Various Artists – Mercyful Fate Tribute

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Reviewed: November 1998
Released: 1998, Listenable Records
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Edited by EvilG

No one can overestimate the influence Mercyful Fate has had on metal music. The straightforward Satanic/mythological lyrical content of their songs, the corpsepaint, and the “1 song, 100 riffs” approach to composing music (and, well, being Scandinavian), was a combination to appear later in what evolved to be black metal (as opposed to King Diamond’s unique vocal style which remained more or less unique for the band). Their pre-split ’80s releases – one mini-album and two full-lengths – remain legendary even today, having achieved cult status as some of the ’80s most groundbreaking underground albums.

Hence, most of the songs covered by the bands on this Listenable Records compilation are from that period. Since death metal and black metal as we know them today are both quite different from Mercyful Fate’s musical style, a majority of the cover versions display a significant change, which always guarantees at least an interesting result; the thing is that most of them are very good, too. Some bands, however, decided to stick to the original and to introduce only minor changes, such as the vocals and some variance in the speed or in some fills, and the results are fairly standard. Examples for that would be Sacramentum’s ‘Black Masses’, Armageddon’s ‘Desecration of Souls’ and Deceased’s simple-but-effective ‘Nuns Have No Fun’.

Luciferion enhances ‘Black Funeral’ with some haunting keyboards and an intro, with Snowy Shaw (ex-Mercyful Fate and King Diamond drummer, now in Memento Mori) and Sharlee D’Angelo (Mercyful Fate) as special guests (Shaw does vocals – something like a marriage between King’s vocals and a black metal screech. And he does it very well, too). Gardenian does a very good, faster, yet also doomier somehow, rendition of the classic ‘A Dangerous Meeting’. In ‘Evil’ we encounter Snowy Shaw yet again, this time playing all instruments and doing vocals, as a ‘one man band’, and the whole song mixed as live… very different from the original this time, with the intro from ‘The Oath’ and some riffs from other songs as well; totally chaotic too, and one of my favorites on this CD (especially with the “countdown” thing Snowy does…hehe). Emperor do ‘Gypsy’ with a lot of prominent keyboards and a very convincing imitation of King’s wail… however, this song suffers in the sound department (in the tradition of Emperor) – the drumming for example sounds way back in the mix while not being as chaotic as the usual Emperor fare. Withering Surface cover ‘The Oath’, without the intro (which jumped ship to ‘Evil’), and do a good job at that, heavy and melodic, while Misanthrope do an intensely blackened version of ‘Doomed by the Living Dead’ with some very good keyboard work. The only two songs on this CD originally from the post-reunion ’90s Mercyful Fate, ‘My Demon’ and ‘Lady in Black’, performed respectively by Dimension Zero and Dark Tranquility, reek heavily of Gothenburg sound – melodic double-guitar riffing and the ‘insane’ kind of vocals; both songs are done well. The only cover on this album which fails miserably is Immolation’s take on ‘Satan’s Fall’, which is also much shorter than the 11-minute original; a muddy death metal rendition that doesn’t befit the song, especially vocals-wise. The final track is ‘Into the Coven’ by Notre Dame, another lineup featuring – surprise! – yes, you guessed it, Snowy Shaw. This is another favorite of mine here, a very atmospheric 10-minute version of the song done very differently (Female vocals in places. And in French. And references to other songs, once again). All those with appreciation and admiration for MF should check out this album; black metal fans who for some reason haven’t heard the band yet should also find interest in this.


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