Tuesday, January 23, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1095: King Diamond

I did warn you a couple reviews ago that I overdid it on the King Diamond purchases last year. Now that decision is coming home to roost.

Disc 1095 is… “The Eye”

No I don’t know why the title is in quotation marks.
Artist: King Diamond

Year of Release: 1990

What’s up with the Cover? It’s a spooky necklace. Could this be “The Eye”? Spoiler alert - this necklace is cursed! I would totally wear it anyway, because it is totally bitchin’!

How I Came To Know It: When I blasted through the entire King Diamond discography last year this album was one of the better ones and I was able to get it as part of a cheap 5-disc box-set re-issue.

How It Stacks Up:  I have eight King Diamond albums. Don’t judge me! Anyway, I’ve got a long way to go before I can properly appreciate all eight, but I’m going to take a chance and say “The Eye” is my favourite.

Ratings: 4 stars

It seems like only yesterday that I was going on about the crazy high-voiced metal god that is King Diamond. Actually it was last Wednesday when I reviewed “Abigail”. All the concept album glory of that album is present on “The Eye” but the riffs are tighter, the melodies stronger and the songs more listenable.

This record is a bit more straightforward in its approach to metal, employing a lot of the galloping rhythm of Iron Maiden, crossed with some of the soar of Dio and the crunch of Metallica. I wouldn’t say King Diamond is as good as any of those bands in their prime, but “The Eye” comes close.

The guitar solos occasionally rely too much on pure speed but it is hard to fault Andy Larocque for showing off – the guy can play. He even slows it down on the instrumental “Insanity” and delivers a moody atmospheric song that is just the tonic your ear needs before the album’s final two tracks blast you back into the stratosphere.

This album isn’t quite as focused as “Abigail” in terms of plot, but it is still heavily thematic. In this case the theme is two sets of interconnected stories, the first of which features a cursed necklace called “The Eye”. The album starts with a kind of intro/homage to the necklace, and then gets into what I think is its creation, when a woman is burned as a witch without evidence. Later the Eye pops up in the ashes, promptly killing two children with its evil power. Then we switch gears to follow a nun named Madeleine who is victimized by a creepy priest, goes crazy before we come back to a second song celebrating the necklace.

It's not a single concept album, but rather two stories featuring various innocents suffering fates they don’t deserve at the hands of corrupt authority figures, with a couple bookend tracks loosely holding things together.

The willingness to take even a half step back from full-blown horror musical gives King Diamond the narrative wiggle room to write better lyrics. They aren’t brilliant by any means, but unlike the story-time approach of “Abigail” here we get defined choruses that hold the songs together better.

The opening track is “Eye of the Witch” which is a balls-out riff fest. It is the perfect mix of the crunch of Sabbath, the gallop of Maiden and some kind of doom-laden horror film score.

From there, the album doesn’t let up. The next track, “The Trial (Chambre Ardente)” suffers from a bit too much goofy dialogue, but the chugging riff lets you forgive King Diamond’s excesses and eccentricities.

The third song, “Burn” goes full crazy, with King Diamond exclaiming:

“They say the devil is here tonight
Then let him play his violin so wild”

Followed by some fiendish Bacchanalian style fiddle. Or maybe it is a keyboard – whatever it is, it is the perfect combination of satyr and metal. Generally, the production decisions feel like someone yelled “turn everything up!” but managed to somehow keep it crisp and clean through the excess.

The album has a couple of slower numbers that give the record some variety. Later on there is the aforementioned “Insanity” but before that we get “Two Little Girls” which is the story of two little girls playing the ashes where they burn witches until they find “the Eye” and…promptly die. The song has a genuine creep factor and despite my intellectual dismissal of two kids stupid enough to play in charnel ash I found myself wanting to shout out a warning before it’s too late.

When I reviewed “Abigail” I got a bit nervous about all the King Diamond I’ve bought in the past year, but “The Eye” restored my faith in my former self. This stuff is solid well played power metal. Yes it is a bit over the top, but that’s how metal should be.

Best tracks: Eye of the Witch, Burn, Behind These Walls, The Meetings, Insanity, The Curse

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