MERCYFUL FATE: Mercyful Fate EP
Release year: 1982/2020
Label: Rave-On Records/Metal Blade Records
Finishing our backwards journey of looking at Danish occult metal legends Mercyful Fate’s three first releases in reverse order, we’ve arrived at the very start: their debut four-track EP. If not counting their demos, this was the very first release of the band, and you can certainly hear it.
According to some sources, the band had very limited studio time, which resulted in most things being committed to tape on the first take, with just a few bits and pieces getting another go. Due to time constraints the band also had to leave out a lot of the more intricate vocal arrangements King Diamond had prepared. I don’t know the truth to these stories, but upon listening to the EP, it’s easy to believe them.
The EP presents Mercyful Fate in a very embryonic state. The music is far more straightforward, as much hard rock as heavy metal, and missing a lot of the intricate switches from section to section that would emerge on the two album released in the following years. At times, this brings to mind Iron Maiden’s debut album – not only musically, but also in how the two bands very rapidly evolved from their somewhat more straightforward early material to a far more mature, complex but still rocking expression.
Nowhere is the embryonic nature of the EP as evident as on King Diamond’s performance. His falsetto vocals go over to silly territory more than ever afterwards. It also sounds like there’s little to no reverb or echo used on them, resulting in a rather in-your-face sound that’s very much in the listeners’ face. His lyrics are also markedly different from what would follow: more of yer standard fare comic book shock stories here, very little of his satanic prayers and more mature horror stories showing an understanding of satanic and occult matters.
Ultimately, this EP in itself isn’t particularly legendary in terms of quality. It includes four songs of so-so quality; not the best early 80’s metal, not the worst. The sound could put more emphasis on the guitars, and the vocals could definitely use some reverb. Had the Danes not quickly risen to all-new levels on every front, this would probably remain just another obscure collectors’ item for metal vinyl collectors.
But, of course, history is what it is: a mere year after this, Mercyful Fate unleashed their debut album Melissa, which saw the band go forward in leaps and bounds, and another year later, their second album Don’t Break The Oath, which is definitely one of the finest metal album of the 80’s. With this future in mind, the significance of this EP rises from trivia to essential stepping stone in the saga of Mercyful Fate.