King Diamond

Copenhell - 2013

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

King Diamond is a band and an artist that many people have strong opinions about, good and bad, and I expect like in the case of Manowar and the likes, many of these opinions, especially the bad ones, are based more on prejudice rather than knowledge of the actual music.
I know my prejudice told me that this probably wasn’t going to be anything special, without ever spending any time that I can remember listening to the music, but as I figured the show was going to be spectacular at least I wasn’t about to stay away from that.

That King Diamond is still after almost 40 years in the business one of the most iconic characters around is beyond a doubt. His vocal style has to my knowledge never been tried copied by anyone at any time, and no one has ever built such a secure and well-established foundation of horror metal, where each and every album is a story unto itself, ready to lead you on a path straight to hell.
The fact that he is originally Danish, well that was just the cherry on top of the double icing here at Copenhell; everyone seemed to have some form of connection to the squared royalty, be it pure fandom, or be it a working or personal friendship from back in the day.
Either way, King Diamond closing down Helvíti and the entire festival on the final day of Copenhell was mounting up to be the biggest show this festival has seen in its four year existence.

The stage was covered by a huge curtain and had been for quite some time now.
No surprise really, for what was revealed when it fell must have taken some serious building time to set up – a huge room taken from a gothic mansion was before us, with a twin staircase leading up to a second floor. Everything looked Victorian, like something directly out of an old Hammer film, portraits were hanging on the walls and in the middle back, above the second floor ledge was a huge pentagram with a goats head inside! Was this the mansion where Abigail lived? I think it was!
In front of it all, going almost from side to side at the edge of the stage was a tall iron fence which served as our only defence from the horrors that lay in wait, ready to snatch our souls away...
When the curtain fell to reveal all this, there was not surprisingly a huge roar from the audience welcoming the band on stage. The artists in front of us counted the King’s old friend and constant compatriot Andy LaRocque (a.k.a. Anders Allhage) on guitar, the old in and out bassist Hasse ‘Hal’ Patino, Mike Wead (a.k.a. Mikael Vikström) on guitar as well and finally Matt Thompson on drums, but where was King Diamond himself?

He was at the top of the stage, up on the second floor ledge above the drums, in full outfit and make-up, appearing like a ghastly ghost just moments before his vocal lines started. He staggered down the stairs, not because he needed to but because it was in his character to do so, and the rest of the show followed very much in the same way, i.e. in full character. Diamond would grab the bars of the fence, and shake his bony microphone holder at us with a terrible expression on his face clearly inspired by horror movies from the glory days of the Universal monster films and the aforementioned Hammer films.
The musicians weren’t as theatrical, but delivered a lively and entertaining performance nonetheless; the only thing annoying me here was that Patino didn’t respect the imaginary boundary of the fence and went outside it a few times. It damaged the illusion and the atmosphere of the whole thing, and I can’t understand why he couldn’t wait to go to the edge of the stage until the fence had been removed? This happened by hooded figures around the time of Dreams, the sixth song.
The hooded menaces appeared from time to time, doing stage-hand work like that mentioned above, bringing and removing acoustical guitars for Sleepless Nights (I think it was, but titles were giving me trouble), and also rolling grandma out in her wheelchair for Welcome Home.

Yes, grandma was home, and so was Miriam, and Lula, all beloved characters from various stories of King Diamond, all portrayed by a female dancer called Jodi Cachia. She did a great job adding to the theatrical feeling of the show and gave very varied personal portrayals of the different characters, the height of which came with Miriam being pregnant and subsequently giving birth to Abigail, a bloody spectacle filled with emotions first of love, then moving to dread and repulsion...

It still didn’t top the King himself though, although one could argue that it all worked together to accomplish an overall sense of greatness. Of course King Diamond was also superbly theatrical in his delivery; over the top yes, but it fit well with the stories and setting. However, it was not in his songs that he shone through the most and surprised me, no, it was between the songs where he just spoke to the audience. This was done in Danish which of course was a real treat for everyone present, but what struck the hardest chord in me was how extremely humble and down-to-earth he seemed – this was about as far away from any rock mythos that one could come, and put him aside from so many others (again, make comparison to Manowar and especially Joey DeMaio, although this time they contrast each other rather than resemble)!
Apart from idle chit-chat, King Diamond also wanted us to join in on some singing, and he had no problem getting the huge audience to sing and shout along to songs like Sleepless Nights and Eye Of The Witch, to name but a few...

“Hail to the king, baby!”
- Ash (Army Of Darkness)

Hail to the King indeed.
With very little in the way of expectation I entered this gig and King Diamond, man and band, managed to wipe me off my feet! I was so taken by the performance I lacked words afterwards, except for various quotes from Army Of Darkness explaining how good it is to be the king.
The only minus I saw was the somewhat tedious drum-solo which dragged on, but other than that, this was a top-score and the best possible way to end the evening and the festival. What Copenhell will do to top this in 2014 I do not know, but whatever it is, it will have some mighty large shoes to fill!


The Candle
Welcome Home
At The Graves
Up From The Grave
Let It Be Done
Sleepless Nights
Solo (Thompson)
Shapes Of Black
Come To The Sabbath (Mercyful Fate cover)
Eye Of The Witch
The Family Ghost
Evil (Mercyful Fate cover)
Black Horsemen

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