The Beginning

Mercyful Fate

Roadrunner Records, 1987

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back in 1987, fans of the black metal band Mercyful Fate had to be drooling when The Beginning was released. The Danish band, led by King Diamond, had imploded after two ground-breaking (not to mention eardrum-shattering) releases, leaving many to wonder just what had happened. Anything new from the band - even if it was just a matter of cleaning out closets - would have been treated like a sacred text.

The Beginning is indeed a closet-cleaner release - but that doesn't make this a bad album. Taking the entire Mercyful Fate EP (long out of print, even in 1987) and adding on some cuts recorded live for radio and one studio outtake, and you have the third Mercyful Fate album... and a little more.

The four tracks from the original EP are interesting to listen to in that there are not a lot of effects piled on to Diamond's vocals. This was done out of time limitations, but it shows off a rawer side to Mercyful Fate that may have surprised some people. (It also showed a rawer side to their satanic leanings - not softer, but not quite as graphic as they'd become on albums such as my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Don't Break The Oath.)

Of these tracks, two stand out as being quite good. "Doomed By The Living Dead" is a track which demonstrates Diamond's vocal prowess up-front, in your face. (He also does this, albeit to a lesser extent, on "Devil Eyes".) The other track, "Nuns Have No Fun," is legendary among Mercyful Fate fans - and is an interesting listen, even if you don't necessarily agree with the imagery that Mercyful Fate promoted. (It's intriguing that, in the liner notes, they didn't reproduce the cover of the original EP - that kind of made the song "Nuns Have No Fun" seem tame. You can, of course, find the original artwork online at Mercyful Fate fan pages.)

The remainder of The Beginning is mostly comprised of tracks recorded for the BBC. The sole exception, "Black Masses," is a track that didn't make the cut for Melissa, the band's first full-length outing. Why it wasn't included on the album I don't know; it's just as good as anything that was on Melissa. (The song was eventually released as the b-side to the "Black Funeral" single.)

I can't say that the "live" versions of tracks such as "Curse Of The Pharoahs" or "Satan's Fall" add much to the original studio versions. If anything, they prove that Mercyful Fate was capable of re-creating the power of these songs in a live setting, but that's really about it. These particular tracks aren't bad in any sense of the word, but they're really geared toward the diehard Mercyful Fate fans.

The Beginning is interesting in that it captures the early days of a band who were one of the first to actively perform black metal and who enjoyed a relatively large following for their style of music. (I seem to recall reading that Don't Break The Oath nearly cracked the Billboard 200 - an amazing feat for an album that heavy at that time.) Sure, this is one that the diehard Fate freaks swarm over, but even for the casual listener, it's not a bad way to spend 40 minutes or so.

In time, of course, Mercyful Fate would re-unite, and the dreams of new material from the band would come true for everyone. But even if the band had chosen to end it with The Beginning, it would have been understandable - and they would have, at least, left an enjoyable "for-the-fans" release.

Rating: B-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Roadrunner Records, and is used for informational purposes only.