Review Summary: Despite its mild ambition, Dead Again is a forgettable, by the numbers release with little redeeming value.
When it came time to release a new album in 1998, there is no doubt that Mercyful Fate realized that their fans' attitudes towards them had completely shifted, and justifiably so. Although their reunion appeared to be a genuine success at first, the release of Into the Unknown
in 1996 was met with utter disappointment, and indicated that the once-legendary Danish metalheads were running out of steam. Perhaps the biggest factor that doomed the release of Into the Unknown
from the start was that, by this time, Mercyful Fate and King Diamond albums succeeded one another by a mere year's interval. Naturally, this time constraint took it's toll on creative mastermind King Diamond, the vocalist and lyricist of both bands. On Into the Unknown
, Mercyful Fate's creativity, something that had never failed to impress prior, took a tremendous step down as a result, culminating in the one of the most vapid releases of their career. In what was most likely an effort to recover from their previous album and win their fans back, Mercyful Fate tried to mix things up a bit on Dead Again
, their sixth studio release, by making their overall sound rawer and dirtier than ever before. While the album's intentionally poor production does succeed on making its songs darker and more atmospheric, it simply was not enough to save the album from being Mercyful Fate's worse release of all time.
Given the circumstances prior to its release, it is no wonder that Dead Again
turned out to be a complete disaster. For one, Dead Again
was released under the same time constraint as its predecessor, which reasonably lowered expectations for the album. More importantly though, the album saw the departure of critically acclaimed guitarist Michael Denner, who had been with the band since its conception. As one can expect, Denner's absence is detrimental to the album's overall success. In the band's previous releases, Denner and Hank Shermann proved themselves to be, arguably, the greatest lead guitar duo in metal history. Obviously, this quite a bold statement; however, give one listen to "Satan's Fall" from Melissa
or "Come to the Sabbath" off of Don't Break the Oath
and you will see what I mean. Although Mercyful Fate's attempt to fill Denner's rather sizable shoes with former Candlemass guitarist Mike Wead is commendable, it doesn't take much time after the album begins to notice Denner's absence. Although Wead is both a skilled guitarist in his own right and a capable substitute for Denner, he fails to recreate the chemistry Shermann and Denner once shared during melodic guitar solos or long, drawn-out instrumental sections. While Denner's absence does negatively effect the album overall, it is simply one of many factors that adds to the album's mediocrity.
A distinctive feature of Mercyful Fate's classic releases was a profound sense of high-energy excitement. Unfortunately, as is the case with most bands that are past their prime, their energy dwindled over the years. Any trace of the wild, rebellious fun Mercyful Fate once possessed and emoted seemed to had been sucked out on Dead Again
. Each member of the band plods through almost every song without putting forth much of an effort, most notably Shermann, who fails to contribute a single riff over the course of the album with even the slightest amount of memorability. In fact, despite listening through this album in its entirety multiple times on different occasions, as I sit here and write this review I fail to remember a single riff or lyric from any of the songs. Hence the album's main problem: due the band's overwhelmingly low energy and sub par performances, the album leaves not even the slightest impression on the listener once it ends.
While it is true that the entire band contributed to the album's many shortcomings, no one is more at fault for how Dead Again
turned out than King Diamond himself. For whatever reason, his vocal performance on the album is extremely lacking and occasionally nothing short of horrid. Like the rest of the band, Diamond sounds tired and uninterested during the songs, and although he continues to utilize his typical high-pitched, falsetto wails, they never sound even remotely impressive, and due in part to album's production his screams and growls never make much on of an impact. In addition, he sounds exactly
the same on every song. This is not an understatement; the only song on the album in which he puts forth a moderately strong effort is "Dead Again," the title track. On his best day, King Diamond can be one of the most versatile vocalists of all time. Needless to say, Dead Again
is not one of the King's better days. Perhaps even worse than Diamond's actual performance on the album is his writing. The lyrics are beyond badly written; they are downright lazy. The title track, for example, contains some of the worst-written lyrics in the band's entire discography. Certain lyrics within the song are so overwhelmingly bad that one has to wonder whether or not Diamond made them up as he went along. For instance, during one of the verses, Diamond describes a light, which then turns into an orchestra, which then turns into him, which then turns back into an orchestra, which then turns a door, which then turns into the number 6-6-6, and before "going," turns back into an orchestra. Although it was the likely title track's intent to sound messy and disjointed, Diamond's borderline-hilarious lyrics ruin any chances of the song being a success, and such is the case with the lyrics on the rest of the album as well. Thankfully, his writing would vastly improve and return to most of its former glory on the succeeding album, 9
. With that being the case, why King Diamond had such a creative slump on Dead Again
is still a mystery.
In all honesty, this album should have never existed. Even before it was released, there were telltale signs that Dead Again
was bound to fail. Ever since the release of In the Shadows
, Mercyful Fate's interest in making quality music seemed to gradually decay, and in 1998, it reached its absolute minimum. Dead Again
sounds like a band that simply doesn't care anymore; a band too lazy to write interesting riffs or meaningful lyrics. The only thing Dead Again
has going for is its ambition, which is, admittedly, very commendable. Changing Dead Again
's production in order to make the guitars more distorted and the vocals more watery gave the album a clear distinction that separated it from the three preceding it and prevented it from being In the Shadows Part IV
, with Time
and Into the Unknown
being parts II and III. Unfortunately, though, the band didn't push this idea nearly enough on Dead Again
, and as a result the album falters and ceases to be anything more than a badly-produced collection of filler tracks.