In The Shadows

Mercyful Fate

Metal Blade, 1993

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Picture, if you will, this scenario: you were once one of the most influential heavy metal bands to have ever existed. Despite only releasing two full-length albums, you had made an amazing name for yourself. You were also seen as one of the darkest bands out there, proudly proclaiming Satanic beliefs in your lyrics, which were surrounded by a slightly muddy sonic attack and – most notably – falsetto vocals which could chill the listener’s soul.

Now, it is nine years since you last released an album of new material. Your band’s leader has made a name for himself with his own solo efforts – not necessarily Satanic, but definitely horror-based. Other band members tried for a time to forge their own way, with little success.

There you have it, friends… a quick summary of Mercyful Fate circa 1993. After almost a decade-long hiatus, King Diamond and crew – well, four-fifths of the original crew, with Kim Ruzz replaced on drums – returned to attempt to reclaim their metal throne with In The Shadows.

Oh, there are many notable improvements over Mercyful Fate’s first two albums. Diamond’s vocals are rich and clear, as he shows he was more than simply a higher-pitched frontman. And the overall production quality of this album is far superior. So, props to the band in those two regards.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But In The Shadows has one key element missing – namely, the demonic theme. The nine songs (ten if you count the later addition of “Return Of The Vampire… 1993,” featuring one Lars Ulrich behind the drum kit) continue in the suspenseful style of songwriting that Diamond had been perfecting in his solo career. But without the possible hint of the listener being possessed simply by listening to this disc or reading the lyrics, it hardly feels threatening, and just takes on the air of a typical heavy metal album.

And that’s the problem… Mercyful Fate were not initially a “typical” band. But the passage of time had allowed many other acts to take up the inverted cross and make names for themselves. So, perhaps when they were writing this album, Mercyful Fate looked at both their previous albums and the other acts out there and thought, “been there, done that”.

That’s really a shame, because songs like “The Bell Witch,” “Shadows” and “A Gruesome Time” all had the possibilities of being classic songs in the Mercyful Fate discography, taking their places alongside tracks such as “Black Funeral,” “A Dangerous Meeting” and “Come To The Sabbath”. But, when compared to their earlier material, these songs don’t have that same bite that fans might have been hoping for.

This isn’t to say that In The Shadows isn’t an enjoyable listen; there are moments that each listener will find which suggest that this could have simply been a case of Diamond and crew just blowing the cobwebs out and rediscovering their musical footing. (Judging from the fact that the demonic imagery wouldn’t return until their 9 album, though, one could argue that this is just wishful thinking.)

There is enough on In The Shadows to make it worth the time to listen to it, and Diamond’s voice has never had the power and range like he shows on this album. But the stylistic shift of the songwriting does knock the listener for a loop, and at times makes it feel like some of the emotional punch of the music has been sent packing. All in all, it just makes me wonder why the band thought this album was the right one for their long-awaited return.

Rating: C

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