Mercyful Fate (1981-1985, 1992-1999, 2008-2009, 2011, 2019-present): a Black Metal band from Copenhagen, Denmark.
ormed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1981, Mercyful Fate rose from the ashes of the band Brats. Brats was a punk rock/heavy metal band, featuring future Mercyful Fate members King Diamond (Real Name: Kim Bandix Petersen; ex-Brainstorm, ex-Back Rose; vocals), along with guitarists Hank Shermann and Michael Denner. After two studio albums and several line-up changes (including the addition of Diamond and the departure of Denner), Diamond and Shermann began writing new material that was much heavier than the Brats' work. The band's record label 'CBS' was not pleased with their changes, and demanded the band stop singing in English and select a more commercial sound. Fed up with the demands, Diamond and Shermann quit to form Mercyful Fate.
Now working for their new project, ex-Rock Nalle bassist Ole Beich (later to join L.A. Guns and Guns N' Roses) briefly joined the new Mercyful Fate. After several further line-up changes and semi-professional demo tapes, Mercyful Fate would finally release their self-titled EP in 1982. The line-up of King Diamond, Hank Shermann, along with Timi Hansen (bass), Kim Ruzz (drums) and former Brats guitarist Michael Denner, would go on to record the group's first two studio albums, Melissa (1983; named after a real human skull Diamond "owned" and used as a stage prop until it was stolen by a fan during a show in Denmark) and Don't Break the Oath (1984) before splitting up in 1985 despite winning a cult following around the world. The bust up happened when Shermann wanted the band to move to a more commercial sound; Diamond refused and announced his departure from Mercyful Fate, a move that led to the first break up. Incidentally, the album Melissa was named after a character/mascot "Melissa", a witch who was burned at the stake; she appears for the first time on the eponymous EP and intermittently hence forth throughout the band's later work.
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After Mercyful Fate broke up in 1985, King Diamond, along with Michael Denner and Timi Hansen, formed the eponymous King Diamond band. Denner and Hansen stayed with the group until 1987's Abigail release, after which both left King Diamond. They were replaced by Mike Moon and Hal Patino, respectively, while King Diamond continued releasing albums even after him and Mercyful Fate later reformed.
Also while Mercyful Fate were disbanded, and with the ever growing success of King Diamond, there was increasing demand for the re-release of the hard-to-find first EP of Mercyful Fate. To answer this, 'Roadrunner Records' released three compilation albums starting in June, 1987 with The Beginning featuring material from the band's 1982 self-titled EP, as well as rare live and studio recordings recorded during a BBC session on March 18th 1983 (Curse Of The Pharaohs, Evil and Satan's Fall) as well as Black Masses (originally available only on the Black Funeral single). 1992 would see Return of the Vampire released; another compilation of rare studio recordings. Later that same year, 'Roadrunner' released A Dangerous Meeting; a split-release featuring material from both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond.
Around the time King Diamond (the man) was switching labels, he heard, by chance, some new music written by Hank Shermann and Michael Denner. The tracks that he heard reminded him of Mercyful Fate. Shermann proposed the idea of Mercyful Fate gathering again. Everybody agreed to be part of this reunion project, except drummer Kim Ruzz, who had been out of the music industry for some eight years now and was happy with how his life had evolved since then, so was replaced with Morten Nielsen. In the Shadows (1993) would follow on 'Metal Blade Records' and featuring a guest appearance by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich (who was born in Denmark) for the track Return of the Vampire. For the supporting tour, Nielsen was replaced by King Diamond drummer Snowy Shaw, due to a knee injury, while Hansen would be replaced by Sharlee D'Angelo because he did not want to tour.
For In The Shadows (1993), the band also made two promo videos, Egypt and The Bell Witch, as well as a promo single which contained the song Egypt only. The first supporting show was in Copenhagen, in May 1993, with long-time friends Metallica. After the following tour ended, Hansen left the band again. He left for the same reason he left the King Diamond act six years before: to spend more time with his family. His substitute was King Diamond's bassist, Sharlee D'Angelo.
The Bell Witch, an EP featuring live tracks, as well as studio recordings from the In the Shadows tour followed in 1994 and was only available for a limited time. Those live performances saw Mercyful Fate much in the style of Alice Cooper. Every successive album became even more bizarre and deepened the sub-plots.
Later in 1994, Mercyful Fate released Time, their second studio album since the reunion. To promote this album, the band shot two more promo videos: Nightmare Be Thy Name and Witches' Dance. Halfway through the Time support tour, Shaw left the band and been replaced by Bob Lance, who came for the American part of the tour, and had worked with Shermann in the past: he was the drummer of Fate, the band Shermann created after the break-up of Mercyful Fate a decade earlier. He in turn would be released by Bjarne T. Holm, who, way back in 1981, had originally been asked to join Mercyful Fate, but had declined because of other commitments.
In early 1996, while recording its new album, Mercyful Fate had been asked to participate to a Judas Priest tribute album. The song The Ripper was chosen to be covered, and was included on the album Legends Of Metal: A Tribute To Judas Priest. After the release of the follow up Into the Unknown (1996), Denner left the band, during the Into The Unknown tour, Michael Denner left the band to celebrate his second son's birth. Denner asked the band to bring Mike Wead in to replace him. He thought Wead was not only a good musician, but he had the same kind of playing that Denner had; he subsequently replaced him temporarily for the remaining dates of this tour. This album was much more progressive than any other album Mercyful Fate ever released. The Japanese pressing contained also The Ripper as a bonus track for Japan only. A promo video was also made for the song The Uninvited Guest.
In 1997, Michael Denner told the band he would not come back in preference of staying with his family and to run his record store, so Mike Wead became a permanent member who would first appear on Dead Again (1997) and 9 (1999). For the first time, the band decided to modify its logo, also with this album, the band tried a heavier sound.
After the supporting tour for 9, Mercyful Fate went on hiatus while King Diamond worked on his self-named band again, along with Mike Wead, who joined his group during the European support tour for the House of God album. Shermann and Holm reunited with Denner to form the band Force of Evil, while D'Angelo joined Arch Enemy.
August 2008 saw King Diamond personally asked by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich if Mercyful Fate would be interested in participating in Activision's upcoming video game guitar Hero: Metallica. Although Diamond and crew agreed, the original recording masters could not be found, so Diamond, Shermann, Denner, Hansen and Holm reunited to re-record the tracks: Evil and Curse of the Pharaohs fresh; King Diamond would further be featured as a character in the game. The band, sans Holm, would also unite soon after onstage at Metallica's 30th Anniversary concert, at the Fillmore in San Francisco, California, where they, alongside Metallica, performed Metallica's "Mercyful Fate" medley from their Garage Inc... The act would continue to occasionally tour.
On 29 November 2010, Diamond was taken to the hospital, where doctors discovered several blockages in his arteries due to his heavy smoking. Doctors determined that he had several heart attacks and that he needed triple-bypass surgery. The surgery was performed successfully, and on 11 December 2010 it was announced that he was at home recovering. All his musical projects at that time were then placed on hold until his appearance in 2012 with Metallica for their 30th anniversary and then the 2015 Rockstar Energy Meyhem Festival.
Hansen died on November 4, 2019, shortly after his 61st birthday.
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