Thursday, March 20, 2014

King Diamond - "Them"

After the monumental Fatal Portrait and the beautiful Abigail, King Diamond brings us his third album in three years, 1988's "Them". Now one would think that writing that many albums in that short of time in between touring, etc would cause a band to go stale. Well, King Diamond is not just any other band nor is King any other songwriter. Since the recording of Abigail, former Mercyful Fate guitarist Michael Denner was first replaced by Michael Moon for the Abigail tour. After the tour, Michael Moon was sacked and Pete Blakk brought in for the recording of the new album. Also gone was Timi Hansen who was replaced by Hal Patino. The addition of the new members actually added a new dimension to the band and the result is another album that is nothing short of perfect. How does King do it?

"Them" is another concept album where King puts himself in the first person as a boy dealing with ghosts ("Them"), an evil Grandma who controls "Them" as well as possesses his mother with "special" Tea, and an evil doctor who was supposed to help him. Once again, another elaborate and eerie story by a master story teller. After the intro "Out from the Asylum", we go right into probably the most well known King Diamond song, "Welcome Home". A video was made for this song that received a good share of airplay on MTV as well as being used decades later in the comedy Clerks II. That aside, the song is the perfect opener and King used that song for many years as the opener of his shows. From the beginning drum rolls going into the massive riff of the song what you have is a straight ahead heavy metal song showing that the new additions to the band were more than competent to handle King's demands. The riffs are plenty and the solos are absolutely amazing. Pete Black, while I wouldn't say he's better than Michael Denner, has a different approach to his playing and is actually more in the same style as Andy La Rocque giving the songs a more powerful and technical modern power metal sound.

Now this is personally my favorite King Diamond album and I think it's due to the consistency of the album. Songs like "The Invisible Guests" and "Mother's Getting Weaker" are just power metal crushers that are fast and loaded with hooks, riffs, and melodies. The choruses are catchy and, of course, the solos are just godly. King's voice on this album is a mix of his (mostly) falsettos and his eerie lower register. He even sings in his melodic lower "Mercyful Fate" register that was missing on the two previous albums. These songs are complex and technical without being pretentious. Then you have songs like "Bye, Bye Missy", "A Broken Spell", and "The Accusation Chair" that are you straight ahead metal rockers but with hooks and a complexity that makes them more than ordinary. Drummer Mikkey Dee also shows his skill on these songs, showing that he's just not a double bass and no fills player. He is technical and a mater of his craft. He's one of the best to ever grace the genre.

"Tea" is actually one of my favorite songs by King Diamond. Part "ballady" and part galloping rocker it just has this heavy main riff that trades off with a beautiful clean guitar riff for the catchy as fuck chorus. Then in the middle it speeds up a bit for the massive solos that trade off between the two guitarists. King's voice is in top form for this one as well. Then after the beautiful acoustic title track you have the epic "Twilight Symphony". This song, though not quite on par with "The Black Horsemen" from Abigail, it's damn close. The riffs are huge and the chorus is epic and melodic with King's falsetto voice layered in harmonies that sound like choirs. This song is the last proper song on the album going into the outro "Coming Home" which gives you the sense that this concept will be continued (as it was on the follow up, Conspiracy).

While many will say that Abigail is King's best solo album and even I feel like "The Black Horsemen" from that album is the best metal song of all time, this songs on "Them" go together so well making this album my favorite over Abigail. This album also defines heavy metal as did the previous album making King one of the most prolific artists in heavy metal. The ability to write thee albums in a row, three years in a row is not something just anyone can do. This trio of albums are part of what made me love heavy metal to this day and is also the reason why King Diamond is my all time favorite metal artist. There are no other albums that can touch this, period!


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