Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Honor of Halloween: Mercyful Fate and King Diamond

King Diamond, a.k.a. Kim Bendix Petersen, of Copenhagen, Denmark is one of the most interesting vocalists in metal. King has been the vocalist for both Mercyful Fate and his self-named band, oftentimes simultaneously. King's vocals are very distinctive as King frequently sings in the falsetto range, occasionally coming back down to emphasize different voices, as the song requires.

Both bands have been cited for being a major influence on the development of thrash, death, black, and gothic metal. The two bands, though similar musically, are nonetheless a little different as far as creativity involved in the songs. For the most part, Mercyful Fate is more of a song band, allowing King and company to focus more on the songwriting aspect of music. King Diamond on the other hand, is more involved in the storytelling side of things. In addition, lyrically, Mercyful Fate deals with occult themes whereas King Diamond tells horror stories. Currently, King Diamond is still active while Mercyful Fate remains on hiatus.

From a visual standpoint, King is very memorable. He was among the first in metal to don makeup, a look which eventually lead black metal bands to apply "corpse paint". King also typically dressed like a heavy metal Dracula, wearing a black and red cape with his hair black and slicked back, although this look occasionally switched to a black trench coat and a top hat or bowler. King's microphone onstage was a cross made of bones hanging from the back of the microphone. He also once had a skull that he sang to, named Melissa after one of Mercyful Fate's early albums/songs.

The important thing for this Halloween-related blog today is that the songs by both bands were often spooky. King also has a gift for concept albums. I will cover each of the albums I own by both bands and discuss the concept or lyrical themes. If the album is not a concept album, I will look at some of the individual songs.

Mercyful Fate's debut album was a large success and still is the most well-known album from the two bands. It featured songs about a witch who was murdered ("Melissa"), witchcraft ("Into the Coven"), and in general songs about Satanism and evil ("Evil", "Curse of the Pharaohs", "Satan's Fall").

This album found the band settling on a style strongly influenced by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, but dealign again heavily with the occult. Notable spooky songs include "Desecration of Souls", "Night of the Unborn", "Welcome Princes of Hell", and "Come to the Sabbath".

Abigail is to King Diamond as Melissa is to Mercyful Fate, the most well-known album in the band's very strong catalog. The story to this album is about a young couple who moves into a mansion that the husband inherited, but are warned by seven horsemen to avoid the place. The husband is visited in his sleep by his ancestor who shows him a casket with an stillborn child inside and tells him that his wife is now carrying the spirit of the unborn child and must be killed to avoid the child becoming reborn. The wife is clearly pregnant the next day and progressing rapidly, but before he can do anything about it, she throws him down the stairs and Abigail is born, although the wife does not survive childbirth. Abigail is alone as the seven horsemen return to the mansion to kill her.

King is the main protagonist in this story as he deals with his mentally ill grandmother who has recently returned from an asylum. King sees her having a tea party alone after investigating due to hearing strange voices and sees teacups and kettles floating in the air. Grandma later wakes him and tells him that she will tell him about Amon, her house, and takes him into his mother's room where Grandma cuts King's sleeping mother's hand and pours her blood into the teapot. King becomes catatonic as does his mother. His sister Missy tries to wake him to try to help their mother. King refuses to help and cuts the phone line. Missy breaks the teapot out of anger, but the ghosts in the house become enraged and chop Missy up with an axe and throw the pieces into the fireplace. King snaps out of it and leaves the house where he is able to understand the prior events. He lures his grandmother out of the house and kills her. He is convicted of the crime and sent to an asylum, but upon returning home finds that the voices and Grandma are still present.

This album is not a full concept album, although the second half of the songs do tell a story. The first half contains songs about ghosts ("The Poltergeist"), serial killers ("Killer"), and cursed children ("Moonlight"), among other things. The second half tells the story of a man afraid of spiders. The man finds a psychiatrist who claims to specialize in curing phobias. The man is placed into a room with a wolf spider. He complains of bites and pain but the doctor does not help him. Later, he is found dead in his room and cocooned in a spider web. After his death, spiders began using his empty eye sockets as nests.

A brother and sister are waiting for judgment in the afterlife. The brother is sent to Hell as a mistake has lead the Thirteen Judges to the wrongful belief that he had committed suicide, when in fact, both children were killed by their father before he committed suicide. The girl decides to find a new soul for her brother so that he can come to Heaven with her. She haunts King, the protagonist of this story as well. King contacts her via black magic and she tells her story, but she finds him too full of sin and he pleads with her to leave the house and find another soul before sunrise. She leaves King and comes to "THIS HOUSE", implying that she is coming to the home of the listener.

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