MERCYFUL FATE (1980–85, 1994–99, POSSIBLY PRESENT). King Diamond (vocals), Michael Denner (guitar, replaced by Mike Wead), Hank Shermann (guitar), Timi “Grabber” Hansen (bass, replaced by Charlee D’Angelo), Kim Ruzz (drums, many others, now Bjarne Holm).
Mercyful Fate are a long-running black metal band with explicitly satanic lyrics, and the original band of long-running solo artist, the fancifully face-painted King Diamond (Kim Peterson). The band was known for the dark lyrics, frequent references to Satan, and overall dark mood as if they were doing the soundtrack to a particularly bleak horror film where the monster wins in the end. Filled with songsabout witches and the return of the dead from the spirit world (particularly on the Melissa songs), Mercyful Fate were also remarkable for the amazing range of vocalist King Diamond, who could go from a guttural growl to a shrieking operatic falsetto within the space of a single note.
The band was one of the most successful precursors to black metal and their first two records were major influences on the bands that followed in the black and death metal scenes. However, the band suffered with conflicts between King Diamond and guitarist Shermann about the potential commerciality of the music, and after the tour for the second record the band called it quits, with Diamond decamping for his own bands along with guitarist Denner and bassist Hansen. After a long hiatus, the band got back together for the In the Shadows record, which showed the band picking up where it had left off.
The following records were of varying equality, as Diamond balanced a solo career with his involvement with the band and various members left. There has been little new music from Fate in the last decade, and if 9 was their swan song, it appears that they went out with an album as interesting and frightening as anything they had done since Don’t Break the Oath. Former drummer Mikey Dee now drums for Motorhead, and King Diamond remains one of the respected and satanic elders of the black and death metal movements.
Discography: Melissa (Megaforce, 1983); Don’t Break the Oath (Megaforce, 1984); In the Shadows (Roadrunner, 1993); Time (Metal Blade, 1994); Into the Unknown (Metal Blade, 1996); Dead Again (Metal Blade, 1998); 9 (Metal Blade, 1999).