Every King Diamond and Mercyful Fate album ranked from worst to best

(Image credit: Metal Blade)

Danish metal icon, black metal pioneer and master of the macabre, King Diamond has made a vast contribution to the metal landscape over the last 40 years, both as singer with Mercyful Fate and as a solo artist. As the King readies his long-awaited 13th solo record, The Institute, why not dive into our rundown of the Danish legends’ entire studio album catalogue? Hail Satan!

20. King Diamond – The Spider’s Lullabye (1995)

A mixture of short stories and one longer concept piece, The Spider’s Lullabye suffers for being the least cohesive of King Diamond’s solo records. The first half takes in state-sanctioned execution (Killer), ghost hunters (The Poltergeist) and a group of evil kids (Moonlight). The second half is mainly about spiders. Quite scary, then. Maybe.

19. King Diamond – House Of God (2000)

Set in a mysterious church that, not entirely surprisingly, turns out to be full of truly terrifying shit that would make most people go instantly mad, House Of God is the dark horse of the King Diamond catalogue: a slow-burning enigma with a handful of great songs (Black Devil, The Trees Have Eyes and Help!!!) and lashings of textbook Diamond goodness.

18. King Diamond – Abigail II: The Revenge (2002)

Following up a timeless classic like Abigail was never going to be easy. King Diamond actually did a pretty good job on this belated sequel, conjuring plenty of the incisive, melodic brilliance that defined those early albums. The Storm and Spirits are obvious highlights on a flawed but still gripping return to the LeFay Mansion.

17. Mercyful Fate – Dead Again (1998)

The first Mercyful Fate album after the departure of founding guitarist Michael Denner, Dead Again didn’t muck about with radical departures. Instead, this was a partial return to a grittier, less overtly polished sound, with thematic and musical horrors to match. Most notable for the towering, 14-minute title track, the Danes’ weakest album is still great.

16. King Diamond – The Graveyard (1996)

Another deliciously gruesome concept piece, The Graveyard is one of King Diamond’s nastiest bedtime stories, with plenty of sexual abuse, strangulation, torture and beheadings to enjoy. It also boasts Black Hill Sanitarium, one of King’s greatest ‘90s tunes, and the grubby, sinister sprawl of Digging Graves (“Lucy, you stay here… the tomb is warm!”).

15. Mercyful Fate – Into The Unknown (1996)

The third Mercyful Fate album after their 1992 , Into The Unknown is not the Danes’ finest hour, but it’s another underrated record that added plenty to the band’s reputation. At its best on the epic title track and wonkily grandiloquent closer Kutulu (The Mad Arab, Part 2), it was an album that sustained momentum without revealing anything that long-time admirers didn’t already know.

14. Time (1994)

A second top-notch batch of songs from the reformed Mercyful Fate, Time’s only real flaw was that it was, in essence, more of the same. Well stocked with succinct metal anthems, it may have lacked the intricate oddness of the Melissa era, but songs like Nightmare Be Thy Name, The Preacher and, most memorably, The Mad Arab added a dash of fresh perversity to the Danes’ inestimable blueprint.

13. King Diamond – The Puppet Master (2003)

A mid-career cracker than seemed to signal a return to the grand, epoch-defining form of his first decade, The Puppet Master is a deeply fucked up record. If you’ve ever had nightmares about waking up inside a wooden puppet, you might want to avoid this one, but you would have to miss out on immaculate KD classics like the title track and Magic. Don’t be a chicken.

12. King Diamond – Voodoo (1998)

Notable for featuring a blistering lead break from Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell on its absurdly catchy title track, Voodoo delivered exactly as advertised: a spooked-out saga of occult rituals, ceremonial crosses and plucky exorcists, with all the face-flaying melodic thrills and spills that fans had, by now, become rather accustomed to. King Diamond’s strongest album of the ‘90s, Voodoo defied prevailing musical trends and further strengthened the evil old sod’s legacy.

11. Mercyful Fate – In The Shadows (1993)

The first Mercyful Fate album after their 1992 reunion, In The Shadows was a robust and commanding return. Lyrically, the likes of The Old Oak and Legend Of The Headless Rider may have slightly blurred the lines between the Danish band’s seminal devilry and the narrative grimoire of King Diamond’s solo work, but the Fate sound was very much intact and as distinctively gruesome as ever.

10. King Diamond – Give Me Your Soul… Please (2007)

Proving that times and tastes change, King Diamond released his 12th studio album to no great fanfare back in 2007. In fact, Give Me Your Soul… Please remains his finest album since the ‘80s. Packed with killer songs (in particular, Never Ending Hill is an absolute belter), it’s also very clearly the best sounding of all King Diamond albums, with a production that retains the unique feel of those early records while also packing a very contemporary punch. An underrated gem.

9. Mercyful Fate – 9 (1999)

Released barely a year after Dead Again, 9 was widely hailed as a massive return to top form for the Danish icons. With a crunchy and muscular production underpinning a welcome return to occult themes, the likes of Burn In Hell and Buried Alive were every bit as memorable as the band’s early classics. At this point, 9 is a righteous full stop at the end of the Fate discography, but you never know what Satan has in mind for the future, eh?

8. King Diamond – The Eye (1990)

With a slightly heavier but warmer sound, King Diamond entered the 90s with another tour-de-force of thunderous shlock. Perhaps less conceptually focused than its three immediate predecessors, The Eye recounted hazy tales of atrocities committed in the name of the Christian god, with nuns doing particularly badly out of the whole enterprise, via organ-embellished metal monoliths like ageless opener Eye Of The Witch and the blistering Burn.

7. King Diamond – Conspiracy (1988)

Although disappointingly grandma-free, Conspiracy provided a worthy sequel to Them and delivered some of King Diamond’s greatest ever songs in the process. Kicking off with the nine-minute At The Graves and following it with the glorious Sleepless Nights was a masterstroke: at times, King’s fourth studio album seemed somehow bigger, scarier and more immersive than its predecessors. That artwork is about as iconic as it gets, too.

6. King Diamond – Fatal Portrait (1986)

Setting the tone for the decades to follow, King Diamond’s first album after the initial demise of Mercyful Fate was full of creepy stories and sophisticated but hard-hitting melodic metal. It had anthems (the gnarly Charon; perennial live favourite Halloween) and it had more elaborate and adventurous fare like epic opener The Candle. Most importantly, it established clear blue water between King Diamond’s new band and the music he was making with Mercyful Fate mere months earlier. With virtuoso guitarist and co-songwriter Andy LaRocque by his side, the King was reborn as metal’s lord of horror.

5. Mercyful Fate – Mercyful Fate EP (1982)

Okay, so a four-track EP doesn’t qualify as an album, but the impact of Mercyful Fate’s eponymous debut cannot be overstated. Injecting their prog-tinged but defiantly bombastic strain of heavy metal with a choking dose of occult drama, the Danes paved the way for decades of hell-bound extremists to keep heavy music squarely in the shadows. The world’s introduction to King Diamond’s unique vocals, rampaging mini-epics like Nuns Have No Fun and Corpse Without Soul oozed supernatural disquiet, while delivering a ludicrous number of hooks along the way. Meanwhile, the EP’s then controversial artwork added an extra layer of intrigue to the whole Luciferian shebang. For those sworn to the black, this is a revered milestone.

4. Mercyful Fate – Melissa (1983)

If their debut EP had brought Satan firmly into the traditional metal realm, Mercyful Fate’s first full-length gave the evil old bastard the ultimate platform. Melissa is still stupidly exciting nearly four decades later: the malevolent, twin-guitar heroics of Hank Shermann and Michael Denner and King Diamond’s unmistakable falsetto howl and crypt-creeper snarl combining to distort Judas Priest’s ornate heavy metal formula into something far more menacing and otherworldly. As Metallica would later confirm by covering several of its highlights in a much-celebrated medley on Garage Inc in 1998, the music on Melissa wields a peculiar and irresistible magic.

3. King Diamond – Abigail (1986)

Having established his redefined sound and aesthetic on 1986’s Fatal Portrait, King Diamond floored the creative accelerator for its follow-up. A flawless classic by any sane reckoning, Abigail showcased the fiery chemistry between the King and guitarist Andy LaRocque across a genuinely creepy tale of haunted mansions, stillborn children and, seemingly, posthumous self-cannibalism. The songs are all fantastic, of course: from immortal opener Arrival and the skull-rattling A Mansion In Darkness to the monumental, murderous finale of Black Horsemen, Abigail is a magnificently twisted horror show with immaculate riffs to burn.

2. King Diamond – Them (1987)

If you only know one King Diamond song, it’s probably Welcome Home (“Grandmaaaaaaa!”), the opening track from the Dane’s third album. Building on the conceptual precision of the previous year’s Abigail, Them told an even more demented tale of supernatural unpleasantness, floating crockery and axe-wielding ghosts. These are among the best songs King and long-time foil LaRocque have ever written together, not least the brilliantly odd Tea and the ghoulish adrenalin rush of Bye Bye Missy. But it’s Them’s completeness, narrative flow and authentic sense of paranormal unease that make it the greatest album to bear the King Diamond logo.

1. Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break The Oath (1984)

A huge influence on everyone from Metallica to Ghost, Mercyful Fate’s second album is simply a benchmark for dark and devilish heavy metal. Subtly progressive by design, songs like A Dangerous Meeting and Desecration Of Souls further refined the extraordinary formula the Danes unveiled on Melissa one year earlier, effectively defining the metal underground’s evil aesthetic in one sustained barrage of macabre pomp. Other bands may have ploughed the same infernal furrow, but it was Mercyful Fate that made metal’s affiliation with the dark side seem tangible for the first time. Plus, of course, every last song on Don’t Break The Oath is a platinum-plated mini-masterpiece.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.