Friday, April 13, 2012

Judas Priest vs. Mercyful Fate/King Diamond

Welcome to another addition of VERSUS, the classic game featuring a battle of wits to the end! Today, we look at three of the greatest metal bands that ever graced the genre. Who will win? Who will die? Who will get another heart attack? Let's find out!!!


Now, you might look at the images above and without question feel that this King Diamond person could kick the shit out of anyone in Judas Priest. And hell, maybe he can. However, this is a battle of musical inspiration and integrity, not brawn and machismo. So let's get to it.

I'll admit, I came to enjoy Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate and King Diamond later in life. I never liked the high-pitched vocals of the classic metal scene when I was a death metal/black metal junkie. I only came to enjoy this style of metal about 2 years ago when I heard the song "Victim of Changes" by Judas Priest on a Pandora station I was listening to.

This song rocked my world. Instantly, I contacted old metal friends of mine and asked them to recommend me some albums to check out. Just about everyone said the "Unleashed in the East" live (or so they say) album was the best one to get, and that I couldn't go wrong with anything from "Sad Wings of Destiny" through "Screaming For Vengeance." After listening to the ENTIRE Judas Priest catalogue, I can honestly say that my friends were 100% right.

This song has the greatest intro ever recorded. Ever.

I am also quite fond of the first Judas Priest album, "Rocka Rolla," which doesn't seem to get nearly as much credit as it deserves. Even Judas Priest hates this album, due to record label frustrations. Apparently, their label at the time took songs off the album and edited others (the song "Caviar and Meths" is the shining example). Such famous Judas Priest tracks as "The Ripper" were originally supposed to be on their first album.

Really people? You couldn't tell that Rob Halford was gay even back then? 

Never turn your back...on The Ripper!!!

As it happens with most long-running bands, Judas Priest eventually reduced themselves to one of the lowest common denominators as far as metal bands went. Albums such as "Turbo," "Ram It Down," and "Point of Entry" ruined their reputations as the badass metal band who were "Breaking the Law," "Livin' After Midnight" and had "another thing comin'". While the aformentioned albums do have a couple of stand-out tracks here and there, Judas Priest found themselves in the predicament that many metal bands found themselves in in the 1990's. That whole 'grunge' thing came around, and basically wiped away the careers of many a metal bands. Judas Priest was one of them.

They fought back with their album "Painkiller," which is probably their heaviest album. It wasn't enough to get Judas Priest back to the top of the charts, but it was enough to show the fans that the Priest still had what it takes to rock your ass.

This was around the time when their singer, Rob Halford, left the band. He was replaced with Tim "Ripper" Owens, who despite being able to belt out the Rob Halford classics live, never lived up to expectations from the fans. It didn't really help that the two albums recorded with Owens, "Jugulator" and "Demolition" had a stylistic change from what the band had previously done. It was almost like they were trying to remain metal while being "hip" and "relevant" in a sea of post-grunge and nu-metal music. It didn't work.

This incarnation of the Priest lasted until 2003, when Rob Halford was sick of doing sub-par industrial music with Trent Reznor and messing around with metal side projects of his own. The reunited Judas Priest were back! Older than ever, balder than ever, but still badass. Unfortunately, the albums they've released since their reunion ("Angel of Retribution" and "Nostradamus") both sounded tired and cliched. They kind of make you wish the band would either just play to good old stuff live, or hang up their hats altogether.

Despite this, Judas Priest still has one hell of a catalogue of excellent classic metal that makes you forget any of the bad stuff they've ever done. They deserve to be in the Metal Hall of Fame, and stand as one of the most influential metal groups in the world.

And speaking of being influential...that brings us to the bands Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. Obviously, I am linking these two bands together, for they both share the same lead singer (King Diamond). There are subtle differences between Mercyful Fate and King Diamond (the band) that audiophiles and metalheads can discern, but for the most part these bands have always been linked together in the minds of fans due to their enigmatic front-man.

The face only a mother (or Satan) could love.

King Diamond is an acquired taste for sure. He was another singer that I would have never been caught listening to in my past. I think the 21-year old version of myself would be having a heart attack if he knew I had Mercyful Fate in my car right now. One look at King Diamond and you would think that he is full of screams, yells and growls. NOT AT ALL. This fucking guy sings like a bloody Opera singer.

I've always been much more of a Mercyful Fate fan than I ever have been of King Diamond's solo material. If you actually listened to the video above, you might be able to see why. The main difference between Mercyful Fate and King Diamond is that where Mercyful Fate sounds like a classic metal band fronted by a guy who loved Rob Halford, King Diamond tends to get a lot more ridiculous and pompous. Where Mercyful Fate just kicked your ass with a metal song, King Diamond will take you through an esoteric story about ghosts and grandma's and have a lot of exaggerated wailing. King Diamond's use of falsetto is much stronger on his solo stuff than on the classic Mercyful Fate material, which I'm sure you'll be able to see once you listen to the video below.

Mercyful Fate only recorded 3 albums with King Diamond before they broke up in 1985. King Diamond went on with his solo career after that, but reunited with Mercyful Fate in 1992. They recorded the excellent "In The Shadows" album, and King Diamond went on fronting both bands until Mercyful Fate went on an indefinite hiatus in 1999. 

Both King Diamond and Mercyful Fate had wavering levels of success after the reunion. Several King Diamond albums continued to be released after the Mercyful Fate hiatus, but both those albums and the last few Mercyful Fate albums ("Into The Unknown," "Dead Again" and "9") didn't really excite the fanbase (in my opinion, they are just boring albums). The last King Diamond album, "Give Me Your Soul...Please," was released in 2007.

Probably the most ridiculous Mercyful Fate song ever recorded. 
This should have been a King Diamond song exclusively.

King Diamond has had a lot of health problems involving his heart, so his appearances since 2007 have been spotty at best. I'm sure you've seen him performing with Metallica every now and again. According to his Wikipedia, King Diamond is fully recuperated and is in the process of getting new music recorded again, with both his own band and Mercyful Fate again. 

Satan willing, the next Mercyful Fate/King Diamond albums will match the awesomeness of the first album. 
But probably not.

So who wins the battle? I gotta say, this is a tough one. Both Judas Priest and Mercyful Fate/King Diamond have excellent albums worthy of any diehard metalhead collection. They also both have shitty albums that should never be listened to again. King Diamond's solo stuff definitely makes his side take a bit of a hit, but that's not to say that albums such as "Fatal Portrait," "Abigail" and "Them" shouldn't be owned. Mercyful Fate have 5 tremendous albums to their name, but also 3 shitty ones. Judas Priest has a back-catalogue of greatness, but also 7 albums not worth owning at all....


Well, I'm going to have to go old-school here. I'm giving the victory to Judas Priest. Not only was Rob Halford a major influence on King Diamond, but they are also a much more commercial band than anyting King Diamond puts his voice on. Anyone can listen to Judas Priest, but can everyone handle the insanity of King diamond's falsetto? I don't think so, and that's why poor ol' Kingy loses the battle today.

Good job, Judas Priest. Keep it Heavy!!

And you keep it heavy too, King.

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