Mercyful Fate

Mercyful Fate
Mercyful Fate

Mercyful Fate Frontman King Diamond.
Background information
Origin Copenhagen, Denmark
Genres Heavy metal, speed metal
Years active 1981–1985, 1992–2000 (hiatus)
Labels Combat, Roadrunner, Metal Blade, Rave On
Associated acts Fate, Black Rose, King Diamond, Brats, Force of Evil, Memento Mori, Arch Enemy, Spiritual Beggars, Metallica
King Diamond
Hank Shermann
Mike Wead
Bjarne T. Holm
Sharlee D'Angelo
Past members
Michael Denner
Timi Hansen
Kim Ruzz
Snowy Shaw

Mercyful Fate was a Danish heavy metal band from Copenhagen. Initially active from 1981 to 1985, they reunited in 1992. The band went on hiatus again in 2000, when frontman King Diamond decided to continue his solo career. They are cited as major influences by many artists in the black metal, thrash metal, power metal, and progressive metal genres.



Formation (1981-1982)

Mercyful Fate was founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1981[citation needed] from the remaining members of Hank Shermann's band Brats and King Diamond's band Black Rose. In early 1981 they helped out Michael Denner with demos for his band Danger Zone. Soon, Shermann, Denner, Diamond, and Denner's bass player Timi Grabber realized their potential as a unit and started performing as Mercyful Fate. The band experienced the usual member changes for a new band, as Denner left (and later returned). In addition, the drummer position was a revolving door, but Kim Ruzz finally established himself as the drummer.

Main career and disbandment (1982-1985)

In early 1982, Mercyful Fate contributed to the Ebony Records sampler Metallic Storm. Later on in the year, the band recorded their first material, The Mercyful Fate EP, on vinyl for the Dutch label Rave On. The EP was released in 1982 and included material that would later inspire the black metal genre.

Continuing the EP, the band released their debut studio album, Melissa, in 1983 and their follow-up album, Don't Break the Oath, in 1984. Both are now considered by many to be classics in both the heavy metal, power metal, and first wave black metal genres. Following the tour in support of Don't Break the Oath, which saw them play in the United States for the first time, King Diamond split ways with the band in April 1985 as a result of frustration over creative differences with Hank Shermann. With him, Diamond brought band mates Hansen and Denner to found a new band under his own name. Mercyful Fate disbanded shortly after. Diamond's new venture continued the tradition of Mercyful Fate, but with a more progressive, conceptual twist to it. In response, Shermann formed the band Fate, which pursued a more melodic rock direction.

Reunion (1992-1999)

Mercyful Fate reformed in July 1992 and signed a contract with Brian Slagel's Metal Blade Records. All the original members without Kim Ruzz (replaced by Morten Nielsen) reformed and released their third studio album, In the Shadows, in 1993.[1] The album featured a re-recording of "Return of the Vampire", with Metallica drummer, Mercyful Fate enthusiast and fellow Dane Lars Ulrich playing on the track. In the years since, the band has released four other studio albums, with the last being 9. Similar to the band's first run, members have left and been replaced; Michael Denner left and was replaced by Mike Wead, Nielsen was later replaced by Snowy Shaw who was then replaced by Bjarne Holm, Timi Hansen left quickly and was replaced by Sharlee D'Angelo. The lineup remained the same for Time, The Bell Witch EP, and Into the Unknown. Snowy Shaw was then replaced by Bjarne Holm on drums.

Unfortunately, Michael Denner had also parted ways with the band at this point, to stay with his wife and family. His replacement was Mike Wead, who recorded with the band on Dead Again and 9, and has proven to be a sufficient replacement for Denner.

Hiatus (2000-present)

Following the release of 9, King Diamond put Mercyful Fate on hold and continued his solo career. Shermann, Denner, Holm and (King Diamond Bass player) Hal Patino formed Force of Evil, which incorporates many of the themes of the original Mercyful Fate. In a March 2008 interview, King Diamond stated that Mercyful Fate is currently "hibernating", but had never split up. Though he does not know when the band will become active again, he stated "It's definitely not finished, at least in my book."[2]

In 2008, King Diamond was approached for the use of Mercyful Fate's songs (and his own image) on the musical Guitar Hero: Metallica (as Metallica themselves cite the band as an influence and even recorded a medley of their songs simply titled "Mercyful Fate" on their cover album Garage Inc.). After King agreed, he later found out that the original master recordings of the chosen songs in question ("Evil" "Curse of the Pharaohs" and "Into the Coven") were lost. So instead of searching on the unlikeliest places, King decided to bring the almost-original lineup back together (Hank Shermann, Michael Denner and Timi Hansen with Bjarne T. Holm sitting in on drums) and they re-recorded the songs specifically for the game (though "Curse of the Pharaohs" was cut from the final game due to gameplay reasons). Around the release date of the game, a promotional single featuring both re-recordings was released by their label Metal Blade.

Asked in June 2010 what are upcoming plans for Mercyful Fate, guitarist Hank Shermann replied, "We have a DVD coming out with the early years, likely sometimes in early 2011! Should be interesting with a lot of never-before-seen footage and how it all started. I'm sure we'll record a new Mercyful Fate album in the future; we just need to get the timeframe framed and then some patience."[3]


"Melissa" is the name of a skull King Diamond used to carry on stage, and also a fictional deceased witch that appears in three songs. Before the recordings of the album Melissa, King Diamond had acquired a human skeleton that he named "Melissa". He used the femur bones to make his trademark microphone handle. The skull was apparently stolen during a show in the Netherlands in the mid-1980s. In August 2006, it was rumored that the skull had been returned, but these rumours were proved false.[1]

The skull was inspiration behind the album Melissa, and the title track of the album is very different from the rest of the album, as it is much slower than the other songs (which are speedier and more aggressive). The lyrics tell of a male protagonist (usually identified as King Diamond himself by fans) who lost the love of his life, who was a witch who was burnt at the stake by a Catholic priest. The story builds itself up around the emotions of the protagonist, who first feels sadness and uncertainty, hope for her to still be alive, and then rage over his loss. He swears revenge on the priest who burnt her, proclaiming he must die in the name of hell. The song ends with a whisper that hints Melissa's spirit is still with the protagonist. The other songs contain themes and events that hint and relate to Melissa's burning, in effect gathering every song in a loose concept & overall context.

The second song Melissa appears on is on the album Don't Break the Oath in the song "Come to the Sabbath", once again at the climax of the album. The lyrics tell about a Satanic coven holding a sabbath, in which the protagonist emerges to perform a ritual to "put an evil curse on the priest who took the life of Melissa". Though she is not the focus of the lyrics this time, because of her mention the song is known as a "Melissa song". Additionally, one of the main characters on the King Diamond album "Them" was named "Missy", which is a common diminutive of Melissa.

The final song Melissa appears in is on Mercyful Fate's reunion album In the Shadows on the song "Is That You, Melissa?". The lyrics tell of the protagonist once again in sorrow about the loss of his love. He begins to hear her voice and goes to the coven to have them perform a ritual to speak with her ghost. The coven objects, saying it is against the rules. The protagonist is visited by Melissa's spirit who shares a kiss with the protagonist. The subject of the song is argued by some; one side says the lyrics are not a continuation of the Melissa story but a tribute by the band to their past, while the other side sees it as the end of the Melissa story. She is the girl on the album cover of "In the Shadows" facing the old oak tree. After In the Shadows, Melissa has not been mentioned any more in both lyrics and artwork.


Current members

Former members

Session members

  • Old Nick - drums (1981)
  • Lars Ulrich - drums (1993)
  • Morten Nielson - drums (1993)


Studio albums

Compilation albums

Extended plays


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