Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Mercyful Fate first formed their progressive rock/heavy metal band in 1981 by founding members King Diamond and Hank Shermann. Focusing their lyrics on Satan and the occult, they were among the first wave of black metal bands to hit the music scene. Alongside bands such as Bathory and Venom, Mercyful Fate has been most influential with the movement of the heavy metal genre, particularly in Norway. Thrash metal bands from the mid-1980s to the 1990s mostly credit Mercyful Fate’s music style as the prominent influence.
Mercyful Fate’s State of Affairs
Since forming in 1981, Mercyful Fate has released seven studio albums, four compilations, and two Extended Plays (EPs). After several lineup changes and self-made demos, the band released their self-titled EP in 1982. At the time, members of Mercyful Fate were King Diamond (lead vocals), Hank Shermann (lead and rhythmic guitars), Michael Denner (rhythm and lead guitars), Timi Hansen (bass), and Kim Ruzz (drums). Together, they also released their first two studio albums (1983’s Melissa and 1984’s Don’t Break the Oath). Despite their popularity as one of the most acclaimed bands of the European Heavy Metal scene during the 1980s, Mercyful Fate was often subject to controversy due to their Satanic imagery. One of their songs (Into the Coven) later gained notoriety for appearing as Parents Music Resource Center’s (PMRC) “Filthy Fifteen” list of objectionable songs.
Mercyful Fate first disbanded in 1985 due to musical differences as all five band members at the time went their separate ways. In 1992, all but one reunited and produced their third studio album (In the Shadows). Since then, the band released four additional studio albums throughout the 90s and underwent several lineup changes. In 1999, Mercyful Fate went into hiatus again. Occasionally, they’ve reunited during the 2000s, but as of August 1, 2019, Mercyful Fate announced they’re performing as a full-time band again.
10. The Afterlife
Coming from their 1994 album (Time) is the song (The Afterlife). This cult-favorite starts slowly with Diamond’s voice, which later takes the listener down a different focus as the song progresses. Both fans and critics agree The Afterlife best illustrates his vocal talent.
9. Is That You, Melissa?
Returning from their first band breakup, Mercyful Fate releases the 1993 album (In the Shadows). From it, (Is That You, Melissa?) marks a preference not to engage in a satanic theme, opting to focus on different issues. The guitar riffs and drum lines are credited for making this song a popular hit among most metal music fans, as well as their critics.
8. Curse of the Pharaohs
From their 1983 album (Melissa), comes (Curse of the Pharaohs). It was originally made for Mercyful Fate when they were in underground music projects, namely Black Rose and Brats. At that time, Brats was called Night Rider when it was part of that band’s old demo.
7. Black Funeral
Released from the band’s 1983’s album (Melissa) features their song (Black Funeral), which quickly became the cult favorite, first among European metal music fans and then in the West. This song served as the pioneer of heavy metal music, as it is often referred to as the source of inspiration that sprouted a surge of thrash metal bands including Metallica, Exodus, and Slayer (just to name a few).
6. Satan’s Fall
As one of Mercyful Fate’s longest songs recorded, (Satan’s Fall) comes from their 1983 album (Melissa). Their delivery of melodic rhythmic riffs put Mercyful Fate’s name on the map as a musical talent deserving the devotion of their fans and critics alike. The speed, plus the variance of vocal pitches delivered by King Diamond’s voice throughout the song stands out the most, which was instrumental in the surge of inspired heavy metal bands to explode a barely noticeable genre into the cult favorite it has become today.
5. Come to the Sabbath
Mercyful Fate’s choice to favor rhythmic guitar riffs for the song (Come to the Sabbath) also plays throughout their 1984 album (Don’t Break the Oath). The harmony between the guitars and vocals is what gets the credit for this song to be a Mercyful Fate favorite among their fans and critics.
4. The Oath
Their 1984 album (Don’t Break the Oath) and the song (The Oath), are credited to be one of the biggest influences among black metal musicians due to their lyrical theme. That, plus the progressive elements and theatrical falsetto vocals performed by King Diamond, not only marks The Oath as an all-time favorite among their music fans and critics but the entire album as well.
1993’s album (In the Shadow), plus its highly favored song (Egypt), helped classify Mercyful Fate’s return to the heavy metal music scene as epic. The solo performance within the song is marked among music fans and critics as among the best ever, even going as far as placing King Diamond as an elite among the elite throughout the entire roster of metal music performers worldwide.
The album (Don’t Break the Oath) was originally released in 1984, along with the song (Nightmare). This was remastered and released again in 1997, which earned enough critical acclaim to earn positive reviews from AllMusic. With Metal Rules, it was ranked #1 with its list of Top 50 Extreme Metal Albums.
(Evil) served as the opening track for Mercyful Fate’s first album release (Melissa) in 1983. Both music fans and critics alike agreed it served as a powerful start to their successful album. This song, as well as the album it belongs to, is often ranked as the top favorite from their entire discography roster. According to Rock Era Magazine, it is a rank well deserved.