Review by Tymell for Mercyful Fate - Don't Break the Oath (1984)
It's amazing what a good riff can do.
That's a solid piece of groundwork of heavy metal music (and a number of other forms too), and in Don't Break the Oath, Mercyful Fate demonstrate a masterful understanding of this idea, and how to combine those riffs with absolute conviction in what they're doing to craft something special.
Much like Melissa before it, Oath isn't strictly black metal, even in its earliest form, but it's a clear influence on the emerging style. Despite the ever-present cheese, the album is unrelentingly focused on the dark side of metal music, on the satanic, the devilish, the wicked and demonic. Like Venom or Sodom, they played a role in this new branch of metal music, and this gives the album a great identity of its own. Gone are the glorious charges into battle or the fantastical adventures. This is an album of blasphemy, devil worship and gleeful sacrilege.
This crystal clear intention gives the whole thing a great sense of focus, and the band's wonderful sense of showmanship is what truly sells it. Like King's wailing falsetto, the whole thing is certainly an acquired taste, and can seem silly, but it's all such diabolical fun to just go along with it. Everything is done with such confidence and poise, it's impossible to resist, especially when coupled with the obvious skill on show in the quality riffs and memorable songs. "Come to the Sabbath" is a call to attend the ritual that cannot be turned down, "A Dangerous Meeting" tells a dark tale you can't stop listening to, and there are few songs as theatrically brilliant as "The Oath": every element of it, the insanely good riffs, King's epic cries, the rising darkness of the intro, it's all put together like a dark twin of Dio's "Holy Diver".
Yes, Don't Break the Oath is cheesy and over-the-top, and no good metalhead cares, because this is what it's all about.
Choice cuts: A Dangerous Meeting, Night of the Unborn, The Oath, Come to the Sabbath