Mercyful Fate’s Ninth Circle of Hell


Release year: 1999
Label: Metal Blade Records

No one in their right mind denies the merits and importance of Danish Mercyful Fate during their initial run in the eighties. During that period, the group led by iconic frontman King Diamond released two albums which paved the way for all extreme metal to follow. Satanism of the degree King Diamond espoused in his lyrics was hitherto largely unknown in metal music, and as such Mercyful Fate are often labelled as a black metal band though they musically have precious little to do with the genre.

The group originally split in 1985, after which King Diamond launched a succesful solo career, which has resulted in a number of albums whose iconic status equal those of Mercyful Fate’s two first albums. However, since that which is dead cannot lie, even Mercyful Fate has returned from the dead a number of times – with mostly somewhat disappointing results, at least on record.

In 1999, Mercyful Fate released their 7th studio album, deceptively titled 9. Whilst not a rival to either of the classic two first albums, Melissa (1983) and Don’t Break The Oath (1984), it is one of the better post-80’s Mercyful Fate albums. It has its share of fillers and less stellar tracks, but it also has a surprisingly large amount of good songs, and the scales easily tip to the positive. For the most part, the group sound energized and motivated.

The album kicks off in high form with Last Rites, a fast track with a killer guitar riff that’s one of the standout tracks on the album. Other worthwhile tracks on the album include Church Of Saint Anne, Sold My Soul and Buried Alive, out of which the latter two are actually really, really good. However, tracks like the title track and Kiss The Demon weigh heavily in the other cup as songs that just don’t go anywhere.

By this time, lyrically Mercyful Fate reminded often more of the horror stories King Diamond explored on his solo albums, albeit confined to a single song instead of the album-length story arches he was wont to explore on his solo outings. Still, there are some songs which hark back to the good old days of shockingly explicit satanism – although with a noticeable evolution; instead of King Diamond citing satanic rituals, he is espousing the atheist satanism of the Church Of Satan, which he is a member of – “I don’t believe in Heaven, I don’t believe in Hell”, as he sings in the aforementioned Last Rites.

Where many classic 80’s metal bands bowed under the alternative rock influences of the 90’s and more or less lost their way, Mercyful Fate have on 9 retained their own sound to an admirable degree. This is pure heavy metal, no alternative, indie or rap to be heard here. King Diamond sounds like King Diamond, his high-pitched vocals being instantly recognizable – although they are noticeably lower than during Mercyful Fate’s heyday.

Whilst being far from perfect, 9 belongs to the more solid albums in Mercyful Fate’s discography. This year it is 20 years since it was released, and it still remains the most recent album in their discography – so if 9 is to be the album-length swansong for the Danish metal legends, it’s not bad as swansongs go.


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