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Mercyful Fate is pretty amazing (if you didn't already know) and this demo is a great example of their potential and abilities as musicians in their early days. Containing a few soon to be classics such as "Curse of the Pharaohs", "A Corpse Without Soul" and "A Night of Full Moon" (later titled "Desecration of Souls"). Then there are two underrated classics that don't quite get the respect they deserve, of course i m speaking of the title track "Burning the Cross" and a later title track to a compilation, "Return of the Vampire". Together the band makes an incredible demo full of The King's powerful vocals complemented by masterful riffing and great drumming sure to make anyone want to burn a cross or two.
The guitars on this record an shockingly crisp and clear for a self released demo in 1981. Hank Shermann and Benny Petersen provide the guitar work on this demo and work well together in the absence of the legendary Michael Denner."Burning the Cross" is probably one of Mercyful fates greatest songs and it is a shame that it was never put on an album. This track is a near nine minute thrill ride that gives you the works of the bands musical capabilities. It's chock full of fantastic riffs that are clearly Judas Priest influenced and melodies in the vein of Deep Purple, but much much darker. "Curse of the Pharaohs" is a great laid back riffing machine that's in for the kill. It is rather different from the Melissa version by taking out the sliding intro, changing a few leads and repeating the intro half way through. This tracks is known for its opening riff that is still catchy as fuck after all these years. "Return of the Vampire" is another killer track that is very linear and dynamic for a 5 minute song. The intro riff itself is enough to bring the house down, but somehow it just keeps getting better as the song progresses. The solos on this demo are equally as amazing. "Burning the Cross" has about three amazing solos full of energy and really shown the short lived Benny Petersen's talent. The intro solo to "A Corpse Without Soul" is also fantastic and starts the song on a great note. The guitar work is amazing here, comparable to Judas Priest at times, but still very original and heavy.
The King's 25 year old voice is very clear on this recording as well. Presenting his falsetto shrieks and mystical mid range on this demo in a great and theatrical fashion. "Burning the Cross" has a great mid range chorus that is incredible catchy. In contrast "On a Night of Full Moon" and "A Corpse Without Soul" are more high falsetto tracks. The King puts a lot of power and energy into his voice which is that makes this demo very enjoyable. I mean listen to that scream at the end of "A Corpse Without Soul". As far as lyrics come The King was also a great lyricist even from the start. Talking of werewolves, vampires and who would have guessed, burning crosses! "Return of the Vampire" probably has the best lyrical content on this album, telling a great tale of how to kill a vampire with some great vocal lines and melodies. The young King was full of energy and lyrical mastery and his potential is shown well in this short demo.
Timi Hansen on bass is pretty clear and pumped on bass for this demo. Doing some nice independent lines on "Return of the Vampire" with a simple whole note break that has a surprising great effect. "A Corpse Without Soul" also has a great bass part towards the middle interlude that really emphasizes the lead. Hansen's tone is clear as usual and bottom line, his bass work is really solid and keeps the rhythm well.
Kim Ruzz has always been Mercyful Fates best drummer and this is no exception. Ruzz's drumming is very much like Les Binks of Judas Priest as shown on "Curse of the Pharaohs" and ""Burning the Cross". "Return of the Vampire" has some fantastic rolls and fills done with some lovely high toms that sound fantastic. "On a Night of Full Moon" also has some groovy beats and fill sure to keep ones attention till the end. Ruzz is a great drummer and definitely shows his drumming skills in a well mannered way on this album with high electrifying tone and beats.
In the end this demo is very enjoyable and makes for a great prologue to the Mercyful Fate discography. You can find this demo on the Return of The Vampire compilation but i would recommend finding an original somewhere because of the original mixing. Any Mercyful Fate fan should hear this record mainly for its interesting riffs and solos, but also for The King's theatrical vocals and Ruzz's great drumming.