Review Summary: Think Judas Preist and Emperor sitting around a campfire telling scary stories.
I’m sure all metalheads know King Diamond one way or another. It could be because of his band before he went solo, Mercyful Fate, or you’re like me and heard his most famous solo record, Abigail, and you wanted more. If either of these describes your situation, more is what you’re going to get. The solo work from KD is quite similar to the work he did with Mercyful Fate, except without all the satanic lyrics. After leaving Mercyful Fate due to creative differences, he took more of a ghosts-and-goblins-type lyrical approach. Almost every KD record is a concept album about a horror story created by King himself. Listeners only get the full experience of the album when they know the story, so I’ll fill you in on that real quick…
At the beginning, King, his mother and his sister Missy are getting ready for the arrival of their grandmother, who has been away on a “vacation” (mental asylum) for a long time. The night of her arrival, King finds her having a tea party with a bunch of floating cups and kettles. She sends King right back to bed. In the morning, Grandma wakes King up to tell him about Amon, which is their house, over tea. The tea they’re drinking contains blood from King’s mother’s hand. The voices of Amon, which grandma calls “Them”, start to give King a drug-like effect. Missy tries to talk King into doing something to help their mother, who is under the effect of “Them”. King is affected by “Them” as well so he, instead of helping, cuts the phone line. At tea, Missy gets upset about her mother’s state and breaks a teapot in anger. “They” then cut Missy into pieces with an axe and throw her into the fire for breaking “their” teapot. King then comes to and realizes what happened when he was in his altered state. He then decides he needs to get rid of his grandmother. He lures her outside the house, where “their” powers are weakened, kills her with her own cane, and runs into the woods. “They” continue to haunt King, and he eventually ends up in an asylum, just as Grandma was in the beginning of the story. After many years he returns home to find that “They” are still at large. KD’s next album, Conspiracy, is a sequel to this story.
Now, on to the actual music. The vocals are trademark KD, in which he utilizes his famous falsetto along with some low growls and some that seem Black metal-esqe at times. His over-the-top, theatrical voice is really the pinnacle of his music. While some may find it annoying, it’s what makes his music recognizable and unique. Not to take away from the other members of the band in the least, the rhythm section is among the best I’ve heard. We can tell Mikkey Dee knows what he’s doing behind that kit from the beginning of the first real song on the album, Welcome Home, with a great drum fill. He showcases his speed and precision throughout the album. The bassist, Hal Patino, follows along with guitarist Pete Blakk’s riffs very well. He definitely knows how to keep his part interesting.
Speaking of Pete Blakk, the guitar work on this album is phenomanal. With bands like Between the Buried and Me and The Human Abstract around today, nobady really appreciates the kind of guitarwork shown on this album. There’s nothing wrong with those bands, but their technicallity and pure speed kind of outdoes this kind of playing. But there’s something about the guitar playing on this album, and that’s no matter how technical or simple the solo or riff is, it always sounds great. There are some bands that have talent, speed and technicallity out the ass but still sound like sh*t (Brain Drill), while no matter what Pete Blakk does here, it just flows out and sounds awesome. “Them” is littered with solos, and not a single one of them bad or boring. The vocals are still the most important part of KD’s music to me, but the guitar is simply amazing.
I can’t really tell you how this sounds in comparision to his other work (I haven’t heard his new stuff and I haven’t heard Abigail in a while) so this is what a newcomer to King Diamond should expect from this album, coming from somewhat of a KD n00b; Extremely over-the-top, yet incredible sounding vocals consisting of the high shreiks and low grunts of Black metal being done by a traditional heavy metal vocalist, guitar solos and riffs that will stay in your head for days, and quite an entertaining storyline. Looking for some music to play on halloween? Right here! Trying to find some music that sets the mood for a bonfire? King Diamond’s got your back. This album, as I imagine all of KD’s stuff would be like, just doesn’t feel right being played in any other way besided from beginning to end. Therefore, I recommend you listen to the album all the way through, but if I had to pick three songs that really show the overall sound of the album, they would be…