Mercyful Fate - In The Shadows
MetalBlade Records
Gothic Melodic Metal
10 songs (53:17)
Release year: 1993
Mercyful Fate, MetalBlade Records
Reviewed by Shane
Archive review

After a lengthy hiatus of almost ten years, the original line up of Mercyful Fate reunited in 1993 (Minus original drummer Kim Ruzz and plus Snowy Shaw) and released In the Shadows. This album does not disappoint as it picks up right where the band left off back in 1984 with Don’t Break the Oath. Many of the songs on this album can best be described as horror stories put to music but those already familiar with King Diamond and Mercyful Fate come to expect this from the band. The band focuses on traditional and mythological based horror rather than blood and violence horror and this is a good thing as King Diamond is far more effective at being creepy than he is at being disturbing. I believe this is due to the King’s campy, over the top theatrical image so taking him totally seriously is not important. However, to the King’s credit, few vocalists (if any) are as effective as King Diamond in creating a creepy atmosphere with their voice. He does this primarily with multi-tracked (often very high-pitched falsetto) vocal harmonies that manage to simultaneously sound both pleasant and eerie.

King Diamond’s real claim to fame is his ability to instantly switch between an almost whiny growl to an ear piercing, nasal falsetto and he uses this a lot. In fact, almost every chance he gets he does this and I assure you, both voices are pure evil. But here’s the catch. Often it seems like King Diamond is doing voices rather than singing and since he usually does similar voices for each tale he tells, after a while, it can seem like his tales are all pretty much the same. Thank god for the extremely talented guitar duo of Hank Sherman and Michael Denner. While King Diamond’s vocals give Mercyful Fate their distinct sound, Sherman and Denner ensure that each story the King tells has it’s own fresh sounding soundtrack. As much as King Diamond does to create voices and atmosphere with his voice, it’s Denner and Sherman who are able to effectively illustrate the King’s story with their dual guitar leads, melodies and riffs. These guys are awesome, especially considering that on this album, Mercyful Fate relies on very few sound effects or keyboards to tell their tales, it is mostly just the band.

Given the theatrical horror nature of Mercyful Fate and King Diamonds outrageous (yet in my opinion, still awesome) vocals, I would not say that this band is for everyone as I can see how one may be put off by the Kings vocals or the story telling nature aspect of the songs. Another problem uninitiated listeners of the King and Mercyful Fate may have is understanding King Diamond’s vocals. Often his vocals are multilayered which muddles them a bit and his shrill falsetto can be a bit tough to understand at times. Unfortunately, understanding what King Diamond is saying is key due to the fact that he is often telling a story and the more he can draw you into the story, the more you will enjoy and appreciate the music.

I found that understanding the story is crucial in order to fully appreciate songs such as The Bell Witch, The Old Oak and Legend of the Headless Rider because the music is illustrating what the lyrics say to create the story rather than to create the song. In other words, these tracks make better stories than songs. However, on Thirteen Invitations and Is That You Melissa, Mercyful Fate is able to combine both an effective song and a good story which make these tracks two of the best on the album. Egypt is another one of my favourites as is Shadows, and while these songs tell a story, they are also excellent songs as well, especially Shadows. Room of Golden Air is a cool instrumental that, given the talents of the band, could have been even cooler if it was longer. This album also contains a remake of the cult favourite Return of the Vampire and features Lars Ulrich on drums. Unfortunately this remake is nothing special and neither is Lars' performance, as he adds nothing interesting to the song.

In my opinion, this album is not a masterpiece that every metalhead must own. However, if you are into King Diamond or Mercyful Fate and have never heard this, I see no reason why you would not like this album, as it delivers a quality dose of what you would expect from these artists. If you have never heard these guys and are curious to check them out, In the Shadows would be a good place to look.

Killing Songs :
Egypt, Shadows, Thirteen Invitations, Is That You Melissa
Shane quoted 76 / 100
Jeff quoted 94 / 100
Other albums by Mercyful Fate that we have reviewed:
Mercyful Fate - Return Of The Vampire reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
Mercyful Fate - Melissa reviewed by Adam and quoted CLASSIC
Mercyful Fate - Don't Break The Oath reviewed by Jeff and quoted CLASSIC
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