Don't Break The Oath

Mercyful Fate

Roadrunner Records, 1984

http://mercyfulfatecoven.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/16/2000

Mercyful Fate was not the first band to espouse beliefs in the occult - but damned if they weren't the most convincing of their era. One look at the lyric sheet, and you kind of knew that this wasn't like King Diamond and crew were picking this up on the weekends like a game of Dungeons & Dragons. They were to black metal what Stryper was to Christian metal. (Okay, bad example, but I think you get the gist of things.)

After the release and underground success of their debut album Melissa, the band put forth their sophomore album Don't Break The Oath. If you were worried about the "sophomore slump" hitting the band - well, in a way, it did, though not on this album. Citing a difference in the musical direction members wanted to take, Mercyful Fate split up for eight years after this album's release. But the album itself is a marked improvement on their first effort - even if you still need the lyric sheet to decipher what Diamond is saying.

Musically, the band sounds tighter than before, daring to even throw a little more modern (at least for 1984) of a sound into their songwriting. But don't fear; there's still enough of the Goth-like features that made the band noteworthy.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Lyrically, Don't Break The Oath definitely stands out as one you don't want to play at Junior's First Communion. If Melissa suggested that Diamond and crew dabbled in the occult, Don't Break The Oath suggests that they've more than earned their merit badges. Songs like "The Oath" are - how shall we say this? - eye-openers in their blunt rejection of one faith and their devotion in another. Likewise, tracks such as "Desecration Of Souls," "Come To The Sabbath" and "Night Of The Unborn" follow the same trail, where all roads lead to the down escalator.

The remastered version of Don't Break The Oath features a slightly cleaner sound than the original release (which was the first copy I owned until I won the remastered CD on eBay). It also includes what is believed to be the first song Mercyful Fate recorded, "Devil's Kiss" (albeit a different version from that on Return Of The Vampire). While it's interesting to listen to, it's really not required listening except for the diehard Mercyful Fate fans.

Complaints? I have one biggie - and like with Melissa, maybe sometimes it was better this way. Diamond's vocals are still somewhat buried in the mix, making it difficult at times to decipher what he was singing. Interesting example: Near the end of "Nightmare," it sounds like Diamond is chanting in a sing-song style, "You aren't saved." A bit bone-chilling, but fitting when you think of who it's coming from. Ah - but one fansite shows the actual lyric as being, "You are insane." (The remaster does nothing to clear this up for my ears.) And while I am by no means advocating belief in the occult, somehow, the real lyrics don't have the same power.

Where Don't Break The Oath succeeds is in that it is a little more approachable of an album than Melissa was (and I don't mean that to be a slam against Melissa). This was the first Mercyful Fate album I listened to in its entirety - and is really not a bad place for anyone curious about the band to start.

What one has to wonder is what Mercyful Fate would have become had they not taken an eight-year nap (during which time Diamond set out as a solo artist, recording some frightening concept albums - which I admit I have to still get to). Don't Break The Oath was a powerful second effort from Mercyful Fate. And while The Beginning would serve as a stop-gap measure, it's a shame that the band went on hiatus after this one.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Roadrunner Records, and is used for informational purposes only.