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Archive for the ‘Mercyful Fate’ Category

[ATTENDED: November 14, 2022] Mercyful Fate

When Mercyful Fate announced their first U.S. tour in 23 years, I immediately grabbed a ticket.  They were one of my favorite metal bands back in high school.  I listened to their two albums constantly.  My friend Joe and I used to jam to them, learning how to play fast metal.

They basically broke up in 1985 and lead singer King Diamond went solo.  He was the main focus of the band for me, so I followed his career for an album or two then gave up on the whole thing.

I had no idea they’d reunited in the 90s and released a bunch of albums.

But after their 1999 album Mercyful Fate went on hiatus again.  And now, here they were back together after 23 years.  Well, sort of together again.  The new lineup features two of the five original dudes.  The King of course and original guitarist Hank Shermann.  Then there are some dudes who joined them for the mid 90s reunion drummer Bjarne T. Holm and guitarist Mike Wead.  The final piece was supposed to be Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera, but he was off playing with Armored Saint.  So they found Becky Baldwin, who has been on a dozen albums by bands I don’t know.  But she totally kicked ass on stage and frankly it was nice to have a female presence on stage.

After Kreator was gone, we all rushed the stage and waited.  There was some turmoil as a big dude seemed to be lurking and lurching at the women in the audience. I anticipated trouble, but none was had.  And then people started pushing . Really hard.  Because the pit was being formed.  So I was far from where I started but still plenty close enough.

As with Kreator, I thought that the sound was too loud.  But that compliant is more for the fidelity of the music than the actual volume.  It felt like the music was very crackly and I actually thought it sounded better with earplugs in.  I also thought it was very un-Mercyful Fate like to play lead guitar in a baseball hat and sunglasses, but such is Hank Shermann’s deal I guess.

But honestly who cared as long as the music sounded good and that King Diamond could still do his magic.

They opened with “The Oath” and I was immediately transported back to 1985.  The riffs were spot on and, amazingly King Diamond sounded just as unholy and insane as always.

The stood at the top of the stage–there was a balcony over the drum riser with stairs leading to the stage–in front of a “marble” room. He wore a giant horned mask and a red robe.  And of course his face was painted white.  And he had his femur bone/cross/microphone.  The song started, the recognizable riff blasting through the speakers, and the King’s unholy falsetto soaring through the crowd: “I deny Jesus Christ.”

Yup, the giant floating upside down cross and goat’s head pentagram weren’t the only thing Satanic about this meeting.  It was followed by a song from their debut EP, “A Corpse Without Soul.”

I wasn’t really sure how many people liked Mercyful Fate. I mean, I know they are hugely influential (Metallica covered them after all), but who knew if that translated into actual fans.  But not only were there a lot of people there, most of them seemed to know all the words.

They played a new song, but I didn’t really care all that much about it.  I haven’t listened to anything past 1985 by them and doubt that I will.  It seemed to be a historical, rather than a Satanic song.  Between these three songs, it had been over twenty minutes already!

By this time, the King had gone up to the room and removed his horns.  He came back with the crown that he wears for most of the show.

And then they moved onto a song from Melissa.  It quickly became clear that I know Melissa a bit better than Oath, because every note of “Curse of the Pharaohs” was instantly familiar.  King Diamond hit those insanely high notes of the chorus with no trouble.  It was almost shocking how short the song is when compared t o the others.

King Diamond was pretty fun and funny throughout the show.  He invited us to “A Dangerous Meeting.”  They followed that up with “Doomed by the Living Dead,” another deep cut that shows a really catchy chorus.

I was pretty delighted that this tour was pretty much all classic songs–no 90s songs at all.  I wouldn’t exactly say hit after hit, but for a fan of those two records it felt like hit after hit.

Then it was on to a whole bunch of songs from Melissa.  They played pretty much all of the album (skipping “Into the Coven” and “At the Sound of the Demon Bell”).

The King climbed up to his room as Hank and Mike played the opening guitar riff and solo of “Melissa.”  King came out and knelt in front of the pentagram as he crooned the opening words.  I’ve listened to this song so much, I knew everything that was coming.  It was pretty awesome.

They followed it with the remarkably short “Black Funeral” and then the album opener “Evil” which I swear EVERYONE sang along to (except the high notes, thankfully).

The final song of the set was “Come to the Sabbath” (which he of course invited us to).

I knew they were playing “Satan’s Fall” on this  tour and I was unreasonably excited to hear it.  I didn’t know if there was anything else I especially wanted to hear.  “Nuns Have No Fun” would have been a hilarious addition, but I didn’t expect it.  And quite frankly, I was happy for the show to be relatively short.

So after an encore break, the band came out and began the epic journey.  It was crazy hearing that riff, hearing that voice (even if I had no idea what the words actually were), and feeling everyone moshing and slamming and singing around me.  If I had been 15, it would have been the greatest moment of my life, I’m sure.

The song was epic and they finished it and we all went crazy.

Then the band gathered near the front of the stage and it was very funny to see King Diamond smiling and waving to people.

There were actually some dudes shouting “one more song” as if a) you could top “Satan’s Fall” and b) you could actually tell King Diamond what to do.

  1. The Oath Ø
  2. A Corpse Without Soul ¥
  3. The Jackal of Salzburg [new]
  4. Curse of the Pharaohs ϖ
  5. A Dangerous Meeting Ø
  6. Doomed by the Living Dead ¥
  7. Melissa ϖ
  8. Black Funeral ϖ
  9. Evil ϖ
  10. Come to the Sabbath Ø
    encore
  11. Satan’s Fall ϖ
new song 2022
Ø Don’t Break the Oath (1984)
ϖ Melissa (1983)

¥ Mercyful Fate EP (1982)

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[ATTENDED: November 14, 2022] Kreator

When Mercyful Fate announced their first U.S. tour in 23 years, I immediately grabbed a ticket.  I didn’t care who the opening bands were.  The fact that it was billed as a kind of double bill with Kreator was no big deal.  And we had support from Midnight, whom I’d never heard of.

I wanted to arrive late enough that I wouldn’t be too far back but also with hope that I didn’t have to sit through too much of Kreator.

I missed Midnight entirely–they sound like a band I would have enjoyed back in high school (solid Metal Blade music).

I had heard of Kreator, (they’ve been around since 1985, after all) but I really didn’t know anything about them.  Apparently they are quite legendary in the metal world.  Wikipedia even says

Pleasure to Kill is widely considered a landmark thrash metal classic, along with Master of Puppets by Metallica, Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? by Megadeth, Reign in Blood by Slayer, Eternal Devastation by Destruction and Darkness Descends by Dark Angel, all released in 1986.

But I’m guessing that since I didn’t get into this album back in the 80s, I never would.  I found the whole show, of which I saw about six or seven songs, too loud (so I’m too old).  And kind of samey. (more…)

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ellsmere SOUNDTRACK: PROBOT-Probot (2004).

probotAfter all of the Dave Grohl love I’ve been sending his way, Grohl went and fell off a stage and broke his leg.  But, he is so badass (and such a thoughtful musician), that he went to the hospital, got his leg fixed up and went back on stage to finish the set!  Holy cow.

This is amazing (and he must have incredible endorphins (or something else) to be able to do this (the video is long because it shows his re-arrival):

Grohl has always been very open about his love of heavy metal–and the liner notes here go into pretty good detail about he bands he grew up listening to.  He wanted to create a kind of tribute/dream lineup album of metal vocalists.  As far as I can tell he was sitting around and banging away riffs and every time he got one that he liked, he recorded it.  He eventually added bass and drums and made demo tapes out of them.  Then he contacted some of his favorite metal singers from when he was a kid and asked them to write lyrics and sing.

I assume that Grohl sent the demos that sounded most like the bands to the appropriate singer, because so many of them are spot on for the original bands.  The Venom song sounds completely like Venom (Cronos’ bass certainty helps) and it’s one of the best songs here.  I don’t know Sepultura that well, but the music fits perfectly with Cavalera’s style.  And this song is just fantastic.

The Lemmy song sounds unmistakably Motörhead, again possibly because Lemmy plays bass, but the riff is pure Motörhead.  It’s another great song and one that the Foo Fighters have played live.

The song with Mike Dean is very punk, very C.O.C.  It’s followed by another punk/metal song from D.R.I.  This song also matches perfectly with Brecht’s style of singing on the more metal side of D.R.I..

Lee Dorrian used to sing in a guttural cookie monster growl with Napalm Death, but in Cathedral, he turned to proper singing.  I don’t know Cathedral, but the main riff coupled with the twin guitar solo notes from Thayil make a great epic song, especially that mosh section in the middle (I didn’t think Cathedral did mosh but whatever), although at 6 minutes it does go on a bit.

I also don’t know Wino, so I don’t know if this is the kind of thing he sang on, although I do hear a bit of Saint Vitus vibe from it.  There’s a really long middle section which is interesting for the backwards guitar solo, and while it’s a little long, when it comes out of that, the heaviness is really great.

Tom Warrior is a fascinating guy with all kinds of tricks up his sleeve, so the weird industrial sound on top of the heavy bass is pretty interesting.  There’s no way Grohl could hope to emulate Voivod’s Piggy, so he doesn’t even try.  Rather than playing up to Voivod’s proggy style, he goes deeper to the heavier stuff.  And, perhaps it’s Snake’s voice, the bridge sounds very Voivod.  The chorus is more poppy than what Voivod might do, and yet it’s a great song.  Voivod’s Away also designed the album cover.

I loved Trouble when I was in high school, although I don’t really remember them that well now.  This songs sounds bit more classic rock than metal (and I recall Trouble being pretty heavy), and yet Wagner’s voice works very well with the style.  I just read that Trouble went through a more psychedelic period and the middle section ties in nicely with that, so maybe this is inspired by later period Trouble.

Grohl says he was excited to get King Diamond, and who wouldn’t be.  Kim Thayil is back to create a suitable Mercyful riff (although it could never live up to the classic Fate).  But the mid section’s doom riffs are right on.  The song showcases some of the King’s vocal acrobatics, although not quite as many as I could have used (there are some excellent high-pitched notes in there though).

There’s a bonus track at the end of the disc which features Jack Black doing a suitably funny but accurate metal tribute.

This is a really solid heavy record that lets some classic metal singers back on the scene.  There won’t be a second Probot record, but there may not need to be one anyhow.  I also like that he picked some slightly more obscure singers rather than the obvious Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson type of singers, even if they would have also been interesting).

  • “Centuries of Sin” (feat. Cronos of Venom)
  • “Red War” (feat. Max Cavalera of Sepultura)
  • “Shake Your Blood” (feat. Lemmy of Motörhead)
  • “Access Babylon” (feat. Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity)
  • “Silent Spring” (feat. Kurt Brecht of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles)
  • “Ice Cold Man” (feat. Lee Dorrian of Cathedral and Napalm Death, and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden)
  • “The Emerald Law” (feat. Wino)
  • “Big Sky” (feat. Tom G. Warrior of Celtic Frost)
  • “Dictatosaurus” (feat. Snake of Voivod)
  • “My Tortured Soul” (feat. Eric Wagner of Trouble)
  • “Sweet Dreams” (feat. King Diamond of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden)
  • “I Am the Warlock” (feat. Jack Black of Tenacious D)

[READ: February 13, 2015] The War at Ellsmere

I’ve enjoyed Hicks’ books in the past–both the ones she’s written and the one’s she’s simply illustrated.  In this book she does both which means you get big eyes and the dark hair.

As the book opens we meet Juniper, a girl who has just enrolled in Ellsmere Private School.   We meet the headmistress and learn the history of this beautiful school (established in 1810).  And then we find out that Juniper is there on a scholarship (merit based) and that Juniper is well aware that she will likely be there to “liven things up for the blue bloods.”

When Juniper meets her new roommate Cassie (who hears her talking to herself), Jun immediately goes on the defensive–until she sees that Cassie is actually quite a nice girl. (Nice, Jun, you just insulted Bambi).

But it’s during the orientation that we meet the real antagonist of the story–Emily, a pretty blonde girl who immediately insults Cassie and calls her “orphan.”  When Jun gets involved, it suggests that it will be an interesting year for all of them. (more…)

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[WATCHED October-November 2012] Metal Evolution

metal evolutionVH1 aired this series last year and I was intrigued by it but figured I had no time to watch an 11 hour series on the history of heavy metal.  Of course, this being VH1, they have since re-aired the series on an almost continual loop.  So, if you’re interested, you can always catch it.

This series was created by Sam Dunn, the documentary filmmaker who made the movie Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey.  I had heard good things about the movie, but never saw it.  After watching the series, I’m definitely interested in the movie.  Dunn is a keener–A Canadian heavy metal fan who is really into his subject.  He knows his stuff and he knows what he likes (heavy metal) and what he doesn’t like (glam metal, nu metal).

The sheer number of people he interviews is impressive (as are the number of locations he travels to).  Part of me says “wow, I can’t believe he was able to interview X,” and then I remember, “X is really old and is nowhere near the level of fame that he once had.”  Given that, the few hold-outs seem surprising–did they not want to have anything to do with VH1?  Are they embarrassed at how uncool they are now?  Just watch the show guys, you can’t be as low as some.

The only mild criticism I have is that the show relies a lot on the same talking heads over and over.  Scott Ian from Anthrax, whom I love, is in every episode.  Indeed, he may be a paid VH1 spokesman at this point.  There are a few other dudes who show up a little more than they warrant, but hey, you use what you got, right?

What is impressive is the volume of music he includes with the show.  I assume that he couldn’t  get the rights to any studio recordings because every clip is live.  This is good for fans in that we get to see some cool unfamiliar live footage, but some of it is current live footage which often doesn’t compare to the heyday.  Having said that, there’s a lot of live footage from the early 80s–of bands that I never saw live anywhere.  And that’s pretty awesome.

With an 11-part documentary there’s the possibility of exhaustion and overkill, but Dunn is an excellent craftsman  he jumps around from old to new, talks about how the history impacts the current and, because of his own interests, he makes it personal rather than just informative. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THERION-Theli (1997).

I bought this disc when I was living in Boston and I immediately fell for it.  I seem to recall I was doing a lot of driving at the time, and this mix of extreme metal, orchestral accompaniment and twinned vocals was very captivating.  It was also really fun to play very loud on a dark highway.

I’d read a very good review of this disc that claimed it was a big step forward in styles of thrash/black metal (and if you Google reviews for this album they are pretty universally great).  The disc is exemplified by the track “To Mega Therion” which is almost entirely a full choir singing what I guess is the chorus.  The verses are populated by a guy screaming in a guttural voice who is answered by an almost mechanically twinned voice which sounds great but is even harder to understand.  Follow this with a beautiful piano (!) solo not unlike something Randy Rhoads put together for Blizzard of Oz, and add a pounding double bass drum all the way through (truth be told the album could be a little heavier in the bass) and you get a crazy mix of styles which is catchy and creepy at the same time.

It’s hard to match a song like that.  And, admittedly, the band doesn’t quite manage to do so, but the rest of the album keeps up this orchestral death metal throughout.

Reading about Therion has taught me that this album is something of  touchstone for a new genre of metal, called variously symphonic or operatic metal (I suppose we have this to blame for the Trans Siberian Orchestra?).

In addition to the choirs and guitars there are a lot of keyboards. They are disconcerting when you’re thinking death metal and yet really they add an even fuller sound, even if at times they are not as grand or powerful as anything else.  At times the album seems cheesey, but that may have more to do with thirteen years distance than the music itself.

Anyone who has seen The Exorcist knows that choirs can be spooky.  And when you mix it with the heavy guitars and guttural vocals, you get a really cool sinister yet catchy (and possibly uplifting) album.  There are certainly a lot heavier albums, but this one is pretty stellar.

[READ: Summer of 2010, finished December 12, 2010] Lords of Chaos

My brother-in-law gave me this book for my birthday this year.  I was familiar with it as it is fairly well-known in heavy metal circles as a fascinating read.  And so it was.

This book is basically a history of black metal in Norway and how some bands’ antics went beyond music into burning churches and even murder.  The authors present a pretty neutral account of the story.  They let the main participants (criminals) have their say and the interviews don’t comment on their answers, they just let them tell their side of the story.  The authors also know a lot about the music scene.  Of course, in the end, the authors (thankfully) disapprove of the violence.  It makes for an interesting and somewhat conflicting read. (more…)

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