Mercyful Fate - Melissa
Roadrunner Records
Evil Heavy Metal
7 songs (40'14")
Release year: 1983
Mercyful Fate, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Adam
Though they are in no way, shape, or form British, I always tend to mentally lump Mercyful Fate in with the NWOBHM movement. In fact, my first introduction to King Diamond was when a friend of mine recommended him to me, calling him an “evil sounding version of Rob Halford”. Though I now know that’s a debatable comparison, it led me to track down Melissa, King’s introduction to the metal world. I still consider it one of the greatest metal albums of all time, and certainly the most evil.

The “evil” Halford tag probably works better on Melissa than any subsequent King Diamond performance, as he stays away from the vocal acrobatics that are now his trademark. That’s not to say he refrains from unleashing that blood curdling falsetto, but he does it in a more raw and stripped down manner that fits the style of music on Melissa to the letter. Witness the opening track, Evil. First, has there ever been a more fitting song title? This album is absolutely oozing with evil atmosphere, as this charging riff fest shows off quite nicely. Hank Shermann and Michael Denner are an awesome pairing to say the least, and their furious trade off captures the energy and power that all good heavy metal released in the early 80’s seems to share, particularly that of the NWOBHM. In fact, their top notch riffing and soloing actually take center stage on Curse of the Pharaohs, which is no feat when King Diamond is the vocalist in your band. King’s piercing vocals are generally the focal point, however. His cult-inspired lyrics and possessed singing style give this album the aura of a soundtrack to a chilling and dark cult ceremony that exists purely in nightmares. At the Sound of the Demon Bell is where he first gives the listener a glimpse into his true range, belting out an almost inhuman shriek at the beginning and peppering the track with spine tingling wails throughout. All the songs are outstanding, but in my opinion the crown jewel of Melissa is the grandiose Satan’s Fall, which is an eleven and half minute display of all the aspects that make Mercyful Fate an all-time great metal band. It is positively brimming with tempo changes, face melting solos, and stunning vocals. Even drummer Kim Ruzz is given his chance to show what he can do, and he does not disappoint. It is sometimes easy to overlook him because his style is so tight and flawlessly performed that it almost blends in, but his furious fills near the end of the song are impossible to ignore. Fittingly, the album ends with a love song. Wait...what? OK, maybe not exactly fitting, but the title track sees a subdued rhythm section accompanying a sorrowful and emotional King Diamond singing a tale of his lost love, a witch named Melissa who was burned at the stake. Those who follow King will note that this is the origin of the skeleton prop he brings on stage for his live performances that shares the same name.

Melissa truly is a masterpiece. It’s length of just over 40 minutes makes it easy to listen from beginning to end and not feel any amount of drag. Honestly, it feels like only half of its true length. If you have always been put off by King’s vocals, this might be a performance you can handle. As I said before, he had not quite morphed into the supreme vocal acrobat he would become, and Melissa contains so many timeless performances that it should find a home in any metal fan’s collection, especially those who enjoy the energetic stylings of the NWOBHM and others from the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Killing Songs :
Evil, Curse of the Pharaohs, Satan's Fall
Adam quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Mercyful Fate that we have reviewed:
Mercyful Fate - In The Shadows reviewed by Shane and quoted 76 / 100
Mercyful Fate - Don't Break The Oath reviewed by Jeff and quoted CLASSIC
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