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Mercyful Fate > Black Funeral / Black Masses > Reviews
Mercyful Fate - Black Funeral / Black Masses

Fearless of the dark, fearless of the light - 92%

Gutterscream, January 5th, 2007
Written based on this version: 1983, 12" vinyl, Music for Nations

“…all hail Satan, yes hail Satan….”

With the Great Dane’s kisser in spectacular view, the sleeve of this scarce two tracker is more than just a shock value paradise that was capable of bringing record rack flippage to a rubber-rippling halt. Within its Kodak moment, there’s a prophecy born, one that would not be hidden by cowls or cloaks, nor bother reckoning the possibility (i.e. certainty) of public repercussion. There are no apologies for its grandeur, no feigning its death of innocence. No, this sleeve screams from across the room that it will not remain banished to the far corner of the record shop behind wholesome John Denver albums & the Gandhi soundtrack. This cover does not cower to the imminent reaction of the commonwealth, so why should its songs, its image or its frontman, whose forehead alone encapsulates his ideology that symbolized lock, stock & barrel the taboo painted across it?

Didn’t think the sleeve of some stupid 12” single could mean so much, eh? Yeah, overblown, but….

All embellishments aside, here a still very unknown Mercyful Fate conjure up a breather for the few fans who were panting for a full-lengther to fly bat-like out of the night. Not much smaller than the band’s debut, these two canticles - both black in name & purpose - lit up metal's underground with a fresh glow of impending greatness, a luxury this act always seemed immersed in. Or were they?

While an identical twin of the song appears on Melissa, demo-less “Black Funeral” had its first hunger-stricken gasps on side & song one of the Ebony Records' Metallic Storm compilation, a 1982 sampler pretty malnourished due to a mostly blunt-toothed décor that included light British rowdies like Scimitar, keyboard-ensconced Confessor & Detroit (yes, British, and with a song called “USA Lights”). Fly by a year & the guys transformed this atmosphere-lacking, leafless tree of a song into a harrowing dirge that now hovers in backlit mystique. King, lyricist to the unholy, fattens up the same shrill, elongated notes that appeared on the original, giving them condor wings to relay the song’s chorus-deficient, cheerleader-in-black message (I dunno, I've always felt the line "...all hail Satan, yes hail Satan...lay down your swords..." shoulda read "...all hail Satan, yes hail Satan...lay down your cross...", but hey).

“Black Masses”, a track eventually freed of this 12” crypt with ’87’s The Beginning collection, has, in fact, a bulwark of a chorus, the kind you can identify from outer space, and forms the centerpiece for a hydra’s head of rhythms that take turns attacking. Denner & Shermann, still fresh fingers to the guitar audience, turn loose elastic, yet heat-treated solos that more & more fans would come to enjoy (and guitarists come to envy) in a short expanse of time.

The evidence these tunes represented showed the five-piece were revving at Melissa level, ready to drop gears like a dragster for the journey out of Hell & into metal’s rumbling underbelly. However, as we've all come to know, the devil speaks in twisted half-truths & outright lies, gleefully sowing discord wherever it lands. A little more than a year is all it took to splinter these five guys into two camps, and neither campfire could hold a torch to Mercyful Fate's oneness of self. So, um, what about that prophecy? Oh, it’s still intact, only you assumed it included the entire band.

Bought this beauty brand new in '84-'85 for $3.98 & almost didn’t because of its playlist's short wind & my thriftiness of pocket.