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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.