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Mercyful Fate: Melissa

Retrospective is an article series based solely on a personal opinion. This is in no way a review, nor does it change my critical stance on the release in question. Please bare this in mind when reading this series of articles. Thank you, and enjoy.

Mercyful Fate and King Diamond have long been vital bands in the Metal community, and also some of the most debated I’ve come across. I’ve met my share of devoted fans like myself, and then I’ve met those who can’t stand the falsetto vocals, therefore dismissing both immediately. Regardless of your stance, there’s no denying how vital the two have been, especially in the early days of the first wave of Black Metal. Instead of talking about my first encounters with both, I decided to take over the on hiatus retrospet series and talk about both band’s discographies, starting with the first Mercyful Fate full-length, and my first experience with this group, Melissa.

I wasn’t even born yet when Melissa dropped, so picturing the impact this album had back in ’83 is as epic as the first time I ever heard it. With Heavy Metal still in the early stages of bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, you can still hear some of the genre discovery going on within the band at this point. There’s a hint of Punk scattered about, but for the most part was a mix of Hard Rock with some incredibly catchy Metal hooks. It also houses some of the band’s most memorable songs.

Now, here is where I’m about to lose my Metal card, but I really just don’t like Melissa as a whole on a personal level. Yes I gave it a really positive review because I looked at it through a critical opinion and, really, it’s impossible not to appreciate or respect what the band has done with the album. Each track is performed well, memorable in both a catchy and ritualistic manner, and often can be creepy as hell. It’s just, on a personal taste level, I don’t like most of the songs here. This is coming from a guy who experienced this entry from their discography first, much like most of those who first heard it back in 1983. The only difference is I didn’t hear it on vinyl, but I’ll get to that.

There are some tracks I really like though, and they are some of my favorites from their entire discography. “Evil” and “Curse of the Pharaohs” are two of the best songs this band has ever released, hands down. I absolutely love them and whenever I make a mix or compilation CD to kick back and relax to, or accompany me on a long car ride, these go right in the first two spots for that very reason. “Satan’s Fall” is always a commanding performance, but it’s one I can only listen to it in certain moods, and even then it one spin is enough for me. But it’s the corner stone title track, “Melissa,” that impresses me the most every time I hear it. The atmosphere just comes off far more emotional than anything else on this album, and the well executed falsettos definitely play a role in that. It has meaning thanks to the heartfelt performance that seems more in homage than even “Satan’s Fall.”

Sadly, the first time I heard Melissa was with the 1997 Roadrunner Records remastered reissue. It’s also the one I go to the most since it’s the only one I physically own anymore. You could argue it’s a bad remastering, and you are right in some ways. The remastered version sounds like crap for the most part. It simply doesn’t have the same bite the original pressing has, and using a different vocal effect on Melissa is an insult to the classic. But even the original master doesn’t inspire me too much, and I actually kind of prefer the remastered version of “Evil” over the original, but that’s about it.

When you walk around and ask a fan what their favorite Mercyful Fate album is, Melissa is more than likely their response, and for good reason. It is a highly influential album that inspired not only a genre movement, but countless other bands throughout the years in the first wave of Black Metal/NWOBHM style. Mercyful Fate was one of my earliest Metal discoveries over the years, and having been a fan for over ten years, anxious awaiting a new album (not two re-recorded songs for Guitar Hero), Melissa is one of the first full-lengths I’ll grab. But, that’s more out of respect, and I’ll typically grab an other album to accompany it. While it’s a critically amazing album, I just don’t like much of it on a personal level. In fact, after I heard the EP that came out before this album, I think it’s a huge step backwards, but that’s an arguement for another week…

But next week, we’ll need to take a look at Don’t Break the Oath.

Mercyful Fate
Mercyful Fate

Physical material for this article provided by personal funds.