TIME FOR MERCYFUL FATE TO GET IN THE SHADOWS
Mercyful Fate: 'In The Shadows' and 'Time' (Metal Blade)
Metal Blade embark on a reissue campaign of these innovative Danish black Metal legends and their 90s reformation material. And what sonic treats they are.
Formed in Copenhagen in 1981, Mercyful Fate are renowned for frontman King Diamond's makeup (imagine a demonic Gene Simmons and then some) and falsetto vocals, and for being leaders in the first wave of black Metal bands. Influenced by progressive rock of the 70s, their Satanic and occult themes and extreme guitar work found a new audience and Mercyful Fate would influence many of the black Metal bands of the 80s and 90s, a scene that was particularly noted in Norway.
The band broke up in the mid 80s due to musical differences and vocalist Diamond went on to have a noted solo career, musically in the Mercyful Fate vein, with many a black conceptual album along their way. Their first two albums, 'Melissa' and 'Don't Break The Oath' both broke new ground, mixing progressive Metal with theatrical vocals and blistering guitar work and poplularied black Metal. Both were recorded in the band's native Copenhagen and released on Roadrunner.
By 1993, King Diamond already had a noted solo career, something he'd started with former Mercyful Fate members that also featured later Motörhead drummer Mickey Dee, and the reformed band would run in parallel. Featuring founder guitarist Hank Shermann along side The Diamond, the line-up also featured long-time guitarist Michael Denner and bassist Timi Hansen.
With a new lyrical direction, taking in conceptual horror themes, from the outset the music is as theatrical as it is dark, blistering and extreme. The first set here, 'In The Shadows', kicks off with the brief acoustic intro to 'Egypt', building to a crashing wall of sound. The vocals alternate solid Metal to falsetto and back. The power behind the falsetto vocals is unique, giving that banshee edge. 'The Bell Witch' is a chunkier and crunchier number.
There's a strong Judas Priest influence, at their extreme end, and a blend of brutal Metal and blistering edge and like the Priest of ten years later, the longer songs have a progressive undertone too. Just check out the nine minute 'The Old Oak'.
There is a melodic edge to some tracks, with 'Shadows' a firm fans' favourite, and 'Is That You Melissa?', complete with harpsichord, a nod back to the band's debut.
Finishing the album is the bonus track 'Return Of The Vampire', available on special editions of the original. It is a rerecording of a compilation only track, the original version featuring Lars Ulrich. The album was promoted with the 'Bell Witch' EP, now a sought after rarity.
'Nightmare Be Thy Name' kicks off 1994's 'Time' opus in similar fashion, some atmosphere in the Metal that's enjoyable throughout. It's as solid as Metal gets and, like its predecessor, it holds itself high in the face of grunge and alternative Metal that had wiped out so many other classic Metal bands of the era. The horror themes are present throughout, the guitars are blistering, whether riffing, shredding or duelling.
These albums come as a timely reminder of how good the music is, how seriously it should be taken and how well any perceived cheesiness was tightened up and shredded by some fantastic guitar work. King Diamond's vocals, glares and hand movements all add to the presentation. The man pulls it off because of his belief in what he's doing.
The vinyl is black – as it should be for Metal, and the sound is appropriately warm and solid. An insert and poster with each heavy slab of the black stuff, and with three more albums in the series to follow, it's a good time for Fate Fans.
The 90s studio reissue series is completed in similar fashion with 'Into The Unknown', 'Dead Again' and '9', all due and given the same heavy duty black vinyl treatment in October.
2) The Bell Witch
3) The Old Oak
5) A Gruesome Time
6) Thirteen Invitations
7) Room Of Golden Air
8) Legend Of The Headless Rider
9) Is That You, Melissa?
10) Return Of The Vampire 1996 (bonus track)
1) Nightmare Be Thy Name
2) Angel Of Light
3) Witches Dance
4) The Mad Arab
5) My Demon
7) The Preacher
8) Lady In Black
10) The Afterlife
11) Castillo Del Mortes
King Diamond (vocals, harpsichord, keyboards)
Michael Denner (guitars)
Hank Shermann (guitars)
Timi Hanson (bass)
Sharlee D'Angelo (bass)
Snowy Shaw (drums)
Morten Nielson (drums)
John Marshall (drums)