Steel Druhm likes his old Mercyful Fate. Yep, those first two albums and the early EPs were pure metal magic and some of the best stuff the genre every coughed up. Needless to say, I support the sudden wave of Mercyful Fate influenced retro metal that’s been popping up of late. We have Ghost, Hell and now you can add In Solitude to this heady witch’s brew with their second release The World. The Flesh. The Devil. Along with fellow Swedes Ghost, these gents are shamelessly robbing the graves of the Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath albums and trying to bring some of that ancient black magic into 2011. While Ghost took elements of the Fate sound and added poppy, catchy hooks, In Solitude stays much closer to the source material. They actually sound A LOT like the great Fate as they trot our their own tales of demons, devil worship and all things malevolent. So, does their similarity to a Mercyful Fate tribute band necessarily mean I love them too? In this case, yes, yes it does. I love them and I’m man enough to admit it!
The album wastes no time showing exactly how Mercyful Fatey they really are and the title track is eerily like something off Melissa or even the Nuns Have No Fun EP. There’s that classic NWOBHM style to the riffs and the song structures are very reminiscent of the early Fate material. For the topper, Pelle Ahman sounds almost exactly like the great King Diamond when he favored his dramatic mid range crooning style (before he got overly infatuated with falsetto histrionics). It’s a great song with lots of classic mood and some excellent guitar work. From there, they keep the Satan train a rollin’ full force and the album is loaded with compelling old school devil metal like “We Were Never Here,” “Serpents Are Rising” and “Poisoned, Blessed and Burned.” All have that classic 80’s vibe and all mimic Fate to a greater or lesser extent while also tossing in nods to Iron Maiden and even Grim Reaper. All the songs work and some are flat out amazing. Best of the brood is the title track and the very long epic closer “On Burning Paths” which manages to remain compelling across all its vast thirteen plus minutes. This is one of those songs that may be worth the album purchase all by itself. Its a winner and reminds a lot of the great “Satan’s Fall” off Melissa but with more NWOBHM crammed in. Great vocals, great guitar work, tons of moods, its a very big song!
While there are similarities with Ghost, In Solitude is much less simplistic and accessible and they offer much more musically than Ghost does. Its very apparent the band made huge advances in songwriting and performance chops since their 2009 debut (which is also good but a lot less Fatey). Pelle sounds way better here and his style fits the music like a virgin fits a sacrificial altar. He conveys different emotions without resorting to over-the-top theatrics or otherwise cheesing things up (i.e. Hell). Backing him up is a nonstop barrage of quality riffs from Henrik Palm and Niklas Lindstrom. This pair puts on quite the show and their riffing and leads are classy, memorable and pure old school NWOBHM thunder.
Are there any drawbacks? Sure, a few songs could be shorter (“Demons” “Dance of the Adversary”) and there is a slight dip in quality between the two best songs and the rest of the album, although no tracks are bad. Aside from that, this is a very well done album and even I’m hard pressed to find much else to fault.
This is one of the pleasant surprises so far this year and definitely a band to watch in the future. If you like old Mercyful Fate (which you better if you claim to have any taste at all) then this will shock and awe you. It captures the spirit and sound of that timeless act and wrings some inspired tunes from their collective cadaver. Is it unoriginal? Well, yes in the sense it’s such a shameless Fate copycat, but it results in a very enjoyable album. That’s what matters right? Hail to the King and all his royal doppelgangers!