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Primer

King Diamond

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WHO IS HE

Born Kim Peterson in Denmark in 1956, the wildly flamboyant King Diamond has been a pivotal figure in underground heavy metal circles over the course of his 30-year-plus career, paving the way for thrash and black metal, and upping the ante for violence and occult prevalent in the genre. Through a series of albums with the wildly influential Mercyful Fate and with his own, self-named backing band, Diamond has maintained a dedicated cult following for his macabre-themed concept albums and distinctive, multi-octave voice range.

Inspired by the theatrics of Alice Cooper and other '70s hard rock/metal acts, Diamond eventually made his way into a punk-influenced band, the Brats, in the late-'70s which eventually evolved into Mercyful Fate. Though Mercyful Fate never quite broke through into the heavy metal mainstream, its early-'80s albums "Melissa" and "Don't Break the Oath" proved to be remarkably influential on the burgeoning American Thrash Metal movement, and particularly on Slayer and Metallica, who have covered Mercyful Fate songs.

These Mercyful Fate records also provided the template for much of King Diamond's solo work, which began in 1986 with "Fatal Portrait," following the breakup of the band. "Fatal Portrait" was a song-cycle filled with Satanic imagery and horror movie gore, as were its followups, "Abigail" and "Them."

By this point Diamond was attracting some negative attention from the likes of Geraldo Rivera and other talk-show hosts capitalizing on the very '80s phenomena of devil-worshipping cult violence, who cast the singer as a progenitor of violence. Also around this time, Kiss' Gene Simmons sued Diamond on the grounds of stage makeup infringement; the case was settled out of court.

This brief window of notoriety was short-lived, however, and due to the inaccessibility of his music and image, King Diamond retreated back into his fanbase, whether on his own subsequent records or his occasional reunions with Mercyful Fate.

His most recent release was a sequel to his second and well-regarded solo album, the appropriately titled "Abigail II: The Revenge."

BUY THIS RECORD

1988's "Them" was King Diamond's most fully-realized execution of his signature style: A concept album portraying the adolescent horror movie-theme of an axe-wielding, serial-killing grandmother, with Euro-goth prog-metal guitar harmonies and galloping rhythms and the occasional electronic flourish. As always, Diamond's distinctive and schlock-camp shrieking and growling vocals take center stage on his most cohesive collection of songs.

ESSENTIAL SONGS

"Welcome Home," from "Them" is probably the quintessential King Diamond track, a scary story to tell in the dark with the very memorable "Grandma! Let me help you out of your chair!" refrains and shredding guitar solos. It should be said, however, that compared to someone like Marilyn Manson, this is pretty tame and mild stuff, and is far more entertaining than frightening.

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