Reviewed: March 2020
Released: 2020, Publisher: PowerChord Press
I must admit I’ve written so many reviews of great books by Martin Popoff it is getting harder and harder to try to keep my comments, original and interesting and ‘fresh’, which is a word not often deployed in metal reviews! Martin has written 85 books now and while I didn’t count exactly, I’ve reviewed, maybe 70 of them? The latest from the relentless PowerChord Press factory floor is a long-overdue book about the mighty and majestic Mercyful Fate.
BLACK FUNERAL-Into The Coven with Mercyful Fate is a fine looking book, visually and stylistically synchronized with many of his other titles, courtesy of his long-time graphic designer, layout dude and partner in crime, Eduardo Rodriquez. He makes these things look awesome! As with most of Popoff’s books, consistency is the name of the game, we get nice colour photos, a discography, lots of credits and an album-by-album format that you just can’t go wrong with. It works well to discuss the entire cycle; writing, recording, the album cover art, the songs, the tour and on to the next one.
You can tell Popoff is a real die-hard MERCYFUL FATE fan. His detail on the tiniest little things had me running back to look at lyrics, album covers, or read liner notes as some cool fact popped up time and again. Who knew that original drummer Kim Ruzz is a recruiter in New Zealand now? That is one for the ‘where are they now’ file! The other sort of neat advantage is that, unlike his other books in this style, (ie, band biographies) this has the advantage of years and years of hindsight. Think about it. This is the first book about Merciful Fate and the band has been dormant for over two decades so that has been a long time for that black catalogue to sit and bubble away in the lava. BLACK FUNERAL is not like his recent autobiographies on Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Megadeth which have a very contemporary feel because those bands are in the Metal news almost daily and still making records (or at least releasing stuff) almost every year.
BLACK FUNERAL touches on King Diamond’s solo career, almost by a necessity but the focus in Mercyful Fate for sure. The book is anchored by many interviews and not just with the principal guys but also with engineers and producers who worked on the records. King himself gets plenty of face-time with fairly deep and intellectual/philosophical interviews about his beliefs, but without getting preachy. My favourite aspect of the book is the heavy focus on the 90’s albums. The conventional wisdom is that Metal ‘died’ in the 90’s but Mercyful Fate flies on black wings directly in the face of that sentiment making killer records through the entire decade. Popoff also suggests that Mercyful Fate is among a small cadre of bands who kept making records as good or better than in the 80’s, the so-called their glory days; bands like Saxon, Motorhead, and maybe half a dozen more.
I’ve keenly observed and enjoyed the recent massive increase in the number of books published about ‘extreme’ Metal bands and this one also sits at the top of the throne.