Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mercyful Fate ~ In The Shadows

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Style: black metal, heavy metal, Danish
Label: Metald Blade
Year: 1993
Home: Denmark (disbanded)

Members: King Diamond ~ vocals
Michael Denner, Hank Shermann ~ guitars
Timi Hansen ~ bass
Morten Nielsen ~ drums

Additional: John Marshall ~ harpsichord/drums


For however big their reputation it was shocking to find out that MF only made two albums before breaking up. In reunion mode they've now ironically put out far more albums than their classic years. In The Shadows is their third album & obviously first reunion album, a reunion that includes all but the drummer. It's also really the best of the reunion era. It's not that it gets bad after this, but the music loses some of its spark, faces a changing line-up & soon comes to compete with frontman King Diamond's solo career. Personally, I was never much of a MF fan based on their first two albums. I found it somewhat generic guitar heavy metal with vocals that got annoying & more songs I forgot then remembered. Yes, take away my metal membership badge & secret lyric decoder ring. But, I have an explanation of this point of view that might allow you to excuse me. MF was in the first wave of black metal, while King Diamond was amongst the first to use corpse paint. I wasn't old enough to hear the first wave of black metal. Well, actually, I was, but I was too young to be tape or magazine trading to discover many of these pioneer bands & that was really the only way their reputations spread. It's only in hindsight that they've come into the mainstream, more known than obscure. But, the problem is that all the second third & fourth waves have also flooded the musical landscape. So, at the time MF might have been doing things nobody else was & thus their music was shocking to hear, but now I've heard their style of music so much by the imitators, sometimes more creatively too, that they don't sound original or necessarily more interesting out of context of the time. While their reunion albums certainly are not first wave but now copying the second wave that copied their first wave. So, I have trouble bowing down to MF as this great band when I can't hear it. Yes, it's sad. In hindsight they don't sound so creative, so thus I just have whether the songs are good or bad on their own to base my judgment on. I'll take the charge that I'm out of touch with the music, though hopefully my explanation makes sense why. & if I'm out of touch, what about the generations after me? If music can only be enjoyed by the first generation of listeners ... Houston, we have a problem. Though, knowing something about the early era of black metal & having heard those bands I struggle to fit MF into the mold that has come to wrap those early bands. To me this is more Metallica than what would come to be known as black metal. Lyrically black, definitely, but musically not so dark or typical black metal. Though, I will give King Diamond credit for actually following the LaVeyan Satanism he professes musically, versus so many bands where it's just a cheap gimic. & no, he's not a baby killing Satanist. That is not LaVeyan Satanism but a Middle Age mythological anti-Christian Satanism, as real as in Christians are cannibals because they drink the blood of a dead man. While I love to discuss religion, this is not the forum, so back to the music. I actually find this first reunion album the best album of MF. It excites me where the earlier classic albums bore me. In many ways the music hasn't changed. I still find it more generic than not, but with definite better production. I think these songs have stronger & tighter arrangements less relying on raw energy & more on nuance. Though, I never found the music particularly dark & I still don't. MF has always had a prog-metal slant & I think that gets pushed further here, as previously the prog-metal scene was undeveloped but now they have that influence to draw from & work with. Actually, at times I'm reminded of early Savatage (for example, "The Bell Witch"). There's also another difference that marks this album from earlier releases. The songwriting has moved beyond just Satanic themes into more story formats of a diverse array of dark topics. Themes now include the Ancient Egyptian gods of the dead (i.e. "Egypt"), witches (i.e. "The Bell Witch), a hanging tree (i.e. "The Old Oak"), bad thoughts (i.e. "A Gruesome Time"), eternal life in a very Ingmar Bergman setting (i.e. "Thirteen Invitations") & even a headless rider (i.e. "Legend Of The Headless Rider"). The instrumental "Room Of Golden Air" is thrown in, but you're just waiting for the vocals as its more of the same generic guitar riffing. Personally, the story form of the songs is the best part of the album & some of the lyrics are great. I even say the songwriting is better than King Diamond's own distinct falsetto vocals which is musically the most disguishing mark of MF since day one. Though, after a solo career I think his vocals are stronger here than on earlier releases. He has more control over what he does with his voice & more creative in what he does or doesn't do which adds to the tighter & more interesting arrangements. MF has currently disbanded with only periodic one-off performances.

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