DB HOF NO. 74
The making of Mercyful Fate’s “Melissa”
It would be completely accurate to say that Melissa is the greatest album ever named after an errant human skull, but it would also be a ridiculously short sell. That’s because Mercyful Fate’s full-length debut hit the metal world like a shrieking hammer to the face in October of 1983. Led by the mind-bending falsetto of corpsepainted vocalist King Diamond, the Copenhagen quintet fused an infectious NWOBHM-style guitar gallop to Satanic imagery and lyrics that were—unlike Venom’s—100 percent genuine. Metallica, who had released Kill ’Em All just a few months earlier, were already worshippers of the band’s 1982 self-titled mini LP, often referred to as Nuns Have No Fun. When Melissa dropped, Lars and co. became the ultimate Fate fanboys, eventually recording four of the album’s seven songs as part of a medley on 1998’s Garage Inc.
Diamond’s Satanic verses (he was and still is a member of the Church of Satan) and trademark paintjob would also inspire the Scandinavian teenagers who set the northern skies ablaze with black metal’s murderous second wave. But ultimately it’s the music that makes Melissa truly Hall of Fame-worthy. Featuring the momentous riffing of guitarists Hank Shermann and Michael Denner alongside the galloping bass of Timi “Grabber” Hansen and relentless battery of then 20-year-old Kim Ruzz, the album is comprised almost exclusively of stone-cold classics like “Evil,” “Into the Coven,” “Black Funeral” and the epic “Satan’s Fall.”
Which is why you might be wondering what took us so long to induct this particular slab of heavy metal history into our ever-expanding Hall. Truth be told, the Melissa Hall of Fame has been more than five years in the making. The interviews with King Diamond and Hank Shermann were conducted in August of 2005, shortly before Roadrunner unveiled a remastered edition of the album complete with bonus tracks and a short live DVD. For various reasons, we ran into brick wall after brick wall trying to contact Denner, Ruzz and Hansen at that time. With the help of stalwart dB contributor Adem Tepedelen, we finally got a hold of Ruzz in April of 2009, followed by Denner and Hansen in December of 2010. Luckily, it was worth the wait.
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