Review Summary: The greatest, most historically significant EP in the history of metal.(The following concept review is for the self-titled EP by Mercyful Fate. The Mercyful Fate EP is also known as "Nuns Have No Fun," but for the purposes of this review shall be not referred to as such. Although the following story is entirely fictional, details in it reflect the time period in which the album was released while other details reflect my thoughts while listening to the album)
November of 1982 is a month I will never forget. In fact, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was nighttime, and I had just walked home after going to the record store. My favorite band at the time, Venom, had just released their album Black Metal
and I was anxious to be the first one of my friends to listen to it. After buying the record, I raced home and immediately threw it in my record player. Just from the opening noises of the album's first song, I was completely sold. In 1982, I was a rebellious teenager, and Venom knew exactly how to appeal to my demographic. I loved the sheer darkness of the album; the ridiculously bad production, distorted guitar solos, brutal vocals, and anti-religious lyrics attracted me to the record beyond belief. As the record continues to spin, I begin to feel uneasy. I turn around to make sure no one is watching me. After assuring myself that I was alone, I continue to play the record. As the album's final song, "Don't Burn the Witch" begins to play, I begin to sense more and more that someone is watching me. I don't think think much of it, though, and I continue to play Venom's album nonetheless.
What I witnessed next was undoubtedly one of the strangest experiences of my life. As Black Metal
plays, I am suddenly blinded by a giant flash of red light. All the lights in my house turn off, rendering my room pitch-black. I stumble over to the light switch and turn the lights in my room back on. Suddenly, I feel a cold hand on my shoulder. I turn around, and before me stands a tall figure in a black cloak. Although her face was obscured, I could still see her glowing, red eyes. Her hands were bony and skeletal and from the bottom of her cloak emerged a red, pointy tail. I stood there, speechless, unable to comprehend why this hellish creature was standing in my room.
"Who...who are you? What are you doing in my room?" I ask the figure.
The figure glares at me with her bright, penetrating eyes. "I am a demon, a minion of Satan who serves him in Hell. I am here to tell you that I think you are pathetic."
"Me?" I angrily reply, "How am I a pathetic?"
At this, the demon begins laughing. "Look at yourself, kid." she begins, "You think you are so
tough! You think you are so
blasphemous! You think you are so
evil! Truth is, you are nothing but a poser."
"How exactly am I poser? " I ask, "The metal I listen to happens to be incredibly blasphemous!" With that, I signal to my poster of Venom's Welcome to Hell
on my wall.
Once again, the demon lets out a laugh. "Do you sincerely think Venom's music is even remotely sinful? None of the members are even Satanists! Venom's dark, Satanic lyrics are just for shock value. Kid, have you even seen Venom's 'evil' vocalist, Cronos? The guy looks like he belongs in Def Leppard! Now, kid, do you really want to listen to something truly
evil? Something with truly sinful lyrics, sung by a vocalist who is a true Satanist? My friend, I have an album so blasphemous that after just one listen you will be doomed to an eternity in hell!"
Although part of me was too afraid to accept, I couldn't back away from such an offer. "Ok, demon!" I shout, "What do you have that can possibly be more sinful that a Venom album?"
Out of nowhere, with another flash of red light, the demon suddenly disappeared. However, on the floor where she stood laid a record. I bend over and pick it up off the ground. It was an EP; one that I had never seen nor heard of before. The album's cover was one of the most shocking covers I had ever seen. It was black-and-white and featured a crucified woman, topless and surrounded demonic creatures, inverted crosses, and pentagrams. In the top right corner of the album were the words "MERCYFUL FATE"; even the band's name had a touch of creepiness to it. Without hesitation, I place the album into my record player and anxiously wait for the music to begin.
The album begins with the song "A Corpse Without Soul." It is a perfect way to begin the album, and immediately hooks me in. The song begins right up with a blistering, face-melting guitar solo played at a lightning-fast speed. After about thirty seconds of nonstop shredding, the riff begins to play. To my surprise, it is extremely addictive and is by far the most memorable riff in the entire album. Suddenly, the vocalist kicks in.
"Listeeeeeeeen! Ya-yeah! I'm a corpse, I'm a corpse! I'm a corpse without a soul! Sataaaaaaaan! Ya-yeah! He's taken, he's taken! He's taken his toll!"
screams the vocalist, King Diamond, in a maddeningly high-pitched, falsetto voice.
King Diamond's vocal approach took me aback the first time I heard it. I had never heard vocals quite like his; during the song, he would constantly switch between a low-pitched growl and a high-pitched scream without warning. However, his falsetto went far beyond the likes of Judas Priest's Rob Halford and his deep growl was far superior to the likes of Venom's Cronos. King Diamond's vocals on the song, as well as the other songs on the album, are the rawest and most out of control vocals of any Mercyful Fate album of all time. In fact, part of what make his vocals so great on the album is that they are still a bit rough around the edges. Despite this, he would significantly improve as a vocalist over time. Simply put, King Diamond is an extremely skilled vocalist, and his voice fits perfectly with the music.
As "A Corpse Without Soul" continues, the music becomes darker and more melodic. The song changes its pace quite a few times over its nearly seven-minute length. Despite this, the song still remains incredibly aggressive throughout. During the different parts of the song, each member of the band gets their chance to shine, most notably the guitarists, Hank Shermann and Michael Denner. The guitar solos on "A Corpse Without Soul" are arguably some of most classic solos in the history metal. Also, the two guitarists play wonderfully off each other and harmonize well during instrumental sections. Unfortunately, the guitarists often lack restraint during some songs and their melodic playing is slightly uninteresting. These flaws, however, would improve greatly on the band's next album. The drumming is incredibly intense and aggressive throughout the entire song, and while the bass is never very impressive, it is always audible and works nicely with the guitars. Overall, "A Corpse Without Soul" starts off Mercyful Fate
in fine fashion, and is a song that is simply never forgotten once it has been heard.
Track two, "Nuns Have No Fun," starts with a mid-tempo drum solo, which leads into the song's groove-oriented riff. It is by far the album's most melodic song. The slow-paced rhythm sections build the song's atmosphere; an atmosphere that is dark, yet somehow strangely upbeat. King Diamond's vocals are a major downgrade from the insanity of "A Corpse Without Soul," as his vocals primarily remain in his lower register throughout the song's entirety. The track contains the most twisted, vulgar, and darkly hilarious lyrics out of any Mercyful Fate song of all time. Unsurprisingly, (remember that I was, after all, a rebellious teenager at the time) the vulgar lyrics in the chorus strongly attracted me to the song. The lyrics were nothing I had never heard before; however, King Diamond's passion and energy made them seem blasphemous beyond belief. Although it doesn't contain as many strong instrumental passages as the other songs of the album, "Nuns Have No Fun" is still extremely memorable in its own right.
"Doomed By the Living Dead" is one of the most famous songs on the entire album. The song is extremely reminiscent of thrash metal; it is, no doubt, one of the many songs that helped influence the thrash metal genre. The incredibly speedy, violent riff juxtaposes well with the melodic, mid tempo chorus. Aggression is key during the song, especially in the top-notch drumming and shredding guitar solos. King Diamond continues to amaze, and his lyrics continue to be astoundingly sinful. The line near the end of the song, "So say goodbye, to all your ***ing angels!" is my favorite line on the entire album without a doubt. King Diamond takes up melodic singing during the chorus, which once again juxtaposes his harsh, nasty vocals during the verses. The outro slowly builds to an explosive climax, and with a final beat of the drums, the song ends.
The closer, "Devil Eyes," begins with a drum intro surprisingly similar to that of "Nuns Have No Fun," only sped up and more intense. The song is the most straightforward and least complex song on the album, with its rock n' roll-esque drumming and harmonizing guitar solos. In fact, strangely enough, "Devil Eyes" sounds somewhat like a disco song (a disco song on steroids, that is). The song has the catchiest hook on the entire album, as King Diamond's falsetto shout of "devil EYEEEES!" is not soon forgotten after the song is over. The drumming, however, is the track's real highlight. Drummer Kim Ruzz gives the absolute best performance of his career during the song. Unlike the previous three tracks (especially "Doomed By the Living Dead"), "Devil Eyes" has an incredibly upbeat atmosphere, making it a strange choice to close the album. Despite that, "Devil Eyes" is a unique, one-of-a-kind metal song, and a superb closer to an outstanding album.
After the final song ends, I remove Mercyful Fate
from my record player, still slightly in a state of shock from what I just heard. I place the album back onto the ground, and as if on cue, a flash of red light appears before me. Once again, there stands the demon I had spoken with earlier.
"Now, do you see what I mean?" says the demon, with a hint of enthusiasm in her voice. I nod my head, and she continues: "Metal bands nowadays may distort their guitars, darken their sound, and write Satanic lyrics, but no band is as evil or blasphemous Mercyful Fate. Anyway, I must be going now."
"Wait!" I shouted before she could leave, "Who exactly are you...and why do you care about Mercyful Fate so much?" With that, she stepped closer to me. Through the darkness of her hood, I could see she was smiling.
"My name is Melissa." she said softly. Before I could ask her what she meant by that, the demon vanished in a flash of red light.
Shortly after the demon's departure, I placed the Mercyful Fate and Venom records back on my shelf and drifted off to sleep. I'll never forget the dream I had that night. In my dream, large, hellish fires were engulfing Earth. Mischievous demons were running amuck and fighting the dead who had risen from their graves. Nuns were running for their lives as hordes of Satanists broke into convents, carrying swords and inverted crosses. Lastly, I dreamt of Satan ripping my soul out and throwing it into the fiery depths of Hell.
Amazingly, the terrifying, vivid nightmare I had that night was all brought forth by Mercyful Fate
. Out of every EP I have ever listened to in my entire life, Mercyful Fate
is the EP that has left the biggest impact on me. Sure, it may be incredibly raw and far too short, but the album is still extremely memorable. With only four songs, Mercyful Fate were able to inspired entire genres of metal. At the time, most metal bands implemented Satanism into their songs for shock value and used the pentagram as a novelty. However, with their self-titled EP, Mercyful Fate put a stop to all of this and showed the world how to truly
make evil music. Although their next albums would be more fine-tuned and progressive, Mercyful Fate
is still a historically significant heavy metal landmark. Also, it serves as a reminder of how endlessly influential a four song EP can be.