This seminal black metal act was formed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1980 by vocalist King Diamond (Kim Bendix Petersen, 14 June 1956, Copenhagen, Denmark) and guitarist Hank Shermann (b. Rene Krolmark, Denmark; ex-Brats). Benny Petersen (guitar), Old Nick (drums), and C. Volsing (guitar) appeared on early demos, but the original line-up coalesced around Diamond, Shermann, Michael Denner (guitar; ex-Brats), Timi Grabber Hansen (bass) and Kim Ruzz (drums). The band first appeared on the vinyl METALLIC STORM compilation with the track with Black Funeral. The four-track EP MERCYFUL FATE (aka NUNS HAVE NO FUN) saw the full debut of their heavy yet intricate guitar-based approach, and of King Diamonds unique vocal style, which ranged from deep bass growls to falsetto shrieks. MELISSA, with a name taken from the band's notorious human skull stage prop, fulfilled Mercyful Fates promise, and the band became one of the mainstays of the black metal underground with their occult lyricism and theatrical approach (though Diamonds facial make-up later prompted legal action from Kiss Gene Simmons over alleged similarities to his God Of Thunder persona).
DONT BREAK THE OATH was a more mature work, as the band reaped the benefits of extensive touring with a tighter sound. However, when they regrouped after further touring to record a third album, Shermanns determination to pursue a surprising AOR direction and Diamond's lyrical embrace of Satanism rent the band. Diamond continued on with Hansen and Denner in tow in King Diamond, while Shermann formed Fate. The posthumous release of THE BEGINNING, containing the debut EP plus BBC session tracks, seemed to be an epitaph for Mercyful Fate. However, a compilation of early Mercyful Fate material and the heavier approach of Shermann and Denners Zoser Mez project led to the re-formation of the old band, with Ruzz replaced by Morten Nielsen on IN THE SHADOWS, and by Snowy Shaw on tour (the latter taking up the position permanently). The record recalled DONT BREAK THE OATHS STYLE, and also featured a guest appearance by Metallicas Lars Ulrich on Return Of The Vampire, a song resurrected from the bands second demo in 1982.
Before 1994s TIME, Hansen was replaced on bass by Sharlee DAngelo, as the band toured the USA with Flotsam And Jetsam and Cathedral (live recordings from which were released as THE BELL WITCH EP). When TIME emerged, it provided unexpected diversions, with the Middle-Eastern flavour of The Mad Arab and the serenity of Witches Dance rubbing shoulders with more traditional Mercyful Fate concerns (Nightmare Be Thy Name). New drummer Bjarne Holm was recruited for the subsequent INTO THE UNKNOWN, while long-serving guitarist Mike Denner was replaced by Mike Wead on DEAD AGAIN and the subsequent 9. The band essentially hibernated for the '00s with only THE BEST OF MERCYFUL FATE appearing on Roadrunner in 2003.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.