Album Review: KING DIAMOND Songs For The Dead Live
While it might not be a new album just yet, fans who have waited 12 years for that can probably hold out at least a few more months. Thankfully, there is a new live release from King Diamond. Songs For The Dead Live shows off two separate live shows from the band's tour in which they played Abigail, the legendary 1987 album, in its entirety. The first set is at Graspop Metal Meeting in 2016. They played to approximately 150,000 people during this show. The second, during the band's US run in 2015, at The Fillmore in Philadelphia—playing to a much smaller crowd of 2,500. After King Diamond's health scare in 2010—which resulted in triple bypass surgery and uncertainty of even continuing—this double live album is a much-needed exhale and a wonderful return to form for the band.
The first part of the set features some of the best of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. Kicking off with the intro track from Them, “Out of the Asylum” to the roar of an excited audience. Finally—to the sound of one of the most recognizable drum intros in metal courtesy of Matt Thompson—the show flies right into “Welcome Home." Only a few seconds into the song fans are welcomed to King Diamond's signature high falsetto, soaring into that very first “GRANDMA!” King's voice is as strong as always. The end of “Welcome Home” goes right into the start of “Sleepless Nights”. Which, instead of being a straight, high energy track though, the song alternates between faster and slower sections.
“Eye of the Witch” from The Eye follows. This is a much more mid-tempo track, showing off King's mid-range of vocals. Above all though, the roar of the crowd permeates the recording. During the chorus, where the song sings, “It's the eye of the witch," the audience belts out and absolutely overtakes the band with sheer power. It's enough to send shivers down the spine. Later comes “Melissa” and “Come To the Sabbath” from King Diamond and guitarist Mike Wead's previous band, Mercyful Fate. The first half shows off Andy LaRocque's softer guitar and King's mid-high vocal style. The latter half shows off Mike Wead and Andy LaRocque's harmonizing guitar parts, as well as Matt Thompson's thrashier drum work.
“Are you ready for more Mercyful?” Asks King before breaking into “Come to the Sabbath." This is a much more centralized song, it's one that really shows off everyone's ability to do what they do. The first part of the set ends with “Them," presumably played over tape while the band prepares for the main part of the set. “Funeral” begins to play and signals the impending Abigail. “Arrival” soon follows and the classic story begins with the main characters arriving at a mansion they had inherited.
Upon arriving at the mansion they're greeted by horsemen. The music changes drastically based on the narrative, even just through this song the much heavier and slower tempo sections are based on when the horsemen speak, which is made apparent by King's lower vocal style and the included “The horsemen said…” The faster sections are based on the main character “Jonathan” and the narrator speaking. While “A Mansion In Darkness” is probably one of the fastest songs played in this set, after a call and response between King and the audience, the band breaks into one of the heavier tracks, “The Family Ghost."
King, or “Jonathan” as he is, meets the ghost of who he inherited the mansion from and learns that Abigail's spirit still lives in the mansion and to consummate their new mansion, the character’s wife is now pregnant. The song itself is heavy, the harmonizing guitars throughout the song and the mid-tempo pacing creates for the perfect backdrop for this story. “The 7th Day of July 1777” has the best solos in the entire set, encapsulated between King singing about pushing a pregnant woman down the stairs to kill the evil spirit.
King's voice then soars through the majority of "Omens." Sometimes it feels like all he's trying to do is one-up what he did just beforehand. The crowd gets more into it as the set progresses. “The Possession sends the crowd into a frenzy. While it features King's signature voice, is much more focused on the instrumentals to push the main narrative. This is the part of the story where Abigail is being born. As things become more dire, the instrumentals get faster and heavier right until the solo.
“This one's for you, Graspop!” or "This one's for you, Philadelphia!" says King. “And also, for Abigail. For joining us again,” as the scaling guitar intro of “Abigail” starts. Around the three-minute mark starts a barrage of solos. Back and forth between Andy LaRoque and Mike Wead playing note for note the arrangement from Abigail. The story itself concludes with the characters standing at the top of the stairs, ready to push “Mariam”, “Jonathan's wife, down the stairs before the baby is born. Upon attempting, “Jonathan” is in turn pushed down the stairs, “Mariam” goes into labour and dies giving birth.
A character died, which can only mean one thing. Wicked guitar solo time! After the first solo. The song enters a section where, on the record, King sings “the black horsemen,” in a lower almost growl This time, it's sung by the audience and hearing all those voices chanting along with such a notable song it's absolutely chilling. This section is followed by another killer solo and of course the end of the story, Abigail is alive once again. King closes out thanking the audiences with “Insanity” playing over the PA.
Listening to these massive crowds, who are all there enjoying life and seeing this legendary album in full is something to be desired. It's a surreal sound and it's very clear the audiences were not disappointed with the performance. Abigail even after all these years stands up very strongly, especially in a live setting. Whether it's on a bigger stage, like with the Graspop show or a smaller one with the Philadelphia show, the roar of the crowd shows that not only is metal still alive and well, fans are ready for a new record. Luckily, that's something that should be out sometime this year, but until then Songs For the Dead Live should quench the thirst for some new King Diamond.