Not many performers have the vocal range or theatrical flair that King Diamond has, a self-avowed Satanist that (along with Alice Cooper and Kiss) influenced a large forest-full of Scandinavian metal bands to streak their faces with black and white paint. After Mercyful Fate sputtered to an end, Diamond found renewed success as a solo act but the revered songbook of the early ’80s Danish band remained dormant. Until this year, when along with fellow founding member Hank Shermann, they decided to breathe some life into the beast and resuscitate it, along with Mike Wead and Bjarne Holm from the latter era lineup. (Sadly, original bassist Timl Hansen wasn’t able to see these (don’t call it a reunion) shows happen despite being there as the idea was hatched).
Filling the air with soaring, operatic vocals and showing more scowls than Grumpy Cat, Diamond and company blazed through a large handful of the crucial songs which put them on the map as the most important Danish band of all time. Any self-respecting hesher in their 40s or 50s has to have a copy of Melissa or Don’t Break The Oath and if they don’t, please turn in your battle vest. The brooding opening of “The Oath” is basically taking the cover art of the first Black Sabbath record and morphing it into audio form, but Mercyful Fate isn’t a down-tuned riff machine; they had way more influence (shared or borrowed, tough to say) in the quavering whammy bar attacks of Jeff Hanneman or Kirk Hammett, working ascending scales like reptilian demons storming the castle walls, relentlessly intense.
“The Jackal of Salzburg” is a new song written just before this tour began (and news broke today that more is on the way), a tale about the last modern day witch expurgation which happened in Austria three centuries ago. Ditching his goat head, Diamond wore a black crown as he spat out lines detailing human atrocities, clutching his mic wrapped around human femurs and pointing at the crowd in an accusatory manner; mass hysteria has a way of warping people’s minds.
“We’re gonna do the ritual now. That’s why you’re here, Whether you know it or not.” Closing out the regular set, heshers did indeed come to the Sabbath and participated in the ritual that live music, especially metal does – bringing people together. Tonight, the ritual took us all in its black arms.
Tonight the undercard wasn’t just a couple of nameless bands tossed in at the last minute and people who streamed in late missed out on a double dose of thrash. First up was Midnight, the hooded marauders from Cleveland who bring blazing speed and a rancidly acid attack in the best possible way. Relentless fury and boundless energy, their black-hooded faces hid everything but their intentions. I mean, starting a set with “Fucking Speed and Darkness” pretty much lays out their cards on the table from the get go, but it was during “Lust, Filth and Sleaze” where the trio was expanded to a quartet with the addition of a scantily clad female sporting a Wendy O. Williams top and a thong that could double as dental floss. Yes guys, that point was driven home!
Sandwiched in the middle was Kreator, a long-running German thrash band who adorned the stage like that Fenway Park scene from The Handmaid’s Tale, just next door. I was a little shocked that they have fifteen records out and Hate Über Alles is the latest to top that pile. They made the most of their time slot and played songs from nine records; that’s German efficiency for you.