound is more modern, the bass mixed way down and the songs usually aren’t as long. That said, “the king is dead, long live the king.”
“Lucifer” is a fairly pointless intro, a Satanic rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. “The Uninvited Guest” smashes in, pounding across the landscape to a great shred. Denner and Shermann are just awesome together as King Diamond breaks out the falsetto and the varied vocals we’ve come to love. The guitars are crunchy and crackling, the drums fast yet purposeful. This is how you open an album.
Admittedly, my two least favourite songs on the album follow up. They’re not bad, but they don’t really stick out. The King’s in prime story-telling mood for the foreboding “Fifteen Men (And A Bottle Of Rum)” that does a great job of simulating getting caught in a hurricane on the high seas. “Into The Unknown” is lyrically similar to “A Dangerous Meeting” from “Don’t Break The Oath,” but I’d say more musically similar to “Thirteen Guests” from “In The Shadows,” with its clean guitar breaks. Check out the great spiralling riffs under the chorus.
Rock out to “Under The Spell.” I know you want to. “Deadtime” is fun; imagine a MERCYFUL FATE take on a bedtime story. King starts the song off with a nice little rhyme before the rest of the band kicks in and lets us know that, despite the comparatively happy choir, all is not well. Red Riding Hood is evil and sultry in an evil way and Grandma makes a meal out of the wolf. She’s hungrily eying Red as Shermann and Denner take us home. “Holy Water” is a great companion piece to “Under The Spell,” as both are great modern MERCYFUL FATE. “Kutulu (The Mad Arab Part Two)” is the sequel to “The Mad Arab” from “Time,” following up on H.P. Lovecraft’s Abdul Alhazred. We get the Oriental-esque riffs, the rattling groove of Sharlee D’Angelo (ARCH ENEMY, WITCHERY, about a million other bands) on bass and I’m ready to start the CD again.
This was the last album until the FORCE OF EVIL debut to feature Shermann and Denner together. It’s certainly much better than their work since. It was also the first album to feature Bjarne T. Holm (FORCE OF EVIL, FATE, GUTRIX) on drums. Besides line-up shifts, this is just a good album. Rocking, intelligent and evil. Do yourself a favour and stuff your craw with MERCYFUL FATE if for some reason you haven’t yet heard ‘em. (Online February 25, 2006)