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After releasing two watershed albums, Danish heavy metal icons Mercyful Fate found themselves split into two seemingly irreconcilable camps in late 1984. Singer King Diamond was intent on carrying on with the group's gothic brand of heavy metal, but guitarist Hank Shermann had had enough of bats in the belfry, and wished to explore more conventional hard rock styles. When any form of consensus proved out of reach, Diamond kicked off his now legendary solo career, while Shermann recruited singer Jeff "Lox" Limbo (real name Jens Meinert), bassist/keyboardist Pete Steiner, and drummer Bob Lance to form a new band that he simply called Fate. Tellingly, Mercyful Fate's stock was so high at the time that Fate was offered a record deal by EMI within weeks of their inception. They quickly got to work on their eponymous debut album, which featured guest guitar from old MF partner Michael Denner and was released in 1986. As promised, Fate's traditional mix of metal and hard rock -- not to mention their fashion-conscious perms and spandex -- were a far cry from Mercyful Fate's ghastly image, and one certainly couldn't blame either the band or EMI for expecting great things from the group. But the album sold poorly outside of Denmark, failed to ignite any significant chart or radio story in the U.K., and was almost unheard in America. The following year's sophomore A Matter of Attitude fared even worse, and in a move that surely shocked (and pissed off) the band's record company, Shermann quit his own group to join another, heavier band named Lavina. Perhaps even more surprising, Fate chose to carry on regardless, and after hiring new guitarist Jacob Moth and a keyboard player named Floyd Lafayette, they recorded their third album, Cruisin' for a Bruisin', in 1998. This outing proved to be the last for vocalist Limbo, however, who only barely beat guitarist Moth to the door, himself already moving off to work with power metallers Blind Guardian. As for Fate, the original rhythm section of Steiner and Lance persisted long enough to bring on new members Per Henriksen (vocals) and Mattias Eklundh (guitar) and issue one final album, 1990's Scratch'n Sniff. But this, at last, proved the final straw, as Lance (now using his given name, Bjarne T. Holm) reunited with Hank Shermann in the short-lived Zoser Mez before committing to a full-fledged Mercyful Fate reunion a few years later. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia

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