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From the archives: King Diamond- Songs for the Dead Live (February 2019)

From the archives: King Diamond- Songs for the Dead Live (February 2019)

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There will only ever be one Queen, Prince has exited this mortal coil, and its unlikely music fans will ever agree on who the Princess title belongs to (for me, there is only one, hip hop artist Concetta Kirschner AKA Princess Superstar). The lofty title of the King must belong to Kim Petersen, AKA King Diamond! Forget about Elvis Presley; the heavy metal King is the one to admire.

Petersen’s on-stage performance across the brand-new DVD, Songs for the Dead Live, is colossal. Performers of a similar vintage have struggled as father-time wore away at physical and, in some cases, mental health. But not Petersen. His serpentine roving, vocal cadence and stage demeanour are all in full flight. Time will tell; however, this DVD might be Petersen’s live performance magnum opus. It’s that good!

According to Napalm Records, Songs for the Dead Live “present(s) the Abigail album in its entirety plus several Mercyful Fate and King Diamond classics”. That sums up the music; however, as one should anticipate, this DVD is much more than a visual record and reproduction of many albums’ worth of tunes.

Split into separate performances of the same show, the DVD was recorded on June 17, 2017, at the Graspop Metal Meeting (Belgium) and on November 25, 2015, from The Fillmore in Philadelphia. The stage and set design have been created for theatre and economy; no point in crowding the stage with a heap of gargoyles when a few can make the point. Petersen offers sermon after sermon from the stairs leading to a raised platform behind the drum kit, and the upside-down crucifixes add weight to his luciferin lyrics. With a light show commissioned from deep within Valhalla, the constant flashes evoke a hell scene of storms and tempest and Abigail herself makes repeated appearances.

The musicians, headlined by long-time King Diamond guitarist and one-time Chuck Schuldiner (Death, Control Denied) collaborator, Andy LaRocque, are joined by the same cast that has been onboard since at least 2014. By this point, drummer/ percussionist Matt Thompson should be better known; he’s got the chops to have earned a more significant profile.

The Graspop Metal Meeting performance of “Arrival” from Abigail (’87) is when things get moving, highlighting the only genuine grievance with these types of DVD releases.

The DVD is entertaining; however, it’s not until about 40 minutes until “Omens” (Abigail) that a song title is announced or broadcast. No one would expect a performer to announce every song. However, the editors of the DVD should think of many new and unfamiliar fans who would appreciate this information. It could be the review copy that lacks song titles.   

For the long-time fan, if you wanted a pro-shot live performance from the greatest underground heavy metal frontman, Songs for the Dead Live is the business. If you are new to the King and his work, the DVD is an excellent starting point for diving into the magnificent catalogue that Peterson and a superb cast of musicians have curated since 1985.

This review was first published on February 7, 2019, on Metal Obsession webzine.

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