Return Of The Vampire

Mercyful Fate

Roadracer Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/17/2001

By 1992, fans of Mercyful Fate had to be chomping at the bit. The legendary black metal band, fronted by King Diamond, had broken up as they were supposedly on the brink of making it big, leaving a scant two albums (and one compilation) in their wake. Sure, Diamond had moved on to a successful solo career which featured music as scary (if not as overtly Satanic) as Mercyful Fate, but fans of the Fate wanted more from their band.

So it had to be a mixed blessing when Return Of The Vampire was released in 1992. Yes, it was a "new" Mercyful Fate disc... but it featured no new material, instead offering the listeners selections that were now a decade old. It sounded like a closet-cleaning release... and, quite possibly, it was, seeing that the band was not far from re-forming on a different label. But the diehard fan had to be somewhat disappointed that the selections offered on this disc featured Mercyful Fate in their tentative early days (early being a relative term - meaning, in this case, around the time of nbtc__dv_250 Melissa) and not as the more polished group that said an early good-bye.

The disc has far too much of a "been there, heard that" feel, from the early version of "Curse Of The Pharoahs," "A Corpse Without Soul" and "Death Kiss" all have. Diamond's vocals, while all featuring that infamous falsetto wail that could give anyone the shivers, aren't as developed as they would be on Don't Break The Oath, and sound a bit tentative at times. Other tracks, such as "Burning The Cross" and "Return Of The Vampire," emphasize this tentativeness.

If there is one thing that Mercyful Fate could not be faulted for, it's their musicianship. The two-guitar attack of Hank Shermann and Michael Denner is in fine form throughout these selections, even if the music at times feels like it's drifting and not sure how it should resolve itself.

Maybe expecting so much out of Return Of The Vampire isn't fair to Mercyful Fate; after all, this was the first thing offered to fans in five years. But one wonders what good, if any, issuing such a collection served. Maybe it was the band's way of gauging whether there was enough public interest for them to get back together and make another attempt at things. Maybe, as mentioned, it was a way for the label to capitalize on what was once their centerpiece act before they moved onto different quarters.

However you look at it, Return Of The Vampire didn't really mark the return of Mercyful Fate; that honor would come about a year later with the release of In The Shadows. But it did remind people how much of a force that Mercyful Fate had once been on the metal scene... and how much they grew musically in just a four-year period. If only some more material from around 1984 had been included, this could have been an exciting collection. As it stands, it probably pleased the drooling Fate fan in 1992... but almost seems like a pointless exercise not even 10 years later.

Rating: C

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© 2001 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 Roadracer Records, and is used for informational purposes only.