The metal art has always shared a unique kinship with Halloween. Something about the aggressive nature of the genre just fits in with the darkness and mystique surrounding the day that stands right in the midst of autumn, the season where nature is in the throes of death before rebirth.
As such, it is a fitting time for any band that deals in the occult or the murky worlds of religion and politics to shine, and can often invite a coupling of titans from two interlinked yet highly distinct movements dating back to the heyday of metal in the 1980s. Though more closely associated with the traditional trappings of the 70s shock rock shtick of Alice Cooper and the hard rock-adjacent sounds of the early 80s outfits that were either tied to or were otherwise contemporaries of the NWOBHM, Mercyful Fate was always a forward-looking band that seemed to anticipate the subsequent rise of thrash metal, thus a fall tour with Teutonic thrash titans Kreator would almost seem obligatory. But what the metal masses were to witness on November 16, 2022 at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, GA would prove to anything but typical.
Still riding high off the massive explosion of thrashing mayhem that they'd unleashed upon the summer with their 15th studio album "Hate Uber Alles", Kreator wasted no time in filling their air with their brand of pure sonic aggression as they took the stage. Helmsman and co-founder Mille Petrozza was a veritable whirlwind of force from behind the microphone, taking only a few occasions to talk in between songs in order to maximize the auditory carnage. Between his ferocious riffs, animated stage presence, and the thunderous power and speed that longtime fellow-traveler and drummer Jurgen "Ventor" Reil brought to the table, Kreator delivered the sort of high energy spectacle that one would expect from one in their early 20s.
The slay fest that would transpire was nearly a perfect run of standout performances, though from their more recent studio work the high octane crusher "Phantom Antichrist" and the wicked title anthem off their latest LP "Hate Über Alles" would tower above the fray, while obligatory classic thrashers from this outfit's classic era and show closers "Flag Of Hate" and "Pleasure To Kill" would elicit the most raucous audience reaction and provide the bands newer recruits in lead guitarist Sami Yli-Sirnio and bassist Frederic Leclercq an opportunity to prove their salt yet again.
Following a brief period of respite from the raging mosh pits and incessant energy of the opening act to reveal the massive back-filled stage set, complete with a massive inverted cross looming about, Denmark's most auspicious metallic export of the 80s and masters off all things theatrical Mercyful Fate took ownership of the evening.
Like a time-machine back to the days when the hair was long, the stage antics were over the top, and inhibition was something that happened to those outside the concert hall, this quintet of metal veterans greeted the crowd as if their 1984 seminal classic "Don't Break The Oath" was having its original release party.
Helmed by the iconic master of ceremonies himself King Diamond, decked out in crimson red attire and sporting a massive goat-horned cap like the long-lost brother of the villain from Ridley Scott's Legend, theirs' was a performance that was an exercise in musical precision adorned with a raw, organic intensity that seems all but a lost art in today's world of pre-programmed backing tracks and excessive post-production. Likewise, the empathy displayed by this aged ring leader displayed towards the audience as he led them through his circus of otherworldly and historical horrors was palpable, rivaling the crowd work that typified a Dio or Iron Maiden concert and making for a far more personal experience for all in attendance.
In contrast to the near perfectly balanced mix of old and new that adorned Kreator's opening set, Mercyful Fate was primarily focused upon presenting the classics from their original early to mid-80s run, and despite guitarist Hank Sherman being the only other member of the band left in the fold from that era, the performance hit all the marks. Riveting old school metallic romps like "The Oath" and "Curse Of The Pharaohs" were far from wanting in the heaviness department and stood tall beside the modern thrash metal mayhem that Kreator had brought to the stage earlier, with Sherman and King Diamond solo band guitarist Mike Wead cutting heads with the best of them in a manner highly reminiscent of Tipton and Downing.
Other standout moments would include energy-infused renditions of "Doomed By The Living Dead" and "Melissa", with a show ending climax for the ages via their encore extended performance of "Satan"'s Fall", with King Diamond still showcasing his uncanny piercing falsetto shrieks in perfect form throughout the blistering hour and twenty minute set. Yet the greatest take away from the whole extravaganza was a haunting performance of the newly composed "The Jackal Of Salzburg", recounting the witch trials that The Inquisition brought to Austria in the late 17th century and revealed the promise of a new album by the band with the potential to rival their two seminal 80s classics.
In every sense, what unfolded at The Tabernacle was a fitting spectacle for what the term's etymology denotes, albeit repurposed for darker purposes in line with the metal aesthetic. Despite the fact that Kreator might not be as steeped in the musical theater trappings of the night's headliner, there was a common theme of vivid pictures being drawn with each song's performance that made this duo of uncompromising metallic stalwarts come off as fraternal twins. It was, likewise, a further testament to the fact that metal is as much an ageless art as it is a timeless one, for even without his elaborate costume and makeup getup, King Diamond was a towering example of how 66 years of age and several bouts of health problems are a virtual non-issue when the curtains open and the show commences.
With plenty of autumn left to be experienced and cities to be reached, it goes without saying that the show is far from over, and even with the conclusion of this tour that will still be the case.