A Dangerous Meeting

Mercyful Fate Albums Ranked Worst To Best

by Christopher Thelen

With the suggestion of a new King Diamond album forthcoming, as well as a reissue of all King Diamond and Mercyful Fate albums which used to be on Roadrunner (and which have been long out of print), it seems to be the right time for a “worst to first” list for both.

For this particular list, I’m only focusing on Mercyful Fate; King Diamond will follow soon after. Since there are precious few albums in Mercyful Fate’s discography, I am choosing to include EPs, as well as select compilation albums, as long as they include a significant amount of material which was previously unreleased. (This means that The Best Of Mercyful Fate was not considered for this list, nor was A Dangerous Meeting, as the latter is a “best-of” for both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond.)

A quick note: This is being written prior to the re-release of the early albums, so the reviews are based on the original releases.

11. Time (1994)mercyfulfate_time_150

The fourth full-length release (and second after the reunion) does one thing right in that it does bring back the occult themes in some of the songs (“Angel Of Light,” “Witches Dance,” “My Demon”). The bad news is that, unlike the earlier albums, the – dare I say it? – novelty seems to have worn off, almost as if they were including the themes because they were expected to, and didn’t have their black hearts completely into it. Even with the more evil undertones, this one just feels like it was a reject from Diamond’s solo career. Worth Checking Out: “Angel Of Light”

mercyfulfate_vampire 10. Return Of The Vampire (1992)

I understand that people were clamoring for new Mercyful Fate material after their breakup in 1985 (and just prior to their 1993 reunion), but this true bottom-of-the-barrel scraper is the epitome of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” Featuring early versions of songs which were still very much in development (“On A Night Of Full Moon,” “Devil’s Kiss”) to what was now the third presentation of some tracks in the span of five releases (“A Corpse Without Soul,” “Curse Of The Pharaohs”), this album was truly unnecessary. Worth Checking Out: “Burning The Cross”

9. Dead Again (1998)mercyfulfate_deadagain_150

For an album (the first without long-time guitarist Michael Denner) featuring much better production work than its predecessor, this disc is just boring. Granted, it shows that Diamond was a very capable vocalist throughout the 10 songs, and they do take some chances with the 13-minute long title track, but overall, it just feels like, creatively, they were running on empty, and the few moments where they dip into occult-based themes just fail to project the kind of terror their earlier albums did. Worth Checking Out: “The Lady Who Cries,” “Dead Again”

mercyfulfate_unknown_1508. Into The Unknown (1996)

This could have been a decent album (and, in fact, was their most successful album commercially), had it not been for piss-poor production. While Don’t Break The Oath had a fault by making the guitars sound tinny, it at least was able to balance the rest of the music into something very listenable. These songs all sound like they were mixed far too high in the treble range, causing them to have a very choppy sound throughout the album. That, along with the fact that after the opening snippet “Lucifer,” there is precious little occult-based material (which, after all, was the band’s bread and butter) are what keep this album’s ranking as low as it is; perhaps if it were remixed, it could really show its true power. Worth Checking Out: “Into The Unknown,” “Under The Spell”

7. Mercyful Fate EP (1982)mercyfulfate_s-tep_150

Also known as Nuns Have No Fun, this four-track birth cry from Mercyful Fate pretty much sets the bar for what their career would be – at least, prior to their 1985 breakup. Hard-driving and deliciously evil, the band pulls no punches in either their musical or lyrical delivery, though Diamond’s falsetto vocals seem to be stronger than his normal range. Worth Checking Out: “A Corpse Without Soul,” “Nuns Have No Fun”

mercyfulfate_9_200 6. 9 (1999)

As of this writing, the most current release from Mercyful Fate represents the closest they have come to a full-on return to the Satanic and occult imagery that made their first two studio albums as dark and frightening as they were. It also shows the band embracing thrash metal at times, with the double-bass drum work pounding forth a more exciting feel overall than one might have felt on any of the reunion albums. While it still suggests that one of the original purveyors of black metal might still be trying to catch up with the other bands who picked up the demonic football and ran with it, this was one of their better efforts. Worth Checking Out: “Last Rites,” “Burn In Hell”

5. In The Shadows (1993)mercyfulfate_intheshadows_150

The long-awaited reunion album features much better musicianship, vocals, and production than Mercyful Fate’s early works, but they make the mistake of moving away from the demonic themes of their early songs. Instead, these tracks – while good – feel like they were leftovers from Diamond’s solo career which didn’t have enough in their stories to flesh out into full albums. Worth Checking Out: “The Bell Witch,” “Shadows”

mercyfulfate_bellwitchep_1504. The Bell Witch EP (1994)

This release is less noteworthy for the two strong tracks it features from their then-current album In The Shadows, but more for the fact this is the first release to actually feature Mercyful Fate live in concert, albeit for four tracks. Yes, I could belly-ache that this is now the fourth time that “Curse Of The Pharaohs” has been featured in seven releases. But, seeing that as of 2020 this is the closest thing we have to a live Mercyful Fate album, I’ll gladly take it. Worth Checking Out: “Is That You, Melissa,” “Come To The Sabbath”

3. The Beginning (1987)mercyfulfate_beginning

This release is essentially an expanded version of the then-out-of-print Mercyful Fate EP, with a few additional tracks. The three tracks recorded for “The Friday Rock Show,” if anything, proved that the band could recreate their magic in a live setting, but aren’t terribly different from the versions found on Melissa. A final track, “Black Masses,” was the B-side to the “Black Funeral” single. While some people might have seen this as a “scraping of the barrel” effort (which really wouldn’t come until Return Of The Vampire),  it did offer people who hadn’t been able to get their hands on the original EP a way to finally hear it, and the extra tracks do add just enough to the mix to push it ahead of the original. Worth Checking Out: “Nuns Have No Fun,” “Curse Of The Pharaohs”

mercyfulfate_melissa 2. Melissa (1983)

The band’s first full-length release clearly shows that they had tightened up as a unit, releasing a surprisingly powerful first “true” statement. Diamond’s vocals, in particular, are much stronger here than they were on the previous EP. Even though this disc is barely double the length of the EP’s length time-wise (and has seven tracks to the predecessor’s four), it remains one of the most powerful metal albums ever recorded. Worth Checking Out: “Curse Of The Pharaohs,” “Black Funeral,” “Melissa”

1. Don’t Break The Oath (1984)mercyfulfate_oath

Quite possibly one of the most perfect metal albums ever recorded. Again building on what they learned in the writing and recording process for Melissa, Diamond and crew lay down track after track of sheer perfection. If there is any area of complaint, it’s that the guitars sometimes have a tinny sound to them…but if they had been processed any different, they might not have had the kind of bite they do on this album. Worth Checking Out: “A Dangerous Meeting,” “Night Of The Unborn,” “The Oath”

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