Hey, it’s the cover for “Don’t Break The Oath,” but not.
MERCYFUL FATE is back with their eighth studio album (if you count “The Beginning” compilation like they do) seventeen years after they first formed. Much of the overtly Satanic imagery from the first two LPs are gone, replaced, to a certain extent, with horror stories the likes of which we’ve seen on KING DIAMOND albums. Gone also is Michael Denner on guitar, replaced by Mike Wead of HEXENHAUS and MEMENTO MORI. This is the first MERCYFUL FATE album not featuring the divine guitar duo of Denner and Hank Shermann, so let’s see what they can do.
Again, if you’re hoping for a return to the style that made MERCYFUL FATE so successful in the early 1980s, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re hoping for some kick-ass heavy metal with awesome solos and King Diamond’s vocals, hop on.
DEAD AGAIN, for the most part, doesn’t vary much from the material we’ve already heard in “Time” and “Into The Unknown.” The guitars crunch and crackle. King Diamond hits all the notes we’d expect him to, from his trademark falsetto to lower almost growls. The lyrics cover the horror stories (“Crossroads,” “Banshee,” etc.) and the duplicitous cruelty of Christianity (“Torture (1629)”). It’s good stuff, but hard to describe in detail without stepping on the toes of “Into The Unknown,” “Time,” and “In The Shadows.” Songs like “Fear” and “Sucking Your Blood” are generically MERCYFUL FATE. Aside from “Dead Again,” the only real stand-out tracks are the subtle “The Lady Who Cries,” the sorrowful “Since Forever,” and occasional forlorn moments in “Banshee.”
Then there’s the title track. “Dead Again” is MERCYFUL FATE’s longest song at and doubtless their most progressive. Listen to the opening lyrics: “Why do I keep on doing this?/It's not for me anymore/I'm doing this more for you than I.” Is this song an introspective piece of the band or King Diamond’s career? If so, it’s an excellent move and an incredible song. At their pace, MERCYFUL FATE take us through schizophrenic, frantic passages, almost acoustic parts, a neoclassical (!) bridge or two, weird warps and the straight Heavy Metal we’ve come to expect from them. It’s a nightmare that won’t let go, won’t end and won’t let you look away. And every time you think it’s over, it starts again.
If you’re a MERCYFUL FATE fan, you’ll enjoy most of this album on the basis that it’s MERCYFUL FATE. If you’ve never really enjoyed them, this probably won’t change your mind - except maybe “Dead Again” (the song). (Online February 26, 2006)