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Mercyful Fate (1982)
 

In 1981, King Diamond was a young Danish musician singing in his first band, Black Rose, when he happened to meet a guitarist named Hank Shermann. Hank, also Danish and also a resident of Copenhagen, had a punk band called the Brats which had already released and album in 1980. With Black Rose not really going anywhere, King joined Hank in the Brats and began working on new material. A former Brat, guitarist Michael Denner, had started his own band and asked Hank and King to help out on the recording of a demo. Soon after, Hank, King and Michael, along with bassist Timi Grabber (Hansen), who was also in Denner's band, decided to join forces and create Mercyful Fate.

After a handful of demos, released in 1981 (including the classic Burning the Cross), Mercyful Fate delivered the most impressive non-British NWOBHM record ever heard. The band's self-titled debut laid the groundwork for their entire subsequent career and established an artistic peak that they would rarely match in the years to come. The guitar sound is a mix of classic rock and punk with general speed metal, much like the early output from Iron Maiden. The distortion is negligible and the sound is controlled and focused. The riffs also have a classic rock feel, simple, catchy, and loaded with some good chords. This probably owes a lot of King's interest in music from the 70s, such as Deep Purple and so on. The bass is fairly high in the mix so you can hear it the same, if not more in some parts than the guitars. Very NWOBHM styled and it works quite well. The drumming is dominated by a classic rock/early metal feeling. It is the basic kick drum, snare, and hi-hat combination beats that were common back then. However, there is more use of snare with crash near the same time to make it louder than what you may think at first. It also makes the music more thoughtful when it isn't just the snare being pounded wildly by itself. You hear this plenty of times in the album along with similar styles. King Diamond's unique vocals are very raw and are powerful enough to kill someone and the production compliments his vocal style. King didn't seem all too pleased with the outcome as they only had a couple days to record and mix the E.P. Much like the albums that would follow, the songs were arranged with background vocals, choirs and more guitar harmonies in mind, but they simply didn't have the time necessary for all of that. Released the same year as Venom's Black Metal and Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast, this E.P. did a lot to get Mercyful Fate noticed and to establish them as a band to keep an eye on.

There is but one single note standing between the listener and the scorching solo that begins "A Corpse Without Soul". These riffs are pure NWOBHM. The overall sound isn't quite as dark and evil as what is found on the first two albums. This is a little more raw and stripped-down. The riffs sound absolutely hellish and King's falsetto burns into your brain. There are plenty of riff changes in this mini-epic. The lyrics venture into occult territory that had been previously explored only by Black Sabbath and Venom, yet Mercyful Fate seemed far more genuine in their approach. The solos and high-pitched screams near the end of the song are enough to melt the flesh from your face.

"Nuns Have No Fun" has a completely different feel, showcasing a lot of lead guitar-work and harmonized riffs. King's vocal approach utilizes much more of the lower, normal range and the vocals are hilarious:

"C.U.N.T. that's what you are!"

This seems kind of reminiscent of Killers-era Iron Maiden. When compared to later Mercyful Fate, this has more of a lighthearted and fun vibe to it. Nothing too serious, just a tale about raping and crucifying a nun, in the name of Satan. This is quite funny, in a morbid way.

The next song is the real highlight of this E.P. "Doomed By the Living Dead" fades in from the silence and features and opening riff and lead solo that wouldn't be too out of place on a Kreator album, if sped up just a bit. King Diamond's raw vocal performance is nothing short of brilliant. This blasphemous tune completely shifts gears for the melodic chorus. This contrast clearly demonstrates the high level of compositional genius possessed by Mercyful Fate, even at this early stage. The lyrics fit perfectly into this diabolical masterpiece, as well:

"No way to survive this evil night,
if the dead won't leave you alone
So just say goodbye to all your holy angels
You're gonna die"

Mercyful Fate are masters of creating mini-epics and this is no exception. All of the changes in tempo flow together, perfectly. To listen to this song is to take a journey through the mists of the endless graveyard, getting ever nearer to the black gates of Hell.

"Devil Eyes" brings this classic E.P. to its conclusion with more classic riffs and some unconventional rock drumming. This song is a bit more straight-forward than the previous one, but features some killer riffs and a great vocal performance by King Diamond. Again, though they had much more planned for this release, it's a good thing that it turned out the way that it did because it gives a rare glimpse of King at his rawest and most powerful. Eerie solos creep through the soundscape, burning into your brain and pulling you deeper into the flames. It doesn't get much more epic than the solos and vocals wailing that concludes this great song.

Mercyful Fate is a little heavier and rawer than the full-length that would follow it, though giving the listener a little more room to breathe and not having quite the dark and dismal atmosphere that is found on Melissa and Don't Break the Oath. With this four song E.P. the band managed to establish its legacy and, had they never recorded another song, they would still be remembered as legendary. This classic recording is one of the pinnacles of the NWOBHM style and of the First Wave of Black Metal. If you don't own this, you're better off dead.
 
(8 Apr. 2009)

 
Melissa (1983)
 

With the success of their mini-L.P. to launch their careers, the members of Mercyful Fate wasted little time in capitalizing on this by signing with Roadrunner Records in 1983. By July, this Danish Black Metal band found themselves in Easy Sound studio, in Copenhagen, to record their debut L.P. It was produced by Henrik Lund, who did his best to capture the intense heaviness and complex arrangements that made Mercyful Fate stand out.

Melissa was one of the earliest Black Metal albums that I got my hands on. Of course, to some younger fans this might sound odd but, of course, in the 80s Black Metal was used to describe heavy music that had a very obvious Satanic theme in the lyrics and image of the band. The dark sound on this album was complimented, in a strange sense, by the fact that I obtained the record during a very bleak and dismal point in my life and this feeling was captured and amplified by the efforts of Hank Shermann, King Diamond and the rest.

The L.P. begins with "Evil", which bursts from the shadows and continues the NWOBHM-inspired sound that was prevalent on the E.P. The pace of the song isn't so intense, but the riffs and vocals work together to cloud the listener's mind with a murky fog. The ghoulish way that King's vocals fade in should be enough to send chills up the spines of many. The very first lyrics of the album do well to set the tone for what is to follow.

"I was born on the cemetery
Under the sign of the moon
Raised from my grave by the dead"

This isn't quite as raw as the E.P. but the quality of the songs makes up for that, as well as the fact that the band had time to fully realize their dark vision. King Diamond managed to develop his unique singing style, and he often goes from his normal voice to a creepy falsetto. He also overdubs falsetto voices that harmonize with the main voice. As the song progresses, it speeds up and the sound is dominated by very good solo work.

"Curse of the Pharoahs" begins with another sinister riff, maintaining the dark feeling from the previous song. To describe the sound, one would have to reference early works from Iron Maiden, such as Killers, as well as 70s hard rock and heavy metal bands like Deep Purple and, of course, Black Sabbath. Lyrical content on this one is less evil, yet still obsessed with darkness and doom.

The next song managed to make the PMRC's 'Filthy Fifteen' list, back in the 80s. "Into the Coven" begins with a classical guitar intro which is then followed by a neo-classical electric piece, creating a uniquely malevolent and foreboding atmosphere, before the Black Metal assault begins. The opening solo and mid-paced thrash riffs carry you down a river of blood toward an eternity of fire and suffering. King's falsetto approach is utilized quite a bit, throughout this song. The vocal delivery possesses as much conviction as the riffs themselves. The slower section creates a really eerie and sorrowful feeling. After this brief lull, the band increases the speed, dragging you deeper into the flames of Hell. As for the lyrics, it doesn't get more Black Metal than this:

"Suck the blood from this unholy knife
Say after me: My soul belongs to Satan"

To say that the music on this album is catchy might be a bit misleading, as that denotes some sort of insincerity on the part of the musicians, in an effort to make something that appeals to the lowest levels of human cogniscence. What can be said is that the riffs and vocal lines are extremely memorable and each song truly has a life of its own. No two songs sound alike, yet it is all unmistakably Mercyful Fate.

"At the Sound of the Demon Bell" begins with a sound that is less threatening and soul-crushing. The feeling is more reminiscent of some of the material from the E.P. in that it isn't quite as dark. Musically, this shows some influence from early Black Sabbath, and the overall feeling owes more to the 70s metal sound. The demonic choir in the background adds a lot to the aura as it darkens over the course of the song. This piece is much like a journey into the shadows, as the atmosphere becomes more hellish as it progresses. The song, effortlessly, flows from one part to the next, showcasing Mercyful Fate's ability to create mini-epics.

Side Two begins with more of an up-tempo, galloping pace. "Black Funeral", unfortunately, is the shortest song on the album. It is almost criminally short, yet that is the sign of a brilliant band; they know when enough is enough. Sometimes, less is more and this is a case where the listener is left wanting even more, which is better than the listener looking around to figure out if a song is nearly finished. Like the rest of the album, this song is pure genius and features some of my favorite vocal lines of the record. As for the lyrics, the blasphemy and Satanic rituals continue in full force:

"Open the black box on the altar
Her blood is still hot, so let it out
Oh hail Satan, yes hail Satan
Now drink it, now drink, drink, forget that whore"

This hellish song concludes with an incredibly wicked guitar solo that suits the song, perfectly. For a debut full-length, Mercyful Fate seems to possess an uncanny amount of talent when it comes to songwriting and execution.

Next is the 11,5-minute epic, "Satan's Fall". This begins with some of the most intense riffs and solos of the album, really grabbing the listener by the throat. Some of the darkest riffs and most maniacal vocals are found on this piece of blackened art. Unlike a lot of lengthy songs, this does not retain the same pace throughout. This is a very dynamic song, though there does not seem to be any overall structure or theme. "Satan's Fall" is more of a twisted journey through the abysmal depths of his grim and mournful kingdom below. Comparisons could be made to Venom's "At War With Satan", another monstrous epic that gets more hellish and sinister as it progresses. Of course, the obvious difference here would be Mercyful Fate's superior musicianship and the higher number of haunting melodies found in their music. The song builds in emotional intensity as King's voice permeates even the deepest graves with an almost sorrowful wailing:

"Oh the law of Satan
Pray and obey it forever
Oh the law of Satan"

Not long after this, the song really takes a depressing turn, possibly foreshadowing what is to come, for a brief time before the speed and intensity builds. Some of the guitar harmonies, in the closing minutes, seem reminiscent of Iron Maiden, yet blackened beyond their comprehension. Anyone attempting to describe such a masterpiece with mere words is destined to fail. This is something that truly needs to be heard and experienced. Be warned: it can be quite a draining endeavour.

This classic album concludes with a truly miserable song. The opening melody of "Melissa" reaches its icy hand into your chest and takes your withering heart into its frozen grip. Slowly, it applies more and more pressure, allowing you time to reflect on your pathetic existence. Death does not come quickly for you. No. Yours will be an agonizing death that affords you the opportunity to truly lament all that has been lost. King's mournful howling pierces what is left of your pitiful soul, stripping it from your body and leaving you empty. There is nothing uplifting about this song. Though the tempo changes a bit, it is always dark and consumed with despair. This dark tale of mourning over a dead witch is the most personal of any song found on this album. Naturally, it is something that most listeners can relate to, in some manner or another. The ultimate theme is that of loss and this is conveyed through the melancholic guitar melodies as well as the lyrics, delivered in a most haunting fashion.

"I'm kneeling in front of the altar
Satan's cross upon the wall
Strange emptiness, a crystal ball between two candles
Melissa has entered another life"

As the sorrowful sounds of this final song fade, so to does your miserable life. What else can you expect, from a journey into the depths of Hell? There is no fun to be had, watching as others burn and suffer. There is only deepest solitude and utter darkness, as you are tormented beyond the realm of sanity as your soul burns for the amusement of only one: Satan himself.

Melissa is an undisputed classic of early Black Metal. Released on 30 October 1983, this album has not lost any bit of its effectiveness, over the years. It has proven itself to be a timeless classic and should be considered required listening for all Metal fans. Refusal to worship at the altar of Mercyful Fate is a grave offense. Listen to this, or end your life.
 
(11 Apr. 2009)

 
 

In December 1983, Music For Nations released the Black Masses single, by Mercyful Fate. This was not too long after their full-length debut, Melissa. In essence, this was more of a collector's item, as the main song was a revamped track from their demo days.

The original version of "Black Masses" was titled "You Asked For It" and appeared on the first Mercyful Fate demo in 1981. It's difficult to compare them, as the original really doesn't feel like it belongs with the rest of the band's material, quite honestly. "Black Masses" features different lyrics, though the vocal arrangements are very similar. The most notable change is during the chorus. Hearing the demo version first, it took a little time to get used to the newer recording, but it is actually more suitable for Mercyful Fate, in this incarnation. Still, there's something about the atmosphere that is more light than dark, despite their efforts to alter it. It wouldn't have been entirely out of place if they had chosen to include it on Melissa, but I'm thankful that they did not do so. It's a good song, but the inferior nature of the previous version cannot be fully erased.

The B-side for this single is a different version of "Black Funeral", a song that appeared on the debut. It sounds like a demo or rehearsal, being more raw and featuring none of the vocal layering that was on the album. It comes across as rather flat and dull, by comparison.

Black Masses is interesting enough as a collector's item, but not exactly essential. It's superior to everything they put out after reuniting, but not worth going to great lengths to obtain.
 
(27 Nov. 2010)

 
Don't Break the Oath (1984)
 

After establishing themselves as one of the best new bands in the growing underground metal scene of the 80s, the Danish Black Metal band Mercyful Fate returned to Copenhagen's Easy Sound Studios in May 1984 to record the follow-up to their classic debut. Once again, they worked with producer Henrik Lund, though the band members were much more hand-on this time around. The songs maintained the majestic heaviness that the band was known for and they harnessed their multi-tempo, multi-section style of songwriting into compact epics that were still complex, yet more hard-hitting. Released in the first week of September 1984, Don't Break the Oath proved to be a worthy successor to Melissa and cemented the legacy of Mercyful Fate.

Music has always had the ability to capture the atmosphere of the time when I am first discovering it. This masterpiece of early Black Metal was initially explored during a very dark and miserable time in my existence; therefore, it retains the hellish spirit of that period. In a way, it only adds to the overall feeling of darkness on the record. I obtained this shortly after the first one, so I found myself digesting both around the same time. After hearing how King Diamond's vocals were an acquired taste, I was surprised once I actually encountered them for myself. There was nothing to 'get used to' at all. With the music that I grew up with, this seemed fairly natural and I couldn't imagine the songs sounding any other way.

"A Dangerous Meeting" begins with a riff as sharp as a sacrificial blade, dripping with fresh blood. Immediately, it is apparent that the sound here is more raw and powerful than that of the previous album. The tension is present from the first moments, and it serves to build the anticipation. By the time the song really gets underway, you are nearly ready to burst. The opening solo is pure Mercyful Fate and could never be mistaken for anyone else. The mid-paced thrash riffs, along with King's insane falsetto are enough to pierce your skull. The songwriting is brilliant, showing great refinement from the earlier versions of this song. Of course, the lyrics display the same obsession with the occult, which has not lessened in any manner.

"Tonight the circle is broken forever
Seven people dead within a trance
In here nobody is sensing the rain
Tonight seven souls are reaching Hell"

As the song continues, the pace slows to a doom-filled crawl and the atmosphere is accentuated by the chiming of funeral bells and an incredibly eerie guitar solo. This is a very strong opener which sets the tone for the rest of the album.

"Nightmare" begins with the drums and a simple bass line, before the guitars join in. This one utilizes a faster pace than the previous song, though possessing the usual tempo changes. It is said that the lyrics were inspired by a dream that King had, as a child, which is actually what triggered his interest in the occult. Near the middle, the riffs seem more reminiscent of something from the debut E.P. accompanied by very ghoulish vocals. As if this was not enough, it is followed by more classical guitar brilliance, unleashing a very haunting melody. This song seems to get better and better as it progresses, being almost inhumanly good. The overall feeling becomes more and more insane as the end draws near.

The next song begins with very heavy riffs and demonic vocals. "Desecration of Souls" displays a bit more of King's normal vocal approach and less falsetto, with the exception of the refrain. This one is more mid-paced, with more of a relaxed speed. There is more focus and direction than on the last song, and some truly amazing solo work. All in all, a very memorable piece.

"Night of the Unborn" begins with an insane solo, followed by guitar riffs that build in intensity. The song then changes pace, effortlessly. King's falsetto returns in full force, here. Again, one has to be impressed with Mercyful Fate's ability to create such memorable songs, while still maintaining the complexity. King's vocal lines have a lot to do with this, as they aren't just randomly shouted. Much like one of the instruments, he makes sure to remain in harmony with the rest and it all works very well. There is a brief burst of speed, as the song progresses, but this falls to the wayside in favor of some great lead solos.

The next song begins with a terrifyingly evil intro. This is no horror movie soundtrack. This is the audio equivalent of a black ritual, held on the night of the full moon, sacrificing virgins, in the light of torches, with rusted blades that have ended countless lives. "The Oath" is one of the most brilliant works of black art ever created. As the thunder rumbles in the distance, cold winds blow and the funeral bells toll through the sound of falling rain. As the song begins, you cannot help but be in awe of its genius. The first true verse of the song conveys a great deal of conviction.

"I deny Jesus Christ, the deceiver
And I abjure the Christian faith
Holding in contempt all of its works"

The vocals are as haunting as the guitar melodies, truly working as another instrument. In many ways, this song defines what Mercyful Fate is all about. That much is evident in the lyrics.

"In the name of Satan, the ruler of Earth
Open wide the gates of Hell and come forth from the abyss
By these names: Satan, Leviathan, Belial, Lucifer
I will kiss the goat"

In a sense, this is the musical follow-up to "Satan's Fall", though it is a bit more concise and has a definite theme. Unfortunately, it is another one of those songs that must be heard to be understood. This is something that you must experience to truly comprehend its dark Satanic majesty.

"Gypsy" follows this, beginning with a very catchy riff. This is the shortest real song on here, though it contains all of the trademark ingredients of a classic Mercyful Fate song. The complex arrangements remain, as well as King's unique vocal approach and the blistering solo work of Hank Shermann and Michael Denner. The atmosphere isn't quite as dark as what was established on the previous song, probably in the hopes of giving the listener a bit of a breather. It is best, maybe, for them to finish hearing the album before sacrificing their soul to the lord of darkness.

More heavy and powerful riffs are found at the beginning of "Welcome Princess of Hell". There is a sorrowful feeling running through this one, though not too obvious. The mid-paced thrash riffs and killer solos are easily recognizable and remain stuck in your brain long after hearing this. Also worth mention is that there seems to be an issue regarding the title of the song. It is said that the actual name of the song is "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." Though this is a small matter, it does change the interpretation of the song a great deal. Reading the lyrics, it seems to work, either way. Unfortunately, there is no mention of this on the official website, so it is not clear. Whatever the case, this is an undeniable classic.

"To One Far Away" is an instrumental track that takes the minimal amount of sorrow from the previous song and expands on it. This very brief piece has a somber feeling, reminiscent of the title track from the previous album.

This classic album concludes with "Come to the Sabbath". From the first moments, it grabs you by the throat in all its Satanic glory. The opening riffs are dark and epic, as well as King's evil wailing.

"Come come to the sabbath
Down by the ruined bridge
Later on the master will join us
Called from the heart of Hell"

This masterpiece features faster parts with riffs that are near thrash as well as slower sections. The complex arrangements flow together, seamlessly. This is the climax of the whole album; truly representative of what Mercyful Fate had to offer. It's all here, in this compact epic. There is even a passing reference to Melissa to be found here. In the last minute or two, the atmosphere becomes exceptionally dismal, with King's ghastly moans echoing over haunting classical guitar melodies. Very few songs, by any band, can approach the sheer brilliance of this masterpiece. Indeed, it is rare for many albums to reach the levels of brilliance found on Don't Break the Oath or its predecessor, Melissa. The sad thing is that, just as they had really built a great deal of momentum, Mercyful Fate had, unknowingly, recorded their swansong (for the time being). Creative differences between Hank Shermann and King Diamond led to the downfall of the band, which split in 1985. While Hank went on to form an ill-fated pop band, King Diamond began a solo career, joined by Michael Denner and Timi Hansen. The legacy of Don't Break the Oath can be found on Fatal Portrait, which features a similar sound, though being different enough that it warranted laying one band to rest and beginning a new one.
 
(12 Apr. 2009)

 
 

In May 1992, Mercyful Fate fans received a gift from Roadrunner Records in the form of the Return of the Vampire compilation. With nearly a decade since the last release by this legendary band, this must have been a very welcome treat to the ears of those that had been previously unable to get their hands on this material.

Of the nine tracks on this collection, the most important are undoubtedly the first five, which are from the Burning the Cross demo. Of these, "Curse of the Pharaohs", "A Corpse Without Soul" and "On a Night of Fullmoon" were later recorded for the band's proper releases, the latter being an earlier version of "Desecration of Souls". The songwriting is a little more primitive here, though still enjoyable. Though not as concise, these somewhat longer and less focused versions still possess the same evil atmosphere that Mercyful Fate was known for. However, the real gems of this compilation are the massive epic track "Burning the Cross" and "Return of the Vampire".

The first time that I heard "Burning the Cross", I couldn't believe how incredible the song was; moreso, there was a sense of disbelief at the fact that the band neglected to include this masterpiece on either of their classic albums. Though some of the riffs were later used for other pieces, none compare to the brilliance of this composition. This takes the NWOBHM formula and injects it with an overdose of epic melodies and evil vibes. It is very memorable and just makes no sense that some version of this track was not featured on Melissa or Don't Break the Oath. It is almost a criminal offense. As for "Return of the Vampire", this song was revisited the following year and no real justice was done to this original. The ominous mid-paced riffs and haunting vocals make this one of the most memorable tracks of the band's career, even including the somewhat humourous backing vocals during the chorus. One has to wonder how this would have come across if re-recorded between 1983 and 1984.

As for the other four songs, they are certainly interesting to die-hard fans of Mercyful Fate, but they fail to match the atmosphere of the Burning the Cross demo tracks. It is fascinating to hear the band's development on tape, but this earlier and less evil version is not nearly as appealing as what they would soon after become.

It goes without saying that Return of the Vampire is an essential collection for any fan of Mercyful Fate. For those that are among the few to already possess a copy of Burning the Cross, then you can dismiss this. Otherwise, if you worship albums like Melissa and Don't Break the Oath, yet have not bothered to pick this up yet, do so with haste. This is highly recommended.
 
(22 Apr. 2014)

 
 

In the Shadows was the first studio album from Mercyful Fate, since 1984's Don't Break the Oath. Nine years had passed since this influential band parted ways and the prospect of the original line-up coming together to write music once again was something remarkable. It's quite interesting in that this album, released in June 1993, presented a very unique situation. Surely, Mercyful Fate wasn't the first band to reunite after several years. And, like many others, it would be natural to compare In the Shadows to the old albums, or to analyze how well it picked up from where the last record left off. The trouble was that a few members had already continued what they began, as King Diamond's Fatal Portrait was the true successor to Don't Break the Oath. The legacy of Mercyful Fate had already evolved into something else, with The Eye representing the final chapter in the classic period of King Diamond (the band) . Of course, In the Shadows, as fascinating of an album as it is, can't even be thought of as a follow-up to that record; the direction taken on the King Diamond albums was but one direction that this could travel, while In the Shadows represents sort of an alternate reality of what could have been, had the band remained together.

So how does one really analyze this record? It's impossible to look at it, completely, on its own. There's simply too much history involved to do such a thing. The best method is to approach the album and determine whether or not it remains true to the spirit of the band's previous output. Amazingly, the songwriting is very much in line with the style of the Mercyful Fate E.P., Melissa and Don't Break the Oath. Considering some of the projects that Hank Shermann had been involved with, since the mid-80s, that is very impressive. It's so good to hear Denner and Shermann together again, as they really compliment one another.

The production is clear and decent enough, though not overdone like some albums from this era. For example, if they had a similar sound to Metallica's black album, it would have ruined everything. While not as raw as the early stuff, this record never comes off as being too slick or polished. The best way to describe it would be that it really does sound like an updated version of Mercyful Fate. It's not a direct continuation of the sound, but it possesses all of the primary elements and it manages to stay faithful to the spirit of the old albums, while not sounding dated. It's strange how it doesn't come off as some retro album, though it contains music that, easily, could have been released several years earlier.

Looking at the tracklist, it's clear that even songs that don't particularly appeal to me, entirely, obviously fit in. The ones that really stand out include "Egypt", "Shadows" and, naturally, "Is That You, Melissa?". Ironically, King wrote all three of these, so it would appear that the former guitarists weren't all that necessary to create some very memorable tunes, once more. These songs, alone, would be worth the cost of the CD. In "Egypt", the part from 2:33 to 2:54 is probably what really puts it over, as the song might have seemed a little average until then. Of course, "Shadows" is very memorable from beginning to end. And the real highlight has to be "Is That You, Melissa?", as it really embodies the atmosphere of the original, while being quite different. The use of the main melody from "Melissa" was very well done and added to the epic feeling conveyed by this song. The re-recorded version of "Return of the Vampire" isn't bad, but I still find myself preferring the original. I hate to support the general consensus, but the drumming of Lars Ulrich is quite detrimental to the flow of the song, when compared to the demo version.

Prior to hearing this, I remember having very low expectations for it. I even avoided the album for some time, not wanting to tarnish the mental image that I had of Mercyful Fate. However, in time, I had to give it a listen. For better or worse, my ears hungered for more from this band, so I took the chance. In the end, I would say that it was very much worth the risk, proving to be a very good reunion album. The music kept to the roots of their old classics, and even provided a few more essential tracks. Unfortunately, the band didn't know when to call it a day, and they went on to release four more albums, none of which managed to maintain the successful formula found on In the Shadows.
 
(29 July 2010)

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