Essential Black Metal Listening: MERCYFUL FATE Melissa
Where would black metal imagery be without the excellent album Melissa? Quite simply not the same place that it currently stands, that much is very true. Melissa was instrumental in the well thought out realm of the occult; and not that front that Venom had originally put up. This was something more legitimate, with a band more than capable of absolutely outplaying just about every heavy metal band of it's era, let alone any era. Kim Petersen's (King Diamond) first full on foray into the world of heavy metal was through this debut album from a few very disturbed, yet very intelligent Danes. It's great to see it mentioned as being one of the seminal "black metal" albums but to pigeonhole it as simply black metal is just wrong. This is much much more than that…
If this above video was your first exposure to Mercyful Fate, allow me to pity you for a few moments, but then let me be happy that I have at the very least enlightened you. 'Evil' is a perfect combination of the classic heavy metal sound with plenty of flash and flourish, but also a taste for the macabre. Diamond's lyrics do little to hide the song's true intentions too: "I was born on the cemetery, Under the sign of the moon, Raised from my grave by the dead" continuing on a bit later with it's laid on even more thickly "You know my only pleasure, Is to hear you cry, I'd love to hear you cry, I'd love to feel you die". Lyrics like this were simply one of kind at this time period and for the song to be followed by the equally brilliant 'Curse Of The Pharaohs' makes for a one-two punch barely any other album can top, their Egyptian theme may be nearly as good as Iron Maiden's Powerslave.
The above song 'Into The Coven' was the Fate's most popular song for a long time and that was thanks to a very naive American, who though she was doing more good than bad by bringing it to everybody's attention; that American was Tipper Gore. What? Tipper Gore you say? You mean the wife of environmental mogul/former vice president of the United States of America? The very same. While reading through Ian Christie's Sound Of The Beast, he highlights this as he talks to King Diamond who only has to say this "She could have picked any of our songs as occult." The lyrics here are very poignant and help to add to why Mrs. Gore just had to say something, "Suck the blood from this unholy knife, Say after me: my soul belongs to Satan". For whatever it's worth Mrs. Gore helped the band to tour the U.S.A. for the first time thanks to her media coverage. 'At The Sound Of The Demon Bell' is a personal favorite of mine and is a guitarist's wet dream complete with mind bending riffs and face melting guitar solos, adding further proof to the fact that Michael Denner and Hank Shermann are one of the greatest guitar playing duos in heavy metal history.
'Black Funeral' further infuses the album with a sense of the occult and the pure evil doesn't stop until 2 tracks from this point. The album's epic 11 and a half minute song 'Satan's Fall' showcases some excellent songwriting and song structuring that many bands continue to try and replicate, yet ultimately fell short of. Proving that Satan cannot be stopped, even by the likes of Tipper Gore, Diamond croons the dead with the following: "Is it Satan's fall?, No… it's Satan's call, Craniums high on stakes, It's Satan's epigraph, Something new can't erase… 666, They call him the beast" The call goes beyond Diamond's vocal performance as Denner and Shermann do more than their part to help to summon their divine ruler back to his rightful throne. Finally we come to the title track and they try to raise Melissa back to life in much the same way that Satan had been in previous tracks as well as by the same process that was mentioned in 'Into the Coven'. This album ties back very much to it's prior material and it is an expertly crafted album clearly on another plane of existence.
Sure most great black metal doesn't sound like the most professional and tightly bound bands in the book, but they don't need to be. Mercyful Fate gave them a ton in lyrical content as well as a stage presence and imagery that is without compare. Overt occultism followed by a huge following in the musical underground that is and was extreme heavy metal. Melissa was a stepping stone to something nearly better than it with Don't Break The Oath. Yet without the initial contribution to this sound neither the 2nd album nor the rest of that musical scene would have been the same. Because of all of this we are forever indebted to each and every member of Mercyful Fate here in Black Metal History Month.