This is the last album MERCYFUL FATE has released to date, after which members either took up work in KING DIAMOND (King Diamond, Mike Wead and Sharlee D’Angelo), while the Hank Shermann and Bjarn Holm rejoined Michael Denner in FORCE OF EVIL. It’s been seven years since this album, as of this writing, about the same amount of time between when MERCYFUL FATE broke up the first time and reformed. They still owe Metal Blade another record, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.
So what does “9” have to offer? Well, it depends on who you ask. More than any other album, it seems that “9” really divides fans as a glorious rebirth of old-school MERCYFUL FATE or the worst album in the band’s career. Unfortunately, I count myself in the latter camp. There’s certainly energy here, but it seems the band was running on fumes. Between this band and KING DIAMOND, the man King Diamond, always one of the most important songwriters, released nine albums from 1993 to 2000 without a year, sometimes releasing albums with both bands in the same year. With “9,” he (and resultantly the band) is showing a bit of fatigue; the ideas aren’t as good, they’re repetitive and they just generally aren’t as interesting.
You know you’re in trouble when the first notes that hit your ears sound eerily reminiscent of the music from the original Doom video game. “Last Rites” is a bit faster than most of the songs we’ve seen on the last few albums, but it really doesn’t hold together well as a cohesive song. They really should have taken some of the excess ideas from this song and put them in such repetitive fare as “I Sold My Soul,” “Burn In Hell,” or “The Grave.”
Oh yeah, the Satanism is kinda back in the lyrics, as it’s not quite as Lucifer praising as the first two LPs, instead attacking the Christian God and Jesus. The lyrics aren’t especially well-written—I mean, “Burn in Hell!/Drown in my wishing well” really doesn’t lend itself to be taken too seriously. “Insane,” I will certainly give you, is fun, flirting as it does with Thrash and madness. This is a needed pick-me-up from “The Grave” and leads us into the trio of good songs on the album.
“Kiss The Little Demon” alternates between placid and a really good, purposeful, marching riff. The lyrics seem to have been continued on the KING DIAMOND “House Of God” song “Black Devil.” At under four minutes, this song certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. My favourite song on the album is doubtless “Buried Alive,” from the foreboding riff at the opening to the stomping malevolence to King’s incredulous performance a little past the mark. This is a great, evil, fast song done right. Then there’s the title track. I’d call it experimental, but that would make it sound a lot more interesting. This is wandering without purpose and ultimately a very frustrating experience.
If you’re a MERCYFUL FATE fan, you’ll find something here to interest you, but probably not much. I hope when we get the new MERCYFUL FATE—sometime in the infinite future—they’ll do a better job writing songs either with new ideas or interesting takes on old ones. (Online February 27, 2006)