Mercyful Fate: King Diamond (vocals); Hank Shermann, Mike Wead (guitar); Sharlee D'Angelo (bass); Bjarne Holm (drums).
Recorded at Nomad Recording Studio, Carrollton, Texas in February & March 1999.
It's somewhat odd that the reunited Mercyful Fate has now recorded more prolifically than the original group did in their classic early-'80s period, especially since there seems to be a personnel shift with nearly every '90s album. Their fifth full-length since the reunion, 9 does feature the same lineup as its predecessor, Dead Again; the downside is that there are now only two original members remaining -- King Diamond and Hank Shermann. While Mike Wead is a fine guitarist, the telepathic interplay Shermann had with Michael Denner provided a goodly portion of the band's spark, and that energy was the main reason Mercyful Fate could get away with sticking to their tried-and-true style upon making their comeback in 1993. Now they've started to sound flat, essentially repeating the same ideas they've covered for years (King Diamond's lyrics, in particular, are approaching the realm of self-parody). In spite of 9's efforts to strip down the band's sound and recover some of the power that was sacrificed for more elaborate arrangements, the melodies and riffs in general just aren't up to their usual standard, feeling more journeyman-like than one might hope. As with any Mercyful Fate record, there are a few good moments, but overall, it's beginning to feel like they've stuck around too long. ~ Steve Huey