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Rhymes with 'fine', but not 'great' - 73%

autothrall, October 27th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1999, CD, Metal Blade Records

Dead Again did not leave me with any huge expectations for its potential successors. It wasn't a terrible record, but the next rung down on a ladder of compulsion that started off high through the magnificent comeback In the Shadows, and then slowly scaled downwards with each subsequent effort over the 90s. But when the buzz about and artwork to 9 seemed to point to a revival of their sound on the legendary Don't Break the Oath, I admit to a degree of giddiness, since that remains my absolute favorite of the Fate canon in both songwriting and the mood that its sharp, gleaming studio production evokes in me every time I hear it.

Sadly, this was just nowhere near as good as the Danes were in their prime, opening with a dryer, if stylistically loyal track, before admittedly starting to hit closer to the mark further into its playtime. I had a much stronger reaction to it when it was initially released, but have felt any fire for it cooling off in the intervening years, despite it looking pretty snazzy. Roughly 4/5ths of the lineup had the collective ability to knock this one out of the furnace, with the exception of drummer Bjarne T. Holm, and even he had been around for the two records before this (which is not exactly cause for praise, I know). Ultimately, though, this is about an EP's worth of reasonably strong material diluted by an equal amount of tunes that don't work nearly as well, and approximately nothing anywhere that can even approach 1994's Time in terms of raw catchiness and construction.

The production is not exceptional, but it's solid...a bulked up Don't Break the Oath with a deeper end, which sounds good on paper but can't overcome the redundant feel to a number of the songs. The band shifts between faster paced heavy/power metal numbers like the opener "Last Rites", and the huge Wead and Shermann just about perfected on In the Shadows, as in "The Grave". These latter are coincidentally my favorite moments on the record, anchored by D'Angelo's lines and really driving home the dynamics as they erupt into faster paced segments, leads and King's falsetto shrieks. Drums are workmanlike, and the rhythm guitar tones are perfectly adequate and clear with enough chug to the lower end mutes that they feel fulfilling. Diamond's voice is a xerox of his finer years, capable of effortlessly harmonizing and capitalizing on that disparity between the soothing mids, the screams and the narrative, lower range...the only issue is that most of the individual lines here just don't feel as memorable as they were on the first five solo discs or the first three Mercyful Fate full-lengths.

Far be it from me to claim that the formula was 'tired', here, it's more likely that these particular assemblies of beats and notes didn't glue themselves to my ears like their predecessors. There is no sign throughout 9 that they've lost any of their competence or drive, though it would be difficult to claim anything here was really that ambitious either, especially not the lyrics to songs like "Sold My Soul" and "9" itself, which seem like no effort was spent. It might seem like I'm coming down hard on an album that I essentially find 'good' when I sum up all its parts. There's not seriously wrong anywhere. This is a step above Dead Again in most departments, and has some quality leads and a couple tunes I crave from time to time, but it's not even qualified for consideration when I want the 'full experience' and have records like Don't Break the Oath, Melissa, Fatal Portrait and The Eye lying about my flat.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

This is an album for the ages - 85%

erebuszine, April 26th, 2013

I am somewhat late in finally coming to terms with Mercyful Fate, having only started my exploration of their albums in the last year or so. But Fate is one of those 'classic' metal bands, producing a few works that are suitably regarded as masterpieces within the heavy metal genre, and they are a band that escapes the limitations of time as their melodic gifts easily transcend the trappings of 'scenes' or 'styles'. What first made me go back and look into Fate's first two albums was the constant claiming of their influence by modern bands - Emperor in particular. 'Why not go check them out?' I thought. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. My first taste was 'Don't Break The Oath' and I still think that is their best album - others will argue or belabor the point, but it doesn't really matter. That album is essential listening for fans of Metallica's earlier work - if you want to know where Kirk Hammett got all his ideas.

Mercyful Fate has a style all of their own, and that style has followed them to the present day, sticking to the band and their albums outside of King Diamond's solo work. There is an immediately noticeable difference between 'Melissa', for example, and 'Abigail', and it resides mainly in Fate's esoteric melodicism as well as their concentration on progressive song structures. This album doesn't break with that pattern.

So what we have here is an update, once again, of a classic metal band striving to come to terms with what they have in part created or influenced. You may have read elsewhere that this album owes a large debt to Metallica, in that Fate realized they had to 'modernize' their sound to appeal to the audience of today, but I don't really think that's true. First of all, this album is far better than anything Metallica have released in the last five years - easily. Secondly, this is a band that never really needed to update their sound, as they have been ahead of the pack all the way. There are melodic elements on their albums from the mid-'80s that I don't think many bands could touch even now. Yes, guitarist Hank Shermann is that good. So what has Fate done with this, their last album of the twentieth century? Mainly, I think, they have escaped the specter of their earlier work, and moved out from under the cloud that 'Melissa' and 'Don't Break The Oath' spread over them - the cloud of 'unrealizable ambition', that is to say: the thought that they could never equal those classic albums. They have left that behind, and climbed to new heights.

This album is such a breath of fresh air. I haven't heard music this melodically gifted in at least six or seven years - if not longer. Mercyful Fate bring to the table a long history of wrenching riffs into catchy and evocative patterns, and they steer through these songs with unerring precision, putting the right notes in the right place, the right accents over the right thrusts of rhythmic intensity. What first stands out is of course the catchy pop sensibility of the melodies, the sing-along nature of the choruses and the supposedly easy-to-follow riff patterns, but dig a little deeper and you will discover that the dark heart of Mercyful Fate still beats under the illusory accessibility. There are things going on in these songs that defy easy categorization - listen to the interplay of the guitars, the completely bizarre nature of the blistering leads, the occult vocal patterns - especially in the sixth song 'The Grave', the feelings that the music gives rise to outside of the obvious lyrics, the constantly-changing main melodies... there's a lot here to discover. Also worth paying close attention to are the incredibly tight, intricate, and crushing rhythms that are strummed into your head with the light touch of a maestro's hand. A hand that is, of course, wrapped in an iron gauntlet. This is an album for the ages, and I hail Mercyful Fate for once again creating music that effortlessly sails past all the restraints or limitations of the genre.

UA

Erebus Magazine
http://erebuszine.blogspot.com

Masterpiece!! - 94%

enigmatech, December 27th, 2012

This album was released during the era in which King Diamond was performing simultaneously under both his own band, and Mercyful Fate. Most people overlook the album, under the impression that this was a period which was mostly a disappointment as far as quality was concerned for both bands, and while that is true to a certain extent, with Mercyful Fate releasing the underwhelming "Dead Again" and King Diamond the hit-or-miss "The Graveyard" during this period, in my opinion, "9" was a masterpiece, and would certainly serve as a fine swansong to the band's discography, were it to end up being their final album (but who knows, eh?).

One important change for this album, is that Mercyful Fate has returned to their classic, Satanic lyrical themes in full-form. Those were abandoned when the band re-formed, but with "Dead Again" they had already flirted around the subject with a handful of songs, such as "The Lady Who Cries" and "Crossroads". With "9", we see Mercyful Fate take the concept a step further, bringing back imagery of Satanic rituals, deals with the Devil, and much, much more into each and every track (except for "Buried Alive"). The lyrics aren't quite as graphic or blasphemous as one would find in classic tracks such as "Black Funeral" or the infamous "The Oath", but as I always say, Satan is Satan! And even then, some of the songs reflect the band's old spirit with surprising conviction, comparable to their most blasphemous works, such as on "The Grave", or the more cryptic occultism found in "9", the title track.

The music itself is absolutely brilliant, as well. The more progressive sound developed with "Dead Again" is lessened (but not entirely abandoned), with the band focusing instead on a more streamlined, basic approach to black metal (or heavy metal, whichever you like). The riffs on this album retain the classic, old school Mercyful Fate vibe with an additional touch: this album is fucking brutal. In addition to the more retro-vibe reflected by most of the album, this album brings out a new side to the band as well...fuckin' thrash!!! This album brings out a faster, ballsier approach in many of it's tracks which gathers elements of death metal and thrash metal to create something heavier and faster than anything else this band had previously worked on. When you've got a thrasher like "Insane", which relentlessly pounds and pounds at an intensity beyond what I had previously believed Mercyful Fate capable of, you know that these guys knew what the fuck they were doing here. "House on the Hill" is another example of a thrash metal-oriented number, but elements of the style pretty much permeate through the whole album. On top of that, the progressive sound is still given a bit of focus, with strange tempo-changes and time signatures existing beneath it all. The most notable example of the "progressive" sound, is the title track, "9" (which is actually track 10 on the CD). This song was penned by Mike Wead (rather than Hank Shermann or King Diamond), and it shows. It doesn't sound much like what we've come to expect from the band, but the progressive sound displayed here works very well, so that's all that really matters.

The album cover is also breath-taking. After a string of rather bland (but not bad) album covers, Mercyful Fate returns with a cover that grabs the listeners attention. In my opinion, after the classics covers of "Don't Break the Oath" and "Melissa", this album cover ranks as one of the best they ever had.

All in all, this is an amazing album. There is not a dull moment on the entire album. Sadly, there were a few awkward transitions on the album, like the moment when the bridge transitions back into the verse on "The Church of Saint Anne", but that said, they don't tear the songs down too much. Definitely do not look over this album if you are a fan of Mercyful Fate or King Diamond. This is a true overlooked gem in the band's discography.

Wrongfully considered something other than classic - 90%

jazzisbetterthanmetal, July 27th, 2011

9 is a perfect example of how to modernize and find new footing without resorting to marketable trends, i.e. "selling out". I'd rank it next to Dehumanizer in terms of forgotten gems that got overlooked for either changing too much or not changing enough, but at least that album gets some credit, especially in the wake of all the crocodile tears over the passing of Dio. Where's all the 9 love?

Balance was always key. Mercyful Fate were a legitimately creepy band and most parents wouldn't be too thrilled about their kid buying one of their albums, but there was also always a comic book camp factor; less pronounced than in King Diamond's solo career, but it was there. They occupied a somehow very narrow space between totally harmless and entirely harmful, and 9 maintains that balance with just the right amount of theatrical Satanic pomp and pathos. On one hand, look at the titles: "Burn in Hell", "Kiss the Demon", etc. They're still a silly band. On the other hand, when King croaks lines like "there you stood with your soul in your hand / thinking that God would understand" with heartfelt conviction, even profundity, it becomes apparent that they still aren't entirely self-aware and ready to sing about tea time, which counts a lot in separating something from ironic novelty.

Fate's complexity was always their main draw for me, and while there's nothing like "Satan's Fall" here, there's nothing that betrays their organic, thoughtful songwriting style either. (Excessive 10 minute prog gestures aren't needed for a song to be well written, people.) They always reminded me of Black Sabbath in that they found ways around the restrictions of verse/chorus dogma, even when they adhered to it; prechoruses are occasionally given more melodic emphasis than the parts they precede, bridges follow no strict logic in placement, etc. It creates a free, "sectional" feel even when music decidedly has a formula, and it's an ideal framework for King Diamond's dissociative crooning.

King manages to inject more humanity than usual in his performance here without compromising his signature over-the-top schizo appeal. Those famous ghostly falsettos are generally (not always!) relegated to backing accents, but the new emphasis on the "normal" vocals has given him more opportunity to explore his middle and lower range. He puts to great emotional use a sort of snarling shriek that almost approaches modern black metal, with it simultaneously being an obvious, natural extension of traditional, albeit morbid heavy metal singing. Even with a few defects like suspect production choices and one or two underwritten songs, what you'll remember about this album is that it has a ton of THOSE moments that just put a chill down you spine the way the lyrics are enunciated. Where is your savior of all? He's EXECUTING YOUR SOUULL, EE-YEEURHAAH!!

Yeah, this feels more modern than Melissa and Don't Break the Oath, but those albums were informed by their environment too, and were also modern at some point; nothing is created in a vacuum. There's more of a bitter thrash metal flavor here, a bit of pounding double bass here and there, etc.--but at heart it's just intelligently written classic metal. With 9, the band was certainly trying to show an awareness for the state of modern metal without letting it dictate their sound, and I feel it's a success. Basically, Mercyful Fate never stopped being awesome. You're missing out if you lump this with the band's "later stuff" and only pay attention to the first couple albums.

Mercyful Fate - 9 - 65%

Insert_Pie, October 9th, 2008

I associate Mercyful Fate with fast tempos, high energy and powerful vocals, none of which are prominent in this release. The song structures are almost pop-like and stale compared to the progressive nature of early Fate. To any metal head, this album will be a good listen, but to the avid Fate listener, this will be tough to warm to.

To be honest, “9” was the first Mercyful Fate album I purchased. I’d heard a few of their songs and liked them so I thought it was time I get one of their albums. 9 seemed like a good choice because I’d heard the song “Buried Alive” and thought it was pretty cool. When I received the album in the mail I was keen to listen it right away. My initial impression of the album was that it was allright, but nothing too special. It wasn’t until I had heard a few other Fate albums that I grew even more disappointed with this album.

The overall tempo of 9 is a steady rock pace. The problem with this is that it makes the majority of the album feel boring and sluggish. The tempo never seems to lift which makes the songs drone on. You keep expecting a galloping guitar riff or drum pattern to come along and liven things up, but the same bland music continues and doesn’t really seem to go anywhere.

My biggest problem with this release is that it lacks the energy of other Fate releases. King’s piercing falsetto vocals are toned down a lot and are devoid of his usual passion and ferocity. With the exception of most of the solos, which I think are quite good, the guitars are equally as uninteresting. The riffs are plain and uninventive and the guitar playing lacks energy, feeling mostly robotic and cold. I wouldn’t have a problem with the simplified song structures if they just had some enthusiasm to them. It feels like they’ve gone into the studio to record, but they don’t really want to be there.

I would like to point out that “Buried Alive” and even “Church Of Saint Anne” (to a lesser extent) are quite good tracks. Although, even while listening to them you could still mistake them for another band other that Fate. The rest of the songs are lacklustre and bland to say the least.

All in all this isn’t a bad album. However, it is a bad Mercyful Fate album. It just doesn’t have the strength of other releases. It feels soul-less and uninspired.

Ho hum. - 60%

Torwilligous, June 20th, 2006

Mediocrity is not something normally associated with the mighty Mercyful Fate; one of the most musically insightful, compositionally lethal and instrumentally talented bands ever to have stood within the halls of Metal. The word I would use to describe this "9", however, would be just that: mediocre, and a great disappointment.

All too often we find metal bands who simply seem to think that having a heavy production, some thumping riffs and a good vocalist are enough to make them a great draw. Whilst many would agree with this analysis, I am not one of them. For a band to be great, and to release an album that can stand up above those of its peers, it must have a certain something. A particularly explosive talent; a knack for writing unique riffage; the structuring of songs in effective and powerful ways; or just a unique and interesting sound. Mercyful Fate had all of these things - and more - on their classic 80's releases "Melissa" and "Don't Break the Oath", music on which the characters of the contributing musicians was stamped indelibly; albums whose fantastical compositions were surpassed only by the blazing and passionate performances of their architects.

So we come to "9", and all of this is gone; replacing it is cookie-cutter thrash/power metal with an underdone 'evil' twist. Where once King Diamond shrieked, laughed and powered his way through piercing and ethereal vocal lines, now he is simply content to simply replicate the most dull and formulaic elements of his previous work, and all with a bare minimum of passion. The guitars rely on playing endless thrash riffs that offer nothing of the unpredictable zeal of yesteryear. The drumming is flat and basic, the bass plodding and weak, the songs often predictable in their cyclical movement.

All this being said, moments of excellence still shine through. Opener "Last Rites" has a rather tasty central section, despite the throwaway nature of the rest of the track. "Sold My Soul" has a strong sense of build and movement, but is ruined by the most boring riffage of the whole record and daft lyrics. "Burn in Hell" is stylistically the closest to Mercyful Fate as one would expect, but still lacks something of the old band's magic, despite being a decent track nonetheless. Ironically, the best track on here is "9", a song penned by Mike Wead - a guitarist with nothing to do with the original Mercyful Fate. However, the track itself is dank, evil and slithering with malice, and as such at least achieves its aim of being somewhat remarkable.

The remaining tracks really offer barely anything of particular interest; the album as a whole is well-done certainly, but is content simply to sit saftely in its little thrash/power pocket. I expect more from Mercyful Fate.

Mercyful Fate - 9 - 95%

KissTheDemon, July 15th, 2004

Mercyful Fate have always been my favorite metal band, and when they broke up way back in the 80's, I was devastated. Thankfully, King Diamond satisfied (and then some...) my metal cravings until MF re-united in 1993. They have released several full-length albums since then, but this is the masterpiece. Their best since 'Don't Break the Oath'. Various genres of metal are covered on here. You have your thrash ('Insane', 'House on the Hill'), you have have your black ('Sold My Soul', 'Burn in Hell'), you have your doom ('The Graveyard', 'Buried Alive') and the plain odd ('9'). But it's all done in the classic Mercyful Fate style, and it simply rocks!

'Last Rites' kicks of the album at a fast past, and shows that Mercyful Fate don't play games. It is a multi-tempo pieces, that ranges from dooming slow to thrashing fast. 'The Church of St. Anne' is one of my favorite pieces on the album, and is also an epic multi-tempo piece that is extremley catchy, with blistering guitars and shredding solos in abundance. 'Sold My Soul' is a dark little piece that is very catchy and packs a heavy punch. 'House on the Hill' is probably the best song on the album, musically and lyrically. The guitars are riffing insanley fast, and Kings excellent vocals combined with the eerie lyrics create a great atmospehre for this tune. 'Burn In Hell' is a fast-paced metaller with the usual Fate lyrics, and some of Diamonds best vocal performances on the enitre album. 'The Grave' is a doom-tinged piece that is slow and sluding, and has a very creepy mood to it. Once again, King steals the show on this track. But it's the guitars that shine on 'Insane', which has a very cryptic main riff and sounds so freaking cool. Also an insnaley cool ending. Great vox as well. 'Kiss the Demon' starts off as a slow piece that has a disturbing feeling floating through, then exlplodes into riggage. '9' is a short but sweet track, with a weird vocal preformance from the King.

I would consider this Mercyful Fate's best album, right behind 'Oath', and right before 'Melissa'. Call me crazy, but it simply is that devilishly good! King Diamond is in top preformance, there are excellent, wild solos going through, the lyrics are the usually creepy stories, everything is in top form. And it has a great cover to boot.

I strongly reccomend this album, it's in my top 10 favorite metal albums for sure! \m/

Fate's weakest - 85%

Dethrone_Tyranny, October 12th, 2003

Well, this record is in the same vein as 'Dead Again' was, though going in a more experimental direction. An no, this is not good experimentation like what was done on 'Time', this is mixing modern, computerized sounds with metal. Not good. Fortunatly though, this is only in a few tracks. The opener, 'Last Rites' is all out metal, certainly a vicious song and one of the album's best. 'Church of St. Anne' is like 70s Sabbath with more melodic vocals, a very cool song indeed. I think that Fate should do more like that, very doomy (in a good way, not that shitty death metal doom) yet with the guitar licks and vocal harmonies keeping it in the traditional metal vein. Ok, here we have the first experimental track, 'Sold My Soul'. This is actually a pretty cool song, though with modern metalcore elements. I guess it's mainly due to the exceptionaly well done chorus. 'House On The Hill' sounds like it was taken off the 'Dead Again' album, it's raw in that sort of way and only slightly catchy, so it's nothing more than a decent metal song. 'Burn In Hell'!!!....what a song! One of the band's best, extreamly catchy and very memorable, if only the rest of the album could have been like this. ::grrrr:: Ahh, and now for a bad song...'The Grave'. Probably the most experimental track on the album, it just sucks. King's voice is actually good on this song, but the music sucks. It's boring and dull, with a metalcore-ish guitar distortion to it, very weak. Well, I think this is the first time the band has ever done this....used a drum machine. Yep, that's what is used on the song 'Insane'. This is not a memorable track by any means, it's the shortest on the album and is nothing but thrash riffing and double blast beats done by a drum machine, so it's not anything special. I suggest they don't do that anymore. 'Kiss The Demon' is another one of the more experimental songs here aside from 'The Grave', except I actually LOVE this song. I mean, it's got an amazing rythm to it and the chorus just grabs you by the throat. It sounds nothing like old Fate (except for King's voice) but this is one of my all time favorite MF songs. Ok, now for the main highlight, 'Buried Alive'! WHOA, this song just kicks ASS! This is in the traditional Mercyful Fate style, nothing experimental about this song. It just plain out rocks, unlike the last song after it which plain out sucks. Yup, it sucks. There is nothing good about this song, it's an awful way to end an album considering that it's just boring, forgetable riffs that go nowhere. Some fans suggested that they should have made it into an epic and took us on a trip through the 9 gates of Hell, but thank God..errr Satan...that they didn't, 4 minutes is long enough with a song like this.

Damn, I hope Mercyful Fate gets better on the next release. They should leave the sound effects, over done distortion and drum machines out and continue doing traditional metal. Still, this is an album worth checking out anyway.

Best songs: Church Of St. Anne, Burn In Hell, Kiss The Demon, Buried Alive