Intro to Danish Metal: Grand Finale

Well, the time has finally come: the last post of the series. This is bittersweet for me. This series has been a lot of work, from which I’ll be glad for a bit of a break. However, I have immensely enjoyed writing these just as much as I’ve loved sharing and listening to all these bands. I was quite taken aback by the positive reaction to this series and I wanted to take a moment to write a personal thank you for reminding me why I devote hours to writing these blogs. To everyone who commented or messaged me- you’ve all had some brilliant suggestions, heartwarming compliments or great feedback to offer, and it’s been a pleasure hearing and considering everything you’ve had to say.

Thank you all so much! You’ve reminded me why I write, which is priceless.

Anyways, I promised you all an epic ending to this series, and I shall deliver. What better way to have an epic ending than to have an entire post devoted to Denmark’s most epic band (in my opinion)?

I bring you…


Mercyful Fate is a Danish band, formed in 1981 in Copenhagen by vocalist Kim Petersen (better known as King Diamond) and guitarist Hank Shermann. The original lineup, in its entirety, consisted of the aforementioned musicians plus guitarist Michael Denner, bassist Timi Hansen and drummer Kim Ruzz. Mercyful fate was a part of the first wave of black metal in the early to mid eighties, and are widely considered to be a large influential factor to the development of black metal. Often associated with dark imagery and lyrical concepts dealing with the occult, Mercyful Fate is a band whose live theatrics combined with heavy music paved the way for generations to follow. The band’s career often crossed paths with that of Metallica’s, and in fact, several tracks from Ride the Lightning were written in Mercyful Fate’s Copenhagen based rehearsal space. The two bands embarked on tours together and often shared the stage, and remain friends to this day.

Fate onstage with Metallica in 2011

Formed from the crumbling remains of Copenhagen punk band Brats, which included Diamond, Denner and Shermann in its lineup, Mercyful Fate began their career in 1981 with the release of 4 demos: Demo #1, Demo #2, Demo #3 and Burning the Cross.

The following year, 1982, saw the release of their first self titled EP.

This classic lineup would go on to produce two legendary albums that are considered by many fans to be some of the best albums of the era. Beginning in July of 1983, Mercyful Fate recorded their debut album, Melissa, at Easy Sound Recording, where it was produced by Henrik Lund and released on the 30th of October through Roadrunner Records.

This seven track album has a play time of 39:09 and includes an 11 minute epic entitled Satan’s Fall.

• • •

Encouraged by their success, Mercyful Fate once again entered the studio again in ’84 to record their second full length album, Don’t Break the Oath. Released on September 7th of the same year, it was to be the band’s last album before their break-up in 1985.

With a play time of 47:30 and 9 tracks also produced by Henrik Lund, this album was to become a staple in the collections of several generations of metal enthusiasts and continues to be influential 32 years later at the time of writing.

• • •

Mercyful Fate’s unfortunate breakup in 1985 can be attributed to Shermann’s desire for a more commercially appealing sound. King Diamond did not like the idea and left the band to pursue his now legendary solo career, taking with him both Denner and Hansen. Following his departure from King Diamond some years in the future, Denner opened up a record shop in Copenhagen called Beat Bop Records, which was eventually re-opened in 2009 and still exists today. It has become a staple of the local music scene, and it is not uncommon to be able to meet Denner or other members of Mercyful Fate inside for autographs.

During the band’s time apart, Roadrunner records released a series of three compilation albums including rare live and studio recordings, plus several songs from the early Mercyful Fate Demos: The Beginning in 1997, Return of the Vampire in 1992 and a Mercyful Fate/King Diamond split, also in 1992, called A Dangerous Meeting.

Upon King Diamond’s return in 1993, the band’s lineup was changed slightly: Morten Nielsen was brought in to replace Kim Ruzz on drums. They followed through with their intention to release a third album with In the Shadows, released on June 22nd of 1993 through Metal Blade Records. Lars Ulrich of Metallica made a guest appearance on the track Return of the Vampire. The touring lineup for this album was different from the studio lineup- the injured Nielsen was replaced with King Diamon’s drummer Snowy Shaw, and, due to unwillingness to take part in touring, bassist Timi Hansen was replaced with Sharlee D’Angelo. The touring lineup was to be recorded on a live EP, The Bell Witch, released in 1994, which also included several studio tracks from In the Shadows.

Mercyful Fate’s subsequent four albums were recorded amongst a slew of lineup changes- Shaw was replaced by Bjarne T. Holm for the tour of 1994’s Time (Holm had been asked to join Mercyful Fate back in 1981 but had not been able to accept the offer). Following the release of Into the Unknown in 1996, guitarist Denner left the band. His replacement was to be Mike Wead. The new lineup recorded the album Dead Again, released in 1998, and 9, released in 1999.

Since 1999, Mercyful Fate have been on an indefinite hiatus, aside from a 2011 single show reunion onstage with Metallica in San Francisco, where both bands performed a Mercyful Fate medley included in Metallica’s Garage Inc. King Diamond, however, continues to be active with his solo career.

• • •

In order to truly make this a grand finale, the contents of this post have been submitted as a favourite on both Metal Amino and Black Metal Amino, which, if you have not already joined, I strongly suggest you should try.

I hope you all have enjoyed this series as much as I have! I encourage you all to continue exploring the vast and wondrous world of Danish metal- alas, you must continue without me. Skål, my friends.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s