King Diamond – Songs for the Dead Live Blu-Ray (Metal Blade)

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I’m a bit late getting this review done (Sorry Tim), but not as late as the actual release of this DVD! Comprising of two almost identical sets – one from the Fillmore in Philadelphia from 2015, the other from the Graspop Metal Meeting in 2016, this is the King’s first release since his recent health issues, including a heart bypass. Despite these setbacks it’s clear that the Danish demigod is on fine form; hitting notes that only Rob Halford could match. It’s a fact that Diamond has always worked with musicians of the highest order, and the band on these dates is no exception with Andy La Roque (surely one of the finest guitarists in modern metal) and Mike Wead trading both riffs and solos with an almost uncanny intuition. Swedish bass maestro Pontus Egberg maintains a solid backbone, and on occasion brings his subtle and exquisite playing to the forefront of the songs, particularly on ‘Sleepless Nights’. Credit is also due to Mikey Dee’s replacement Matt Thompson who works brilliantly with Egberg to establish a pounding rhythm section that propels the whole set along. A special mention for backing vocalist Livia Zita– initially I wasn’t even sure I was hearing any backing vocals, but on paying closer attention I realised that her voice is perfectly complimenting, and indeed enhancing, Kind Diamond’s high range falsetto notes.

Taking his cues from Alice Cooper (and obviously predating Ghost) – albeit in an even more sinister and disconcerting fashion, King Diamond puts a huge emphasis on the storytelling nature of his supernatural influenced songs, and live, adds the dimension of an actress (the rather disturbing Jodi Cachia) who does an excellent job of bringing the characters of ‘Grandma’ to life on the opening number ‘Welcome Home’, as Miriam on amongst others ‘The 7th Day of July 1777’ (one of the standout tracks from this set) and as a Satanic celebrant on ‘Come to the Sabbath’ –  one of  two Mercyful Fate songs ‘covered’ in both sets (the other being a superlative version of ‘Melissa’ in which La Roque and Wead absolutely excel themselves). The set itself is (I think from memory) the entire ‘Abigail’ album with one or two tracks culled from other KD albums (the afore mentioned ‘Sleepless Nights’ and ‘Eye of The Witch’) plus the Mercyful Fate tracks, and if I’ve any criticism of this release it’s the similarity of the sets – which despite having hugely different camera angles (the Philadelphia set also has more crowd shots which enhances the ‘live’ feel) are almost exact copies of each other. It would have been nice to have a few different tracks from either KD’s solo albums, or a few other MF songs or maybe even a few bonus extras (it does come with a download code for the tracks) but that’s a minor gripe regarding an otherwise excellent release. In the words of Poison Idea – Pick Your King. Ian Pickens

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