Mercyful Fate is a Danish heavy metal band from Copenhagen, formed in 1981 by vocalist King Diamond and guitarist Hank Shermann. Influenced by progressive rock and hard rock, and with lyrics dealing with Satan and the occult, Mercyful Fate were part of the first wave of black metal in the early to mid-1980s, along with Venom and Bathory. Many of the bands from this movement went on to influence later black metal musicians in the 1990s, particularly in Norway. Mercyful Fate has also been acknowledged as a prominent influence on thrash metal and death metal bands, including Metallica,Slayer,Testament,Death and Morbid Angel.
Since its inception in 1981, Mercyful Fate has released seven studio albums, two extended plays, and four compilations. After several line-up changes and self-made demos, they released their self-titled EP in 1982, with the line-up of King Diamond (vocals), Hank Shermann (lead and rhythm guitars), Michael Denner (rhythm and lead guitars), Timi Hansen (bass) and Kim Ruzz (drums). With this line-up the group recorded their first two studio albums (1983’s Melissa and 1984’s Don’t Break the Oath), until 1985 when the band broke up due to musical differences. In 1992, four out of the five members of Mercyful Fate reunited to record the album In the Shadows, which was released the following year. During the 1990s, the band released four more studio albums and went through several line-up changes. Mercyful Fate went on hiatus in 1999, but had reunited on occasion during the 2000s.
Formation and first releases (1981–1985)
Mercyful Fate was originally formed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1981, following the dissolution of the band Brats. Brats had been a punk/metal band, featuring future Mercyful Fate members, vocalist King Diamond, and guitarists Hank Shermann and Michael Denner.[better source needed] After two studio albums and several line-up changes (including the addition of Diamond and the departure of Denner), Diamond and Shermann began writing new material that was much heavier than any of Brats’ previous work.[better source needed] The band’s record label CBS was not pleased with the material, and demanded they stop singing in English and become more commercial.[better source needed] As a result, Diamond and Shermann quit the group and went on to form Mercyful Fate.[better source needed] Former Rock Nalle bassist Ole Beich (later of L.A. Guns and Guns N’ Roses) briefly joined the band around this time. After several line-up changes and semi-professional demo tapes, Mercyful Fate released their self-titled EP in 1982. This line-up, consisting of King Diamond, Hank Shermann, bassist Timi Hansen, drummer Kim Ruzz and guitarist Michael Denner, would go on to record the group’s first two studio albums.
In July 1983, Mercyful Fate recorded their debut album at Easy Sound Recording, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Entitled Melissa, the album was produced by Henrik Lund and released on October 30, 1983 on Roadrunner Records. The character of Melissa, a witch who was burned at the stake, appears for the first time on the eponymous debut album and intermittently throughout the band’s later work. After a number of concerts around Denmark, Mercyful Fate entered the studio in May 1984 to record their second studio album Don’t Break the Oath, which was released on September 7, 1984. During the album’s supporting tour, the band played the US for two months and made festival appearances in Germany.[better source needed] Despite winning a cult following around the world, Mercyful Fate broke up in April 1985, due to musical differences.[better source needed][better source needed] Guitarist Hank Shermann wanted the band to move to a more commercial sound; King Diamond refused and announced his departure from Mercyful Fate, which led to the band breaking-up.[better source needed]
After disbanding (1985–1992)
After Mercyful Fate broke up in 1985, King Diamond, along with Michael Denner and Timi Hansen, formed the eponymous King Diamond band.[better source needed][better source needed] Both Denner and Hansen stayed with the group until 1987’s Abigail, after which both left King Diamond. They were replaced by Mike Moon and Hal Patino, respectively, and King Diamond continued releasing albums even after Mercyful Fate had reformed. After leaving King Diamond, Michael Denner opened up a recordshop in Copenhagen, until 1988, when he formed the band Lavina (which would later become Zoser Mez), along with former bandmate Hank Shermann.[better source needed] Hank Shermann had formed the hard rock band Fate in 1985, after having left Mercyful Fate. With Fate, Shermann released two albums: 1985’s Fate and 1986’s A Matter of Attitude. After leaving the band, Shermann joined-up with Michael Denner to form Lavina.
During the time Mercyful Fate were disbanded, Roadrunner Records released three Mercyful Fate compilation albums. The Beginning was released on June 24, 1987, and featured material from the band’s 1982 self-titled EP, as well as rare live and studio recordings. On May 12, 1992, Return of the Vampire was released, which was another compilation of rare studio recordings. On October 6, 1992, Roadrunner released A Dangerous Meeting; a split-release featuring material from both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond.
In 1993, King Diamond, Hank Shermann, Michael Denner and Timi Hansen reunited to reform Mercyful Fate (drummer Kim Ruzz was replaced by Morten Nielsen). The result was the album In the Shadows, which was released on June 22, 1993, through Metal Blade Records. The album also featured a guest appearance by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich (a fellow Dane), on the track “Return of the Vampire”. For the album’s supporting tour, Morten Nielsen was replaced by King Diamond drummer Snowy Shaw, due to a knee injury Nielsen had sustained. Bassist Timi Hansen was also replaced by Sharlee D’Angelo, as Hansen did not want to take part in touring.[better source needed] On June 27, 1994, the band released The Bell Witch, an EP of live tracks, as well as studio recordings from In the Shadows.
On September 25, 1994, Mercyful Fate released the album Time, which was recorded and mixed at the Dallas Sound Lab during May–August 1994. After the album’s release, drummer Snowy Shaw was replaced by Bjarne T. Holm for the Time Tour. Holm had originally been asked to join Mercyful Fate back in 1981, but had declined due to prior commitments. The band spent January through February 1996 recording and mixing the album Into the Unknown, which was released on August 20, 1996. After the album’s release, guitarist Michael Denner left the band and was replaced by Mike Wead. In October 1997, Mercyful Fate began recording the album Dead Again at the Nomad Recording Studio in Carrollton, Texas. Dead Again was released on June 9, 1998. In February 1999, Mercyful Fate began recording the album 9, which was released on May 15, 1999.
Hiatus and sporadic reunions (1999–2018)
After the supporting tour for 9, Mercyful Fate was put on hiatus. King Diamond focused on his eponymous band, along with guitarist Mike Wead, who joined the group during the European House of God tour. Hank Shermann and Bjarne T. Holm reunited with Michael Denner to form Force of Evil, while Sharlee D’Angelo joined the band Arch Enemy. When asked about the current state of the band in 2008, Diamond stated that Mercyful Fate is currently “hibernating”, and that “it’s definitely not finished, at least in my book.” In August 2008, King Diamond was asked by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich if Mercyful Fate would be willing to participate in Activision‘s Guitar Hero: Metallica video game. Ulrich requested the original masters for two of the band’s songs, so they could be used in the game. Unable to locate them, Diamond suggested to Activision the band re-record the songs, and as a result, King Diamond, Hank Shermann, Michael Denner, Timi Hansen and Bjarne T. Holm reunited to re-record the songs “Evil” and “Curse of the Pharaohs”. King Diamond was also made into a playable character in the game.
On December 7, 2011, King Diamond, Hank Shermann, Michael Denner and Timi Hansen reunited onstage at Metallica’s 30th Anniversary concert, at the Fillmore in San Francisco, California, where they, alongside Metallica, performed Metallica’s “Mercyful Fate” medley from Garage Inc.
Full-time reunion (2019–present)
On August 1, 2019, it was announced that Mercyful Fate would be performing an unspecified number of concerts throughout Europe in the summer of 2020. The band’s line-up consists of King Diamond on vocals, Hank Shermann on guitar, Bjarne T. Holm on drums, Mike Wead on guitar and Joey Vera on bass, the latter of whom is filling in for Timi Hansen, who was battling cancer; Hansen died on November 4, 2019, shortly after his 61st birthday. Aside from previously released material, the band was also going to perform new songs over the course of the summer.
In a May 2020 interview with HEAVY magazine, Shermann revealed that he has “written six or seven songs” for the band’s first studio album in over two decades.
|Burning the Cross||Demo||1981|
|Don’t Break the Oath||Full-length||1984|
|Return of the Vampire||Compilation||1992|
|A Dangerous Meeting||Split||1992|
|In the Shadows||Full-length||1993|
|The Bell Witch||EP||1994|
|Into the Unknown||Full-length||1996|
|The Curse of Evil||Compilation||1999|
|Melissa / The Beginning||Compilation||2003|
|The Best of Mercyful Fate||Compilation||2003|
|Don’t Break the Oath / Return of the Vampire||Compilation||2004|
|Timi “Grabber” Hansen||Bass (1981-1985, 1993-1994, 2008, 2011, 2019)|
|(R.I.P. 2019) See also: ex-Danger Zone, ex-Lavina, ex-King Diamond|
|Ole Beich||Bass (1981)|
|(R.I.P. 1991) See also: ex-Guns N’ Roses, ex-L.A. Guns|
|“Old” Nick Smith||Drums (1981)|
|See also: ex-Danger Zone|
|Ole Frausing||Drums (1981)|
|See also: ex-Missing Link, ex-Devil’s Symphony|
|Kim Ruzz||Drums (1981-1985)|
|See also: ex-Harlot, ex-Metalruzz, ex-Trash, ex-Wet|
|Jan Musen||Drums (1981)|
|Benny Petersen||Guitars (1981-1982)|
|See also: ex-Jackal, ex-Encore, ex-Artillery, ex-Evil, ex-Pretty Maids, ex-Devil’s Symphony, ex-Harlot, ex-Trash|
|Carsten Van der Volsing||Guitars (1981)|
|See also: ex-Brats|
|Michael Denner||Guitars (1981, 1982-1985, 1993-1996, 2008, 2011)|
|See also: Denner’s Inferno, ex-Danger Zone, ex-Denner / Shermann, ex-Force of Evil, ex-Lavina, ex-Zoser Mez, Iron Space, Lucifer’s Airship, Taylor’s Universe, ex-King Diamond, ex-Brats, ex-Art Cinema, ex-Denner’s Trickbag, ex-Virus 7|
|Snowy Shaw||Drums (1993-1994)|
|See also: Dark Embrace, Mad Architect, Snowy Shaw, ex-Denner / Shermann, ex-Illwill, ex-Notre Dame, ex-Cans, Snömannen & Hans Vänner, XXX, Maryann Cotton (live), ex-Dimmu Borgir, ex-Dream Evil, ex-King Diamond, ex-Nightrage (live), ex-Sabaton (live), ex-Scheepers (live), ex-Therion (live), ex-Memento Mori, ex-Colossus (live), ex-Firegod, ex-Kee Marcello’s K2, ex-Loud ‘n’ Nasty, ex-Snowy Shaw and the Star-Spangled Banned, ex-Them Sluts! (live)|
|Morten Nielsen||Drums (1993)|
|See also: ex-Force Majeure, ex-Shermann Soldiers, ex-Zoser Mez, ex-Apocalypse, ex-Crime Academy, ex-Furious Trauma, ex-Red Warszawa|
|Sharlee D’Angelo||Bass (1994-1999)|
|See also: Arch Enemy, Spiritual Beggars, The Night Flight Orchestra, Witchery, ex-Illwill, Black Earth, ex-King Diamond, ex-Dismember (live), ex-Facelift, ex-Sinergy, ex-Firegod|