The compliment of “true original” is attributed without real merit to far too many artists working in popular music, but Mercyful Fate were true originals.

That’s not to say Denmark’s most famous (and infamous) heavy metal export hasn’t influenced scores of bands over the past three-plus-decades, but for much of that time, no one really dared try and imitate King Diamond’s terrifying falsettos and Hank Shermann’s serpentine guitar riffs.

Indeed, there’s nothing quite like Mercyful Fate’s dark musical alchemy, as presented on their first two, pioneering works, Melissa (1983) and Don’t Break the Oath (1984), then revived for five more studio efforts between 1993 and 1999.

Sure enough, by the time a select group of new millennium bands (In Solitude, Tribulation, etc.) finally said “f--- it” and concerted deconstructed and reassembled Mercyful Fate’s gothic/eclectic/occult approach to metallic songwriting, they were easily busted -- yet also thanked, more often than not, for having the moxie … and such good taste.

So don your corpse-paint and pack your skull-and-crossbones crucifix and come to the sabbath: it’s time for some desecration of souls, Mercyful Fate style.

See King Diamond in the 12 Greatest High Notes in Rock + Metal

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