The Importance of Being Metal: Mercyful Fate-Melissa

Mercyful Fate-Melissa
1983; Roadrunner Records

1. Is It Any Good?

I'd like to paint a picture for you. Imagine that you are going to see an opera. You've bought your tickets and have gotten yourself either a balcony seat or a front seat or whatever is generally considered to be a good seat when you're watching an opera. The lights dim, the curtains open and the show starts. The set is a thing of majesty, an ornate background that must have taken the stage hands many weeks to build. The music of the orchestra swells and you feel your heart race in anticipation-this is one of the best arrangements you've ever heard. The cast walks out onto the stage, dressed in some of the most elaborate, striking costumes you've ever seen in a production. The actor who plays the protagonist steps forward, raises his hand, opens his mouth, then unbuckles his pants and takes a shit on the stage. He doesn't look apologetic, either: he MEANT to drop a deuce in the middle of the show- it's an integral part of the performance, as a matter of fact. And you think to yourself, "Well, I'm sort of enjoying the story, these are good actors, the singing is well done..."

But none of that makes a difference. You hate this, and you know exactly why you hate it. You saw the shit leave his body, you heard it plop onto the stage, but that's not even the worst part. The worst part is that you can still smell it. So you think to yourself, "Fuck this, I don't care if this is amazingly produced, I don't care if it's supposed to smell like this, that doesn't make it suck any less that I have to sit in a room with a shit on the floor."

If you haven't been able to guess by now, the stage is Melissa and the actors are the members of Mercyful Fate. And the shit?

The shit is King Diamond's Fucking Voice. Skip ahead to about 1:20. By about 1:35 you'd be about ready to drown your own mother just to make it stop.

And guess what? The whole album is like that. The whole fucking thing. The very first song, "Evil", is probably the most heartbreaking, because it has a great hook and some wonderful instrumentation all around, but King Diamond's voice could make you run into a blast furnace, as long as that blast furnace was somewhere where you couldn't hear King Diamond.

Have I made this clear? Am I being too subtle? Are some of you still on the fence about this whole thing?


So, with all due respect to the guitarist, the rhythm guitarist, the drummer and the bassist, no, Melissa is not any fucking good at all. To reuse the earlier analogy, it doesn't matter if you've put on the greatest production of all time-it there's a big shit smell wafting through the audience, everyone's gonna get the fuck out of there.

2. Is It "Influential"?

Well, this album is regarded by many to be the first black metal album. So that's an entire subgenre of music that wouldn't exist without one crappy album being released. I'd call that pretty damn influential. This was also one of the very first albums to have rampantly satanic themes, along with the music of Venom. Whenever an '80s politician wanted to decry metal as being harmful to children? That's on Mercyful Fate. Any time somebody makes a voice or a gesture making fun of metal as a whole? It's Mercyful Fate they're really thinking of. Every stupid, harmful cliche that has seemed to dog heavy metal since the dawn of time? Well, it's really only been since Melissa came out.

So, yeah. Influential. Like the Bubonic Plague. Or maybe Ayn Rand.

3. Is It A Good Entry Point For Beginners?

This is a true story. I have a friend who, a long time ago, was trying to get into black metal. She's really big on the genre now, but wasn't for the longest time. You know why? Because the very first black metal album she'd heard was Melissa. She thought it was one of the worst peices of crap she'd ever heard and it scared her away from the whole genre for a good couple of years. After all, she thought, if this was what great black metal sounds like, how mind-blowingly bad could the stuff that's worse than this be?

So, no, Melissa is not a good entry point for beginners. It's not a good anything for anything, really, but this is the absolute last album you want to show to anyone trying to get into heavy metal. If my friend is any indication, you might scare them off for good.


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