Mercyful Fate - Melissa - the following is taken from the liner notes of the Melissa reissue. Melissa was the first Mercyful Fate (King Diamond) release for Roadrunner Records. At the time, the line up was as follows: King Diamond - vocals Hank Shermann - lead guitar Michael Denner - lead guitar Timi Grabber - bass Kim Ruzz - drums enjoy this for now...more on the story to come later... With a successful mini-LP and BBC radio session behind them, the Danish black metal band Mercyful Fate ("black metal" being used at that time to describe bands with a heavy sound and blatant Satanic leanings in their lyrics and image) signed a record deal with the Holland-based Roadrunner Records in 1983.
The first fruit of that venture was the band's initial full-length album, MELISSA, which was also the first Mercyful Fate effort to get an official release in the United States (the mini-LP on Rave On Records was a highly sought after import, and the BBC session were only available on bootleg tapes). MELISSA got its first North American release on Megaforce Records, the tiny but highly influential U.S. indie that also issued the Stateside debut from Raven, the second release from Manowar, plus first albums from Metallica and Anthrax. Recorded at Easy Sound in Copenhagen with producer Henrik Lund, MELISSA was a better-produced effort than the mini-LP, but still captured the intense heaviness and rollercoaster arrangements that made Mercyful Fate a standout metal band of the early Eighties. Tracks like "Evil", "Curse of The Pharaohs", and the ten-minute-plus epic, "Satan's Fall", became live classics. King Diamond's lyrics, brimming with visions of demonic possession, Satanic sacrifice, undead resurrection, and ancient rituals, combined with his sinister onstage image and over-the-top vocal style to create an undeniably unique and controversial presence in the metal genre. "I remember the studio where we recorded MELISSA very well", says King. "I remember one thing that sticks out about the way Henrik Lund mixed that album. We were not allowed in the room while he was mixing. It was like waiting at the dentist and being next in line. He'd come out and say, 'yeah, you can come in now,' and we'd all walk in and hear the first mix of whatever he'd done, and we'd say, 'no, more guitar,' or 'I can't hear the vocals there,' or any other comments we had. Then he'd say, 'okay, I'll try to correct that, please leave now.' So then we'd go back out, sit outside the door, wait for him to do another mix, then come in again with more comments. It was very irritating!"
Some of the material on MELISSA had been heard previous to the album's release. "Black Funeral", in different form, appeared on the METALLIC STORM compilation (one of Fate's earliest appearances on vinyl), while "Evil", "Curse Of The Pharaohs", and "Satan's Fall" were all captured by BBC Radio One for the "Friday Rock Show" (the BBC session can be heard on THE BEGINNING). Some of the songs had their roots in even earlier demo recordings done during the fledgling days when King's first band with lead guitarist Hank Shermann, the Brats, was mutating into Fate. "'Curse Of The Pharaohs' was originally called 'Night Riders' on some old demo, but I changed the lyrics to it," recollects King. "Hank wrote the music, but the words were written by the bass player for the Brats. Once I joined the Brats, we wrote new material that got heavier and heavier, but there were still some songs around that I was singing the old lyrics on. That's where 'Curse Of The Pharaohs' came from".
"We really didn't have demos of a lot of stuff back then," add King. "We did for some songs, but others were never recorded on any tape. We just remembered them. And we rehearsed a lot back then - we would be at the rehearsal room three or four time a week." King recalls a bit of trivia from that period of Fate's career. "At that time, the label wanted us to do a cover song, so we tried to do 'Immigrant Song' by Led Zeppelin. But I never managed to even try out the vocals, because we didn't feel like we could make it swing. There might even be some of that on a tape somewhere." Despite the amount of new, rare material being heard on these reissues for the first time, King says there are yet more recordings around that will never see the light of day. "In the early days of Fate, Hank and I went to help Michael Denner record a demo with this little three-piece he had - it was Michael, Timi Hansen on bass, and some drummer named Nick. Some of those songs have been released on RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE, but there's some real funny stuff that we did which I guarantee you will never hear. Some of them actually might be out on a bootleg. I was singing Michael Denner's lyrics, and there was one song called "Truck Driver" that was so far from the kind of thing I was doing. But it was during the recording of that demo that we decided to actually turn that group into Mercyful Fate. Needless to say, we didn't keep any of Michael's songs!"
With the release of MELISSA, the musical evolution of King Diamond from his first band, Black Rose, to the Brats, to Mercyful Fate, was complete. He had found the sound, band configuration, image, and production style (Henrik Lund's mixing habits not withstanding) that suited his artistic vision. Mercyful Fate toured Europe and the buzz on the band grew overseas as well. The stage was set for the next-and ironically, final-Fate album, DON'T BREAK THE OATH. -Don Kaye.