Riff Police! Pull Over! #68: Mercyful Fate Vs Iron Maiden!

Danish Heavy Metallers Mercyful Fate formed in Copenhagen in 1981 with influences in Progressive and Hard Rock as well as Black Metal. Their 1983 debut album “Melissa” was recorded and mixed at Easy Sounds Studios in Copenhagen with producer and studio owner Henrik Lund in just 12 days, with the band arranging and rehearsing the songs well in advance to make best use of the time, King Diamond writing all the lyrics and guitarist Hank Shermann the musical compositions. Despite such a rush, the album is considered a masterpiece with Rolling Stone Magazine putting it 17th on their 2017 list of “The 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time”. Arguably the finest moment on the album is “Curse of the Pharaohs”, a re-written Brats demo that was originally titled “Night Riders” and sees Diamond at his storytelling finest.

11 months later in September 1984, Iron Maiden delivered “Powerslave”, their fifth studio record. Taking the Ancient Egypt theme to the cover art, their 10th single “2 Minutes to Midnight” as well as “Aces High” and “Flash of the Blade” are the best known songs and have been frequently covered since its release including by Avenged Sevenfold and Arch Enemy. As an album, it took Iron Maiden to new success in places like Brazil, allowing them to tour 28 countries and was the second of four albums to feature a consistent line-up in the bands ranks. Guitarist Adrian Smith is credited with the music “2 Minutes to Midnight”, but here’s the catch. Can you hear “Curse of the Pharaohs” riff in it? The album recording and release dates are so close that if Smith had indeed heard the song, there is no doubting the subliminal verses would have caught him… Oh and that Rolling Stone Magazine list? “Powerslave” is at #38!

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