Friday, September 5, 2014

Mercyful Fate - Don't Break the Oath

This week (September 7th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Don’t Break the Oath, the second studio album from the Danish heavy metal band Mercyful Fate. The 1984 release went to number 33 in Sweden and number 210 on the US Billboard Album chart.

The line-up for the band included King Diamond (lead vocals, keyboards, harpsichord and backing vocals), Hank Shermann (guitar), Michael Denner (guitar), Timi G. Hansen (bass) and Kim Ruzz (drums).

Side one begins with “A Dangerous Meeting”. The opening guitar riff reminds me a bit of Heart’s “Barracuda”, very fast and high energy. It then settles into a solid rocking rhythm.

“Nightmare” shows the influence from Mot├Ârhead in its tempo. The guitars and drums are relentless for a full six plus minutes. I like the progressive rock bridge a bit more than halfway though.

“Desecration of Souls” continues the themes of the occult and satanic rituals, a common element in early heavy metal.

Diamond’s falsetto vocals soar like a spectral banshee over an undulating grind on “Night of the Unborn”.

Side two opens with “The Oath”, the album’s longest track at over seven and a half minutes in length. It sets up a dark, macabre mood with a coming storm and a tolling bell. Very nice.

Next up is “Gypsy”, the story of a man so desperate to hear more of what a fortuneteller has told him of his future. The urgency of the music works well.

“Welcome Princess of Hell” follows.

The shortest track of the record is “To One Far Away”, at just over a minute and a half in length. The simple acoustic guitar and the wistful, vocal harmonies make for an introspective respite.

The album closes with “Come to the Sabbath”, a multi-layer conclusion to this struggle of darkness and light.

To my recollection, this was my first exposure to Mercyful Fate. Despite not being a huge metal fan, I did like listening to Don’t Break the Oath. It is one I would certainly consider revisiting again at some point.

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