The Poppy Punk Band That Would Go On to Become Heavy Metal Royalty

Published on:

Heavy metal didn’t appear out of thin air. 

While many people credit Black Sabbath for kickstarting the genre, it’s important to remember that they started by playing traditional blues under the name Earth. Before Sabbath, we’ve got the heavy rock of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, and The Doors.

Hell, no musicians would be playing with distortion if it wasn’t for The Beatles! Before The Beatles and The Stones, we’ve got Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. Before Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis we’ve got Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Before Chuck Berry and Little Richard we’ve got… you get the point.

A big part of the metal explosion of the 1980’s didn’t come directly from Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. Instead, many of these bands came out of the burgeoning world of punk (which itself came out of Black Sabbath and glam, but let’s not get bogged down in semantics even more than we already are). This is the story of one of those bands: Brats.

Brats weren’t around for very long and they weren’t particularly remarkable. The Copenhagen band’s first lineup featured Hank de Wank, Mickey Rat, Franz De Zaster, and Eddie Haircut. This incarnation wound up contributing three tracks to the Paere Punk compilation in 1979. As you can probably tell, these aren’t the names that the parents of the band members gave them. In particular, before and after Hank de Wank’s flirtation with punk nomenclature he was known as one Hank Sherman. 

Hank was getting a little tired of punk and falling deeper and deeper in love with metal. In time, he fired the rest of Brats and filled the lineup with ringers from the local scene. He poached drummer Lars Monroe from a band called Suck. Hank then recruited a few members from an underground act called Jezebel, namely vocalist / bassist Yens Leonhardt and guitarist Michael Denner.

This new version of Brats quickly signed to major label CBS Records, who released the album 1980 in August of… You guessed it: 1980.

1980 is full of catchy, upbeat Ramones-influenced pop rock and roll. The songs are mostly short and to the point, but there are a couple of more expansive tracks featuring guitar solos and funeral bells. Although it’s fair to categorize 1980 as a punk record, the writing that Hank and company were developing into something entirely different was plainly on the wall.

The album underperformed and Brats were inevitably dropped by CBS. In short order, Yens Leonhardt left and was replaced by Kim “King Diamond” Peterson from the band Black Rose. Brats began developing a much heavier, more dynamic kind of music. To reflect the stylistic shift, Brats changed their name to Mercyful Fate.

You know the rest. Check out Brats album 1980 at the link below.

King Diamond Says He Treated Himself Big Time Thanks To Metallica's 'Mercyful Fate' Royalties

Video: This Pro-Shot Footage Of Mercyful Fate's Wacken Performance Gets Us Excited For Their Upcoming Tour

King Diamond Talks Upcoming New Mercyful Fate Album + Potential Theme Associated With The Record