In The Shadows
Review by Felix on May 9, 2019.
Some soft guitar tones introduce the album, but it does not take much time until the King's falsetto sets in. Mercyful Fate open their comeback with their most characteristic feature. Back in 1993, it felt good to have them back even though one thing was clear right from the beginning: their early works would remain hardly beatable monuments. The powerful yet mystic aura of Melissa and Don't Break the Oath was and still is inextricably linked with the enigmatic spirit of the very early years of more or less extreme metal and roughly ten years later there was no chance to reproduce such an atmosphere. Given this situation, Mercyful Fate can be ranked among those formations whose first works are both a curse and a blessing. However, the band that catapulted Denmark on the European metal map did not think too much about this and begun to record a new album.
In the Shadows refers to the legendary outputs from the eighties without becoming an embarrassing self-quotation. "Is That You, Melissa?" speaks volumes and "Egypt" is not too far away from the "Curse of the Pharaohs", but it is a matter of course that the trailblazers of occult metal have no reason to disown their past. Hence follows that the lyrics are still full of spooky creatures like a headless rider, a hangman, a bell witch and a handful of Egyptian Gods. The latter appear in the strong opener with its memorable chorus. It's the first of many well-designed tracks that integrates successfully catchy sequences in a complex structure. Sometimes I wish that they would have rejected some of the pretty soft parts, but it goes without saying that these sequences have always been an important element of Fate's compositions. It is therefore just my personal remark that I would have even more enjoyed a full-length with a higher degree of harshness. I also miss the very demonic touch of the highlights of Don't Break the Oath, but this is not to say that the compositions are mediocre or even bad.
"The Headless Rider" with a length of nearly eight minutes bundles the strengths of the album and of Fate's art in general, too. The band has put so many ideas into this song - other formations offer less riffs on an entire full-length. Thousands of twists and turns do not hurt the coherence of the composition, the different degrees of heaviness and the different pitches of the King give rise to the impression that one listens to five songs in one. Nevertheless, at the end everything fits together. The following "Is That You, Melissa?" with its chamber music-wise beginning marks the final highlight. Its dominating chorus with the "ohohohohoho" vocal line sends the ultimate showers down my spine. In contrast to the majority of the material, the homage to the debut flows smoothly and can be understood as the pop song of the Danish unit. No doubt, In the Shadows houses many good tracks, only the lines of "The Bell Witch" are going nowhere and "Return of the Vampire...1993" also cannot compete with the rest. But to my big surprise, this is not the guilt of a completely unknown amateur called Lars Ulrich who plays the drums on this track.
To sum up, this comeback scored with both a pretty powerful, clean production and typical songs that did not bring shame to the awe-inspiring name of Mercyful Fate. The second period of the pioneers had begun promisingly and their further works also offered some highlights. Thus, it is a little bit sad that Melissa seemingly sees no reason to return once again. But wait a moment, there is someone knocking at my door. "Is that you, Melissa?"... no, it was just the postman who brought me new invoices. I really miss you, Melissa.
Rating: 7.6 out of 10