DVD REVIEW: KING DIAMOND – “Songs For The Dead Live”
I’ve been a fan of King Diamond (and Mercyful Fate) for as long as I’ve been a fan of heavy metal, which is close to 20 years. As a kid and living in Brazil, I couldn’t attend King Diamond’s or Mercyful Fate’s concerts in the 1990’s in my home country for being too young, so it was only in 2017 that I was able to see the great Dane and their faithful band in my hometown, but damn, it was worth the wait.
Playing exactly the same setlist as the band’s upcoming DVD – and subject of this review -, the King, Andy LaRocque and Mike Wead (guitars), Matt Thompson (drums) and Pontus Egberg (bass) provided ace instrumental, perfect execution and masterful atmosphere, bringing tears to young and old alike.
That same atmosphere and sense of nostalgia can be traced back to the band’s two shows featured in this DVD. The first one, a huge and epic performance at the 2016 Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium, showcases the King’s monstrous crowd-control power, as every metalhead in that sea of humans, leather jackets and sweat was left mesmerized by the theatrically inspired nuances and trademark falsettos. The second, an extremely similar display of what I experienced in Brazil: an intimate, tailor-made spectacle where band and audience were equal parts of a thrilling experience, this time around in a smaller venue – The Fillmore in Philadelphia, PA, US – in 2015.
The art direction and the photography are top notch and will definitely put you very close to the action, from LaRocque’s prolific and meticulous riffing to the camera itself waltzing in the stage, making you see and hear the Grandma in “Welcome Home” or King himself stabbing a wonderfully hilarious Abigail doll in the initial part of “Funeral”. All cameras add to a really cool sense of immersion.
As for the music itself, there is little to be said about King Diamond’s 1987 masterpiece ‘Abigail’ – which is played in its entirety here – and about classics such as “Sleepless Nights”, “Eye of the Witch” and the beautiful holy trio of “Halloween”, “Melissa” and “Come to the Sabbath”. All of those are executed to perfection and with the extra flavor provided by the powerful and loud drumming of Matt Thompson, as well as King’s falsettos – accompanied by Livia Zita’s soothing backing vocals -, which are actually scary if you think that they’re coming from a 60+ year old man.
From Grandma’s wheelchair to Abigail’s coffin, from the ghost surrounding the stage to the constant changes of lighting and scenario, the professionalism allied to the extremely high skills of the musicians makes for the macabre and spectacular aura throughout both concerts, particularly more so in the Philadelphia one. The shows are thrilling, aesthetically beautiful, and musically perfect. You’ll feel chills with the organ bits of the ‘Abigail’ set, get mesmerized by LaRocque’s acoustic intro in “The 7th Day of July 1777” and be fearful of the omens and the apocalyptic ending with “Black Horsemen” and “Insanity”, not to mention travel back in time listening to the solos and the strong bass lines.
‘Songs for the Dead Live’ is the ultimate King Diamond concert experience turned into DVD. There isn’t a single note out of key, a single camera take that could be better from a different angle, or a single second when you would think that something could be better; it’s a product made to equally please visually, musically and from a nostalgia point of view. The only downside for me is that both concerts feature the exact same setlist, which could easily be prevented by changing a couple of tracks from one to the other – God knows (well, Satan knows) King Diamond has plenty of classics to spare.
This is a must-have for every heavy metal fan, not just King Diamond ones, as it is an epitome of all we love: organic, passionate performances, visually appealing, haunting moments and – best of all – a perfect homage to the heydays when band and audience would unite as one for a seminal experience. All hail the King.