The Return of the Vampire
By Mercyful Fate
The Return of the Vampire is a collection of four different demos recorded in the early years of Denmark's Mercyful Fate. Think 1981 to 1982. With that in mind, Mercyful Fate and Venom are probably the first recording bands that anyone would consider "black metal." My favorites Bathory, did their first in 1984, the same year Mercyful Fate's second record Don't Break the Oath was released.
However, don't expect black metal "demo" quality. What is here is nearly professional recordings of primordial versions of songs that would end up on Mercyful Fate's first mini-lp, their first full length Melissa and the aforementioned Don't Break the Oath.
Tracks One to Five are from a session done in 1981 in Copenhagen. Six is from 1982, done in England. Seven to eight are from 1981, done in Copenhagen. finally Nine was done in early 1981, Copenhagen as well. I'll break the review up in segments to get each section seperately.
The first five songs are excellent, they are complex, the first one, "Burning the Cross", is something like 8 minutes alone, and features some amazing guitar work, and some of King's best vocals. The songs are all preparing for the greatness of Melissa, but they stand up quite well. These haven't dated a bit actually, which is quite different from much of metal from this period. The main thing that amazes is the musicianship. Each player is amazing at their instrument, and King is constantly a great singer. He may have defined his style to make it clearer over the years, but even when he first started in Mercyful Fate he was quite good. He combined his high pitched sounds with a deeper, grittier sound. Little of this could be construed as "black metal", but with a different attack, the chord bases of the songs are obvious bases to the black metal sound. Everything is just a bit more traditional metal than the sound created by Mayhem or Darkthrone. The beginning of "On A Night of Full Moon" is particularly creepy.
Track Six is a bit more rough sounding. It's not bad, but not as clear as the last five songs. I like the strange effect on King's voice, it's very eeire sounding, and works quite well, quite frightening actually. Seven and Eight are even rougher, with little studio cleaness left from the first songs. However, it still works quite well, as everyone seems to play rougher to go along with the sound. Eight is an experiment with acoustic guitars and a more "emotional" sound in the solo guitars. This is a sound that would become actually quite popular in Black Metal. Acoustic opener and then have it go into crazy metal. The final song "You Asked For It", is the most Black Metal song on here. It is rough and hard, with many of the dynamics of early BM and an evil attitude. Again the vocal effect is eeire and very cool.
What we end up with is a pretty good release for Mercyful Fate fans, or people who get the "Two From the Vaults" release of it and Don't Break The Oath (of which group I happen to be in). On first listen I actually enjoyed this more, mainly because it is so rough sounding, but Don't Break the Oath is really the better disc. This is pretty good, if you like Mercyful Fate you must own it for sure.
1: Burning the Cross
2: Curse of the Pharaohs
3: Return of the Vampire
4: On a Night of Full Moon
5: A Corpse Without Soul
6: Death Kiss
7: Leave My Soul ALone
9: You Asked For It