2 LPs on 2 CDs: MELISSA (1983)/THE BEGINNING (1987).
Mercyful Fate: King Diamond (vocals); Hank Sherman, Michael Denner, Benny Petersen (guitar); Timi Grabber (bass); Kim Ruzz (drums).
Producers: Henrik Lund, Jac Hustinx, Tony Wilson, Mercyful Fate.
Recorded at Easy Sound Studio, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Personnel: King Diamond (vocals); Benny Petersen, Hank Shermann, Michael Denner (guitar); Kim Ruzz (drums).
Audio Mixer: Tony Wilson .
Audio Remasterer: Chris Gehringer.
Liner Note Author: Eduardo Rivadavia.
Recording information: Easy Sound Recording, Copenhagen, Denmark (09/1982-07/1983); Stone Sound Studios, The Netherlands (09/1982-07/1983).
Photographer: Thomas Grandahl.
The first in a pair of excellent Mercyful Fate two-fers released by Roadrunner Records, Melissa/The Beginning is similar to its successor in that it couples one of the trendsetting metal band's proper albums with an album-like collection of rarities. The proper album here is Melissa (1983), the band's breakthrough first album, and the rarities collection is The Beginning (1987), a reissue of the band's 1982 debut EP with some other rudimentary early recordings appended. If you're new to Mercyful Fate (and many surely will be, given the band's brief underground existence yet prolonged infamous legacy), this two-fer is a recommended place to begin, especially when coupled with its complement, Don't Break the Oath/Return of the Vampire (this pair of two-fers should be all the Mercyful Fate you'll ever need, unless you really like this band, in which case there's a whole second phase of lesser recordings from the '90s). Though not quite on a par with the follow-up, Don't Break the Oath, Melissa is nonetheless a landmark metal album. It took the proto-metal of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest to another level -- the band's speedy musicianship foreshadowing the rise of thrash in the mid-'80s, and its devilish theatricality foreshadowing the black metal that would come to characterize Mercyful Fate's native Scandinavia during the early '90s. The Beginning isn't nearly as noteworthy, though it is insightful, illuminating the band's origins and rounding up otherwise impossible-to-round-up rarities (good luck finding an original copy of that 1982 EP!). Longtime fans already know what's in store here; as for anyone new to Mercyful Fate, know that the soaring, evocative vocals of King Diamond, above all, define Mercyful Fate. Though probably better known for his ghoulish makeup than his actual singing, this guy is right up there with Rob Halford of Judas Priest, capable of hitting notes higher than you can probably imagine, all the while singing operatically about dealings with the Devil. Backing him are dueling guitarists Hank Shermann and Michael Denner, who weave a web of metallic proto-thrashery, again, not unlike Judas Priest, clearly a prime influence, especially that band's late-'70s work. Moreover, this two-fer also features tasteful packaging and includes some substantial liner notes by Ed Rivadavia, who paints a grander picture of what makes these two albums so worthy of reissue. One last thing: Mercyful Fate will probably sound dated and perhaps even ridiculous to contemporary ears, but it's important to keep in mind that they operated during the early '80s, before the likes of Metallica and Slayer raised the bar for extreme metal; back then, this was considered extreme, especially the Satanic motifs the band wrapped itself in. ~ Jason Birchmeier