Tuesday, February 13, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1104: King Diamond

On the walk home today I had a musical accident when my MP3 player slipped through a hole in my pocket into the lining of my coat. I stayed cool under pressure, though, playing out headphone wire until it went slack so I could just let it keep playing. At first, that is.

About a block from the house I couldn’t resist futzing with it any longer, and in attempting to recover the player managed to unplug the headphone jack and plunge it even deeper into the lining. I spent the last few steps on the journey in horrific silence, the terrible realization that the player continued to play from the bowels of my overcoat, with no one to hear its screams.

Why was it screaming, you ask? Well…to understand that you have to know what I was listening to.

Disc 1104 is… The Spider’s Lullabye
Artist: King Diamond

Year of Release: 1995

What’s up with the Cover? I’m not familiar with this species of spider. The King Diamond Widow? The Danish Recluse?

How I Came To Know It: I went a little crazy recently and bought a whole bunch of King Diamond albums. This was one of them.

How It Stacks Up:  I have eight King Diamond albums. Of those eight, I put the Spider’s Lullabye at sixth.

Ratings: 2 stars but almost 3

Well here we go again…more King Diamond  - the Danish metal band that shrieks, freaks and goes all out in its quest for metal glory. It may have come out in 1995, almost ten years into King Diamond’s career, but their commitment to playing traditional symphonic heavy metal, fast and furious and grandiose, remains undiminished.

Yeah, but is it any good? The answer to that is complicated, because there are moments on “Spider’s Lullabye” that are great and had me convinced that it would be remaining in my collection for many years to come. Then I’d hear something that just felt like a tired reworking of stuff I’d heard them do on earlier records and want to turf it.

A lot of King Diamond albums are concept albums, but “Spider’s Lullabye” is a hodgepodge of horror topics. Along the way the band tells the story of out-of-body experiences, ghosts, serial killers, nightmares and a disturbing sanitarium that tortures people with spiders and calls it “therapy.” As a horror writer myself I like this sort of creepy stuff, even if King Diamond handles it with varying degrees of skill.

The album starts on a strong note, with “From the Other Side” describing someone floating above their own body and then realizing to their horror it has been reanimated, but is now possessed by a demon. The music is a galloping Iron Maiden-esque drumbeat and a charging guitar riff that adds urgency to the dreamer’s efforts to return to the world – alas, too late. Such is horror. If you wanted it to end with a bunch of laughs and a wedding, try comedy.

There follows some forgettable songs that feature a combination of amazing guitar work from master Andy Laroque but also Laroque just playing fast without purpose. It can be technically impressive, but on songs like “Dreams” detracts from the churning energy he builds with his riffs. The solos vary between inspired and integral to just tacked on and unnecessary.

Like King Diamond’s scream-style vocals, Laroque’s guitar is an acquired taste and for those who have acquired it will have no problems with some of the musical choices that gave a newbie like me pause.

As on other albums, the lyrics on “The Spider’s Lullabye” can feel a bit forced and literal, but I was impressed with “Six Feet Under,” featuring a man buried in a coffin made of glass. Best line: “My hands are turning blue while my nails are turning red.” Basic stuff, but it does a great job of capturing both the victim’s asphyxiation, and the damage he does to himself as he desperately tries to claw his way out.

The album’s final four songs tell a mini-epic of a man afraid of spiders and gets a lot more than he bargained for from the aversion therapy of the crazy Dr. Eastmann. The eight minute torture sequence in “Room 17” goes on a bit long but otherwise this is a pretty solid short story ending…spoiler alert…in a morgue full of corpses and spiders.

The record benefits from a strong remastering effort by guitarist Larocque. It sounds crisp and loud, but not shouty. Except of course for King Diamond’s vocals, those are a bit shouty, but they are supposed to be.

This was my third King Diamond review in the last eleven albums and at first I was prepared to get rid of it due to fatigue alone. It is a lot of new music to grok in a short period of time, particularly music this dense and complex. However, by the end of my second listen “Spider’s Lullabye” had won me over just enough for me to decide to keep it around…for now.

Best tracks: From the Other Side, Six Feet Under, Eastmann’s Cure

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