It’s the ultimate suspense builder, a relief and a reassurance that metal in the ‘90s was going to survive.
Mercyful Fate is a Danish metal band from Copenhagen. It was formed in 1981 by vocalist King Diamond and guitarist Hank Shermann. They are one of the most influential metal bands of all time. A pioneering act known as one of the cornerstones of black metal.
Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in the early ‘80s isn’t really the place you’d expect to be exposed to European metal. Remember this was a time before computer domination, the internet or even cell phones. Luckily, some new kids moved into a house just up the street from me. They were from England and turned me onto a lot of cool bands like Venom, Bathory and of course Mercyful Fate. I vividly recall listening to the song “Black Funeral” (Melissa -1983) on my friend’s turntable.
I’ve always found their tumultuous style, mixing progressive rock and traditional heavy metal into a spooky homage to Satan, a trend setting achievement. It has made them one of the most influential heavy metal acts of all time. Sadly, Mercyful Fate broke up in 1985. King Diamond went solo with a speedier version of his trademark vocal attack. With King’s solo endeavors so successful many believed, me included, this was the end of Mercyful Fate.
Then in 1993 I was away at college, perusing a local record store, when I noticed a new Mercyful Fate album! It seemed King Diamond, Hank Shermann, Michael Denner and Timi Hansen had reunited (drummer Kim Ruzz was replaced by Morten Nielsen). The end result was In the Shadows, released on June 22, 1993, via Metal Blade Records. One of my favorite Mercyful Fate albums, this was a ‘tough time’ for metal with a lot of high profile vocalists leaving their respective bands (Rob Halford – Judas Priest and Bruce Dickinson – Iron Maiden). The ‘grunge domination’ was also in full swing. I remember discovering the record and thinking – Thank Satan for King Diamond!
One of my favorite tracks has always been the opener “Egypt”. It’s the ultimate suspense builder, a relief and a reassurance that metal in the ‘90s was going to survive. The music video for “Egypt” was in heavy rotation when this effort was released. It seems I wasn’t the only one who thought the King’s comeback was well timed.
“Egypt” the video is a performance offering with a lot of strange ‘70s ‘bad acid trip’ effects. It would have been cool if King had an ankh instead of a crucifix painted on his forehead for this video! Although the music and visuals were undeniably Mercyful Fate, I was saddened by the fact that the band who released Don’t Break the Oath would likely never be seen again.
Gone were the themes of Satanism and the occult, replaced by the supernatural horror brought forth by the King Diamond band. Luckily for me, Mercyful Fate went back to those concepts with the album 9 released back in 1999.
Mercyful Fate really hasn’t played much since. Although there have been a couple sporadic reunions, nothing concrete has really developed, until now. On August 1st 2019, it was announced that Mercyful Fate would be performing an unspecified number of concerts throughout Europe in the summer of 2020. The line up will consist of: King Diamond (Vocals), Hank Shermann and Mike Wead (Guitars), Bjarne T. Holm (Drums), and Joey Vera (filling in for Timi Hansen) on bass. Aside from previously released material, the band will also be performing new songs!
I’ve been listening to Mercyful Fate and King Diamond for over a decade. The thought of new material and live shows has me ecstatic. Artists of this stature won’t be around forever. The time is now to experience this great band for yourself. From the falsetto screams to the diabolical story-lines, there’s a reason why this group wears metal’s unholy crown. \m/
Mercyful Fate (1993):
• King Diamond – Vocals
• Hank Shermann – Guitars
• Michael Denner – Guitars
• Timi Hansen – Bass
• Snowy Shaw – Drums