Melissa and, somehow, improved on that excellence. Requisite listening for anyone proclaiming metal fandom, Don't Break the Oath regularly tops "Best Ever" metal lists and rightfully so.Across a recording career spanning over two decades and many, many high points, 1984's sophomore release from Mercyful Fate still stands as the pinnacle of King Diamond and company's output. Absolutely flawless, Don't Break the Oath came quickly on the heels of
As perfect as Melissa was, there is nothing on Don't Break the Oath that isn't better overal (with the exception, perhaps, of "Evil" taken as a standalone song). Short-lived as they were, this lineup had an undeniable chemistry and everything fell into place for the ten or so months that separate the two recordings. The sinister doom of Sabbath merged with the power and majesty of Priest and the proggy classical elements of Maiden, infused with the distillation of Melissa and the resultant concoction was pure black magic.
First and foremost, the production emanates an electricity and heat befitting the subject matter. There's a clarity the vocals and guitar demand that is granted while each occupy their own space. Speaking of guitars, Hank Shermann and Michael Denner have never been better. And at this apex, none could touch them. Not Downing and Tipton. Not Murray and Smith. No one. "A Dangerous Meeting" is just that. A goddamn fire may erupt between these two guitars.
Don't Break the Oath, like Melissa, plays exceptionally well as a proper album spun beginning to end in a single listening session. It sets a hellish, nightmare-saturated mood and maintains momentum throughout. Broken into individual numbers it is equally staggering. "Come to the Sabbath," for example, generates an intensity and menace contemporaries like Priest only hinted at on their recordings at the time.
"The Oath." You know, the one you're not supposed to break. Wow. Did I ever feel like a sinner after the first spin of this one. It's all in or nothing. And given the utter atmosphere of this ride, you're pretty much happy to pledge your soul to Satan afterward. Why not? Was there ever any gospel song with such a kickass bassline? Metal bassists and their contributions have certainly evolved since 1984 but, at the time, Timi Hansen was second only to Geezer Butler in my estimation.
Don't Break the Oath is a testament to the power of effective lyricism (and apparent conviction regarding the subject matter), technical ability, artistry and, above all, crisp and clean production and a mix that simply allows these elements to shine. Classic is an overused term (I repeatedly plead guilty) but Don't Break the Oath earns that mantle and then some. If you're starting a metal collection I am tempted to urge you to start here but will suggest instead that you buy this last; otherwise, any subsequent purchases are bound to disappoint.