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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.