King Diamond – Songs For The Dead Live CD/DVD Review

Songs For The Dead Live is the new live album/DVD by classic Danish heavy metal band, King Diamond. It features live footage from two different shows in 2016, one indoor show and one festival show from Philadelphia and Graspop Metal Meeting respectively.

The lengthy and value-for-money setlist features the classic Abigail album from 1987 played in its entirety, plus a selection of songs from the debut, Them, Conspiracy and The Eye as well as a couple of Mercyful Fate covers (King Diamond himself’s other band). Basically if you are interested in early King Diamond material, this is the record for you.

The show is quite theatrical, with actors, an elaborate stage setup with steps and stained glass and upside-down crosses and pentagrams. There are even a fake babies and grandma to match the stories in the lyrics.

Most importantly of all, for a concert DVD, the performance of the concert from the band is excellent, and the audio-visual quality of the DVD is brilliant. King Diamond has always been a guitar fan’s paradise and watching Andy La Roque blast through the superb solos is wonderful. King himself does a great job of replicating his bizarre and unique vocals live and the rest of the band hammer it home perfectly. It feels ‘live’ and not too clinical, but at the same time very faithfully replicate the album tracks.  The seamless editing, sound and camera work are well balanced and everything just looks and sounds right.

If like me, you are a casual fan of the band, with a few of the early records but don’t know every twist and turn of his lengthy discography, this would be a fine starting point (just be aware it might take a while to get used to the vocal style).

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 79: King Diamond – Abigail

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 79: King Diamond – Abigail

Hello. Welcome. I’ll skip the preamble, you know it by now. Nerd. Not a real review. Classic album I’ve not heard before. Listening in real time. Sound familiar? Good. Lets roll… This entry finds me listening to Danish Metal icon King Diamond’s 1987 concept album Abigail for the first time.

[Side Note: Before we start, I noticed today that I had a huge spike in web traffic from Finland… any idea why? The only reason I could imagine is if a Stratovarius or Children Of Bodom article of mine got shared or something? …any ideas?]

Anyway; I don’t know that much about King Diamond. I’ve not heard a full song, only the segment in the movie Clerks 2.


– not exactly a good advertisement for the band, ey?

I also know he likes concept albums, the occult, has Kiss-esque make up, had Motorhead’s Mickey Dee as a drummer, and that he was in Mercyful Fate… who I have one album from (check out my First Impression of that here… the appropriately spooky 13th article in the series which was absolutely intentional…cough cough… shifty eyes…) and hey, isn’t it almost Halloween…sure, that’s why I did this article now…and not just because I saw a shiny boxset for a low price.

Anyway, I like ‘80s Metal, but King Diamond’s voice on that album was ludicrous and offputting on first impression (I got used to it more over time, and like the album about a medium amount now… but that’s mostly the music not the vocals) so this will be interesting… I have no idea if I can stick him in his solo career. I don’t find much interest in the occult, and you can’t hear make up, but I do like Mickey Dee and concept albums. This could go either way.

Lets find out…

[Play]

‘Funeral’ starts out with some spooky music somewhere between Cradle Of Filth and Doctor Who…with a silly voice modulated funeral prayer that sounds quite sci-fi and very artificial keyboard noises doing a film score in the background. Its an intro rather than a full song.

‘Arrival’ bounds on next though, with a sort of Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner swagger and a nice spacey clear production job. There’s some more very artificial keyboards but a very sturdy Heavy Metal backing. The vocals sound like Venom’s Chronos at first then turn into the very silly King Diamond I know from Mercyful Fate, and at times there’s a slight Mille Petrozza sound. He does a lot of different vocal styles and is very operatic. He reminds me of Hell and Cradle Of Filth in that way.

The music itself is a lot tighter, crunchy and satisfying than I’d expected. Its Heavier than Accept, but not as Heavy as Slayer… a very satisfying level for the ‘80s. It is also quite adventourous and proggy in terms of structure and musical show-offery. Its like Images And Words era Dream Theater covering Black Metal era Venom. Thrashy at times but not enough to be Thrash, but still meatier than most NWOBHM. Lots of guitar solos. I’m warming to this.

‘A Mansion In Darkness’ comes in sounding like German Power Metal, with that sort of Helloween drum confidence and some nice melodic lead guitar. Its showier and more eccentric than most Helloween saving the Keeper’ title-track though. Cradle Of Filth keep coming to mind, I guess this must’ve been a big influence on them maybe? I like how it keeps altering between fast and slow and the guitars do neoclassical for a bit but also dirty noisy too, and are melodic without being twee. Yup, satisfying. I’m getting a lot more out’ve this than I did from Mercyful Fate. I wonder would I like Rob Zombie more than White Zombie?

There’s a bit in the middle that reminds me of Mountain King era Savatage, a very good thing to remind me of. The solo at the end reminds me a bit of Yngwie but then it ends abruptly as the song closes.

‘The Family Ghost’ (excellent title!) comes next. Its got a great intro, then goes into the same sort of sturdy bounce as the slower bits from the past two songs. You know who it reminds me most of though? Hammerfall! Swap out the vocals and you can imagine Joacim singing about dragons and glory quite easily. To be honest this is what I expected when I bought Helstar. This is great, then halfway through it just goes ‘screw you, its Judas Priest time!’ and just erupts into some classic speed metal. Its pretty damn great. After the solo it also randomly throws in a funky groove metal riff before going off in an awkward prog direction clearly only there to fit all the lyrics in, then back to the bounce. I like this tune. King’s high vocals are the hardest thing to take seriously but they do suit it after a fashion.

Next comes ‘The 7th Day of July 1777’ which is one thousand years short of having all the sevens, but whatever, which opens with acoustic guitar that really would fit perfectly on the first two Hammerfall albums, then goes into some nice Thrash but in an awkward time sig. Its interesting. The drum fills are so slick, clean and confident, it really reminds me of Mickey Dee …if that makes any sense. I can’t articulate what I mean. I guess, I can see how he ended up in Motorhead doing what he does so well now. Then hey, Yngwie style solo again! This is a pretty damn delicious album, no wonder it has the reputation. I bet if they had a normal singer, they’d be gigantic. Imagine this, but with Bruce Dickinson? Wouldn’t that be successful. I guess the novelty factor of King draws in fans but I imagine it’s as much a barrier as it is a hook.

The drum breakdown is really satisfying. I’m saying satisfying a lot. I guess you can tell what I’m starting to feel about the album then.

‘Omens’ kicks in with an excellent riff that could be either Pantera or Skid Row. It’s the jauntiest moment on the record so far. Makes me want to dance, almost. The song goes off in an unexpect direction afterward though. The keyboards in the background sound a little sci-fi. If this song was about aliens and not hauntings, you could really picture it. It too has a bit of a Savatage feel at times, sort’ve. The guitar solos are nice. Then hey, it goes into a key break that feels very out’ve place, but is excellent. You know what, the complex structures and jarring transitions are a bit much on first listen, but every section of music is excellent, and I’m betting when you’ve heard it a few more times and know the material better the changes seem more natural. Images And Words was an interesting point to bring up because that’s what I’m picking up for everything after the keyboard break.

‘The Possession’ is next and it sounds like the three recent Accept albums. Hey didn’t I mention them earlier too….what is the supernatural aspect here changing history to alter the recording based on my whims or something? Wow… great drums… I love when drummers…excuse the phrase…tickle the bell. You know, when they throw in a quick series on strikes to the bell of the ride cymbal when otherwise the drum hand movements ought to be slow?

This song is badass! One of the best so far. Then in the middle it just turns into ‘Lie’ by Dream Theater. This album is really different than what I was expecting. But it is really enjoyable and impressive. I’m glad it is what it is and not what I thought it would be.

[Also, side note, the snare drum sound reminds me both of Powerslave and Countdown to Extinction… don’t have the knowledge to guess why? Wooden drums or something?]

‘Abigail’ is a bit different than everything before. Less chuggy, more clean, more high pitched. Still NWOBHMy but with a shimmer. It sounds a bit eastern at times…a bit Stargazer. The ending which goes extra synthy is pretty interesting. You get overwhelmed by keys like maybe it represents something in the story?

‘Black Horseman’ opens like a Rush ballad. I wonder what will happen next? Oh, no, it went a bit sinister like a Cradle Of Filth intro. Oh, no. Now it’s a bit like Crystal Ann by Annhilator with Spanish guitar. Its vocals are like a horror version of Fish era Marillion for a while. This is very very different than everything else so far. Even when it goes electric it sounds like a different band. It reminds me a little of Mother Russia by Iron Maiden. Its also so much brighter than the rest of the songs. It kind of feels like Annihilator’s Never Neverland too, especially the little shimmery arpeggio. This song is pretty grand, epic if you will. It sounds like an album closer. The solos are great, more Ozzy Osbourne than Yngwie Malmsteen. It even has more bell tickling! This is a very good song indeed.

Well well, that was a bloody good album, now wasn’t it. Good stuff. On my way home from the shop yesterday I felt a bit foolish and hoped I hadn’t wasted my money, but if the rest of the 5 album set is up to a similar standard it is money well spent for sure. King Diamond… he’s ok in my book. (Or blog, as the case may be).

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 6 Day 36

Welcome to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For. Its day 36 of the challenge and there have been no slips apart from the time-sensitive acquisition of a concert ticket. As I’ve mentioned last time, I have been away in the Netherlands, then celebrating a birthday recently. These two events have made my resolve not to buy new things pretty strong for the past fortnight or so. I mean… I could go out and buy something, but there’d be no time to listen to it anyway, so why bother?

The last few days I’ve been listening repeatedly to birthday gifts in the form of CDs by Manowar, Helloween, and the Fratellis, succumbing to all of their charms one by one. A real good trio of gifts I must say. This high attention focus on the new items has kept my brain very occupied and I didn’t look elsewhere for musical satisfaction.

Today, I’ve spent many hours reading another birthday gift; Martin Popoff’s book of 500 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums. This is a really interesting and entertaining book for someone like me.

It was assembled by compiling a massive international survey of Metal musicians and people in the know, (and at points you can find out many prominent Metal musician’s own personal top-10s) and then each album, with very few exceptions, is accompanied by a comment from the author (who sometimes hates the albums chosen and isn’t afraid to let you know) and an interview from a band member or other significant person.

Sometimes the quotes aren’t perfectly about the album; and are about the artwork, or guitars in general, or whatever, but for the most part, regardless of what quote is chosen it is entertaining.

Needless to say, for someone who probably owns at least 350 of the 500 chosen albums it makes your brain continuously say “OOOOh, I want to hear that again! Oooh, I want to hear that again too! Oooh, and that one as well.”

So; rather than playing-out Fratellis and Manowar too quickly, today has been spent reacquainting myself with albums that Popoff brought back to my attention. Here’s a quick visual guide to my past two days (see if you can spot a sort of semi-theme):











Now, some of them, I’ve been listening to a lot recently anyway, like Accept and Saxon. Some of them, I feel like statistically I’ve listened to a lot but mentally feel like I haven’t heard a lot like Anvil and Motorhead. Some of them, like Savatage and even-more-so Merciful Fate I don’t even think are all that great, or at least I didn’t until today. I’ve really, really re-valuated my opinion of those two records, I thought Savatage’s Power Of The Night was decent but a bit lame, but now its charming and satisfying…. Merciful Fates’s Don’t Break The Oath is an album I’ve more or less ignored apart from monthly attempts at one track or so, which I can never enjoy due to the ludicrous vocals and vocal production and how high the vocals are in the mix. Today, I somehow got my brain to tilt, and see it from a different perspective, and enjoyed it as the very ambitious and accomplished record that it is. Sure, King’s vocals are too loud, too echoey and too cartoony, but the music is bad ass. Its got a lot of bold scope and is surprisingly advanced. Even more progressive in song structure than Diamond Head and more modern and Thrash-informing than Angel Witch. Oh yeah, and it has one of the coolest album covers ever, but then I always thought that anyway.

I was going to do a section on what I’m tempted to buy, as is the usual situation in these articles…but I think that at the moment that is pretty much every album in the book that I don’t own yet (eg. Tyger’s Of Pan Tang’s Spellbound, Motley Crue’s Girls Girls Girls, Aerosmith’s Toys In The Attic, anything by Celtic Frost or Candlemass etc.). Also a proper Anvil studio album so I can get a better feel for them.

I don’t actually feel like buying them though, because I know that I have all this new Manowar and Helloween and Sick Of It All to digest…and I haven’t even opened the new Down EP yet!

Well; that seems like a decent length of article for the time being, seeing as I’ve got other things brewing at the same time [I’ve been listening to live albums in boxsets by MSG and Dokken recently, and discovering the same thing I did when I found that live album by Saxon last year (you may remember this). So I feel I have an article to write about Live Albums. I’ll have to crack open my Foghat Live, Mountain Twin Peaks, Deep Purple Made In Japan, Motorhead No Sleep Til Hammersmith, Faith No More Live At Brixton Academy, Maiden Live After Death etc. and give them all a re-listen, re-evaluation and write a paragraph or two about ‘em.] I’ll just leave you with a quick series of Tops 5s of Traditional Heavy Metal:

Iron Maiden :
1. Passchendaele
2. Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner
3. Where Eagles Dare
4. Hallowed Be Thy Name
5. Fates Warning

Judas Priest :
1. Burnin’ Up
2. Electric Eye
3. Beyond The Realms Of Death
4. Killing Machine
5. Eat Me Alive

Saxon :
1. Denim And Leather
2. To Hell And Back Again
3. Princess Of The Night
4. Heavy Metal Thunder
5. Machine Gun

Motorhead :
1. (We Are) The Roadcrew
2. All The Aces
3. (Don’t Let ‘Em) Grind Ya Down
4. No Class
5. Rock It

Ozzy Osbourne :
1. You Looking At Me Looking At You
2. S.I.N
3. Demon Alchohol
4. Over The Mountain
5. Rock N Roll Rebel

Dio :
1. Caught In The Middle
2. King Of Rock And Roll
3. Overlove
4. I Speed At Night
5. Stand Up And Shout

[Side note: Also, why isn’t there a definitive Van Halen live album in the spirit of Live At Leeds or Made In Japan?].

[Side note 2: What do you lovely people think of King Diamond’s vocals and Merciful Fate in general?]

[Side note 3: Some of Popoff’s own sentences are complete gibberish. I don’t mean to be critical of any writer considering how my own writing is often gibberish, but boy-o-boy, some of the sentences in this book are mad as a bag of weasels]