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King Diamond – Songs for the Dead Live

8/10

We all know the story, the Danish black metal pioneers Mercyful Fate split up after one EP and two magnificent full length albums due to musical differences and singer King Diamond took parts of the crew with him to form a new band, under his own moniker. In the mid eighties and early nighties King Diamond released five albums ranging from ”fantastic” to ”real good” up until reforming Mercyful Fate in 1993, putting the band King Diamond on hold for some years, later returning with the great album ”The Spider’s Lullaby” in 1995.

For a couple of years the two bands existed side by side (which they, technically, still do) resulting in maybe not so great records coming out of either camp. The last couple of years (make that twenty…) Mercyful Fate has been on hold and the focus has been on King Diamond resulting in some ups, namely the surprisingly good ”The Puppet Master” and some downs, like their last studio release, the twelve year old ”Give me Your Soul… Please”.

After some serious health problems, King had an open heart surgery in 2010, King Diamond returned to the scene in 2012 and have since then delivered some highly appreciated live shows and now it’s time to release some of that live magic on disc, both as DVD/Blue Ray and of course on some audio only- formats.

”Songs for the Dead Live” mainly focus on King Diamonds second release, featuring the band performing their perhaps most loved full length album, ”Abigail” in its entirety, with the first half of the show being a sort of “best of” featuring the “hits”, ranging from the debut album, “Fatal Portrait”, up until the last album of the first era of King Diamond, “The Eye” and of course some mandatory Mercyful Fate-songs as well. No big surprises there in other words but at least it’s fun to get a live recording of the old bell ringer “Melissa”!

The show comes in two different versions, one recorded at Graspop Metal Meeting and one recorded at The Fillmore in Philadelphia. Both shows are included in the ”digital” releases while the vinyl release seems to contain the Philadelphia-show. Regarding sound and performance, the two shows sounds very much alike, the only difference is some obvious changes in Kings sparse words between the songs and one of the rhythm guitars that may be slightly higher in the mix on the Graspop show, but it doesn’t really matter which show you listen to, they both sound great, with absolute top notch performance from both King as well as the other musicians, and the crisp and clear sound is well balanced with response from the audience, giving it a pretty good “live feeling”!

So is there any flaws on “Songs for the Dead Live” and is there really a need for a third live album with King Diamond?

To answer the first question, well… kind of, but just a minor one. Counting the last instrumental farewell-track “Insanity”, four out of eighteen numbers are either an intro or an outro. “Out from the Asylum” is of course a natural intro for the concert opener “Welcome Home” and “Funeral” an essential part of the “Abigail”-album but the inclusion of the outro “Them” feels a bit unnecessary, especially since “Welcome Home” is the only “real” song from the “Them”-album, and with its place in the set, just before the “Funeral”-intro, it gets just a little bit tedious.

The answer to question number two is a big YES! In my opinion a live album should be sort of a “best of”, and although it can be fun to hear new or unusual songs when you are visiting a concert , when you listen to an album, at least I, want the best, and where their last live effort, “Deadly Lullabyes Live”, contained a fair amount of songs from the boring “Abigail II: The Revenge” as well as from their, by then, new album “The Puppet Master”, “Songs for the Dead Live” is “all killers, no fillers”.
Compared to King Diamonds first live album, “In Concert 1987: Abigail” the song selection is of equal quality, but regarding the sound, “Songs for the Dead Live” is far superior.

To sum it up, is this an album worth buying? Well, I guess that depends on whether you like live recordings or not, but if you doesn’t mind the live format “Songs for the Dead Live” both serve as a great live documentation as well as a great “best of”-compilation, with the performance of the whole “Abigail”-album as a bonus, and if you should happen to be new to King Diamond I guess that this record works fine as an introduction, both to the band as well as the phenomenon King Diamond!

Long live the King!

Artist: King Diamond
Title: Songs for the Dead Live
Label: Metal Blade Records
Date of release: 25/1-19
Rating: 8/10
Stand out track: Halloween

Mattias Eronn

Mattias Eronn

Writer