Mercyful Fate: Melissa-80’s-1983.

Testament1990, November 29th, 2020
Written based on this version: 1983, 12″ vinyl, Roadrunner Records

Melissa is the first full length to ever introduce the phenomenon that is King Diamond to the metal world. Now I know these cats released what I consider to be the greatest EP ever recorded a year prior in 1982, but this here is majority of peoples first taste of the band. This album here is monumental and a evil masterpiece. Everything about this record is perfect from the vocals to the band and the songwriting is through the roof. Every song on this record is full of purpose and is massively influential especially on the thrash scene that was starting to brew up with Metallica and Slayer releasing records also in 1983 both of whom are deeply influenced by Mercyful Fate. some people like to classify this as the first wave of black metal and to be honest that’s quite insulting to a record of this calibre. I’ve always considered Mercyful Fate to be a straight up heavy metal act even though they do have a NWOBHM sound they are from Denmark, but still this is nowhere close to the trash that is black metal.

The Production/mix here is killer and is the classic way albums were recorded and mixed. Everything sounds 1000% percent better than anything released in the modern pro tool times whether others disagree or not this is the way to make a metal album sound wise. Nothing even comes close to these classic productions and i will advocate that till the day I die. Everyone is audible even Timi Hansen who you can hear plain as day groovin’ away underneath Shermann and Denner’s masterful guitar playing. The guitar sound isn’t all that heavy compared to other bands guitar tones at the time but god damn do they make that shit sound heavy as all hell on this record.

I wish I had listened to this record sooner than I did. My metal journey discovering bands started around when I was 13 in 2009 and I finally delved into Mercyful Fate/King Diamond at around 19 which isn’t too late but I thought my younger mind wouldn’t be able to fathom King’s theatrical falsetto style at the time but damn do I wish I would have listened to this shit sooner as this record has become a massive influence on my guitar playing. I’ve also had the pleasure of turning most of my friends on to Mercyful Fate/King Diamond as none of them thought they would ever like the vocals but once you listen them enough you understand that it has to be King Diamond singing for this band it just would work without him and his evil presence.

The songs here are all classic and really strong not one of them is bad by no means. The album starts with “Evil” and man this shit is some high octane Judas Priest esque shit with even crazier guitar solos and a much more evil atmosphere. The song has solo sections like “Hit The Lights” from Metallica with leads coming back after every chorus with one massive solo culminating at the end. “Curse of the Pharaohs” is a mid tempo track that has galloping guitars that lay the groundwork for King’s verse lines with Denner and Shermann trading off lead licks in between. “Into The Coven” starts with acoustic guitars laced with a melodic intro solo by Michael Denner which builds up into the classic track that has some really soaring vocals from King. The solos in this one are also grade A Denner and Shermann could do no wrong trading off solos with one another with both having really different but distinctive styles. “At The Sound of The Demon Bell” starts off quite pleasant sounding before kicking off with another memorable solo provided by Denner and then enters King with the trademark soaring falsetto that he’s known for. This track has a lot of tempo changes going from slow groovier parts to really fast almost thrash sounding parts. that ends side A of the record.

Side B starts with the shortest track the extremely catchy “Black Funeral” which is the most least complex song structure wise here as most of these tracks have parts that you wouldn’t even think go together but they make that shit work somehow which shows how talented of songwriters they are and how progressive Mercyful Fate could get if they wanted. “Satan’s Fall” is next and man this a 11 minute epic and the most complex song on this record with so many twists and turns, time signature changes, and all these epic parts to create the ultimate Mercyful Fate tune. While “Satan’s Fall” isn’t my favorite track from the record it is still a progressive masterpiece of a track. there is a part in the beginning where King wails on for like 20 seconds and it is more of a annoyance than a part that fits the song but really it doesn’t effect the song at all and over time it becomes less grating than lets say your first listen. Lastly we have the title track “Melissa” an evil ballad that sounds like “Beyond the Realms of Death” clashing with “The Rage” by Judas Priest. The main riff sounds almost dead on the main riff in “The Rage” but it’s still killer and with this song you could tell that Judas Priest had a massive impact on this band. A song recorded during this album but didn’t make the record was a song titled “Black masses” which is honestly a really badass track in the veins of the rest of the material. Why it didn’t make the record is beyond me. I would of stressed that this track needs to be on this album somewhere because it’s too damn good.

Each members performance here is just astonishing everyone gets parts to show off throughout this entire record especially Denner and Shermann these 2 shred up and down this record like no other. Denner and Shermann are just as important of a guitar duo as Tipton and Downing and Smith and Murray. King Diamond is simply enthralling here his vocal power going from low growls at times all the way up to 70’s Halford high notes is more than impressive. Kim Ruzz and Timi Hansen are a tight rhythm section that keeps the songs on pace despite all the wild changes going on they still keep things locked in together and are underrated as fuck because most people look at Mercyful Fate for the guitars and vocals but the bass and drums here are amazing. All these tracks are really catchy and super memorable too, it’s hard to forget the vocals, riffs, and solos laced throughout the record. Most metalheads I see will say the 3 gods that influenced the heavier subgenres of metal are Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motorhead. No offense to the Motorhead fanatics but Mercyful Fate absolutely destroys Motorhead with ease it’s not even a contest. Motorhead can’t even hold a candle to Mercyful Fate’s musicianship and compositional skill and I’m sure when Mercyful Fate opened for Motorhead in 1984 they blew them off the stage every single night like it was nothing. Motorhead is decent at best, but to put them up with Priest and Maiden is nuts and exclude a band like Mercyful Fate from that bracket. For me it’s always been Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Mercyful Fate as the 3 gods of the pre thrash metal days. I do realize Mercyful Fate was a bit later than these bands but they had demos and a EP out before Kill Em’ All and their EP eats Motorheads entire catalog alive.

Overall this album is a must have masterpiece and a evil work of perfection. Melissa is a record I think everyone who likes harder music should hear at least once in their lifetime. Melissa is right up there with Don’t Break the Oath and it is so damn hard to choose between the 2 but both are purely magical works of metal. I’d recommend this album to anyone into classic metal and even those who were put off by King’s vocals in the past. whether you like or dislike the vocals the music here is too damn good to not hear once and I feel like once you hear the band play a few tracks that’s it, your hooked. Melissa is a superb record and Mercyful Fate is easily right up there with Priest and Maiden.

Discography:

Demo 1981Demo1981 
Demo #1Demo1981 
Demo #2Demo1981 
Burning the CrossDemo1981
Mercyful FateEP1982
MelissaFull-length1983
Black MassesSingle1983
Don’t Break the OathFull-length1984
The BeginningCompilation1987
Return of the VampireCompilation1992
A Dangerous MeetingSplit1992
EgyptSingle1993 
In the ShadowsFull-length1993
The Bell WitchEP1994
TimeFull-length1994
Into the UnknownFull-length1996
Dead AgainFull-length1998
The Curse of EvilCompilation1999 
9Full-length1999
Melissa / The BeginningCompilation2003 
The Best of Mercyful FateCompilation2003 
Don’t Break the Oath / Return of the VampireCompilation2004 
Evil 2009Single2009
Buried AliveSingle2021
Hank Shermann
Guitars, Songwriting
Timi Grabber (R.I.P. 2019)
Bass
Kim Ruzz
Drums
King Diamond
Vocals, Lyrics
Michael Denner
Guitars
Songs
Side A
1.Evil04:45  Show lyrics
2.Curse of the Pharaohs03:57  Show lyrics
3.Into the Coven05:10  Show lyrics
4.At the Sound of the Demon Bell05:23  Show lyrics
Side B
5.Black Funeral02:50  Show lyrics
6.Satan’s Fall11:23  Show lyrics
7.Melissa06:42  Show lyrics
 40:10 

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