House Of God
He of the mutton chops, King Diamond has made a sizable and enduring career out of a few mere idiosyncrasies (his unmistakable falsetto and his outspoken, unapologetically Satanic beliefs), dually splitting his time between his first band, Mercyful Fate (who broke up in 1984 but resurfaced nine years later) and his self-same one. And though a scant few – if any – differences exist between the two bands and, additionally, with both following a nearly similar trajectory in their respective discographies, the King nonetheless remains an essential character in the wild world o’ heavy metal, diligently crafting a predictably singular sound that balances speed- and Euro-metals with a stately gothic air. But in the context of the King’s work, the term “predictable” is not a slight in the least, for his vision and the crews he commandeers are so beyond singular that they’re islands upon themselves.
Newcomers to this fact would be privy to peep King Diamond’s tenth and latest record, House of God. Again, the King and company haven’t fucked with their sound much, his band’s first three albums – Fatal Portrait (‘86), Abigail (‘87), and Them (‘88) – proving to be their most vital work, a veritable aesthetic springboard for subsequent releases to follow; hence, House of God is hardly different in terms of sound and vision. However, longtime guitarist Andy La Rocque and newer one Glen Drover again prove to be an axe-masterful tandem, toying more with a rock-ish, mid-tempo restraint (particularly on “Black Devil” and “Help!!!”) this time around, but their riffs still ooze an equal amount of power even if they’re not solely relying on Armageddon gallops anymore; needless to say, their expressive solos (especially La Rocque’s) likewise remain the quintessence of class and craft. And the King? Well, Herr Diamond and his cornucopia of characters spin a mighty yarn about being in a mysterious house of a mysterious god – in a word, mysterious. And you really can’t fault him for that – after all, it’s what the man does best – despite the hefty headspace and attention to detail required to unravel his narrative webs.
If La Rocque has ever overshadowed the guitarists he’s shared the stage with over the years (notable exception: Fate carryover Michael Denner, who also played on the King’s first two albums), it matters not now, because Drover has a project of his own: Eidolon. Although Nightmare World may be the Canadian quartet’s third album, it’s their first to be released internationally, and it’s certainly Drover’s show. Wielding a metal that’s semi-speedy, semi-thrashy and more than a little cloaked in utter darkness, Drover and crew unearth a sound that’s seemingly ages old without really resembling anything certifiably “ages old” (‘cept maybe a bit of mid-‘80s Euro-metal, only harder and darker). Still, Drover’s robust, curiously digitized production (especially the drums) lends a certain modern air to Nightmare World’s proceedings, but an equal amount of credit – if not more – should be given to his brother, drummer Shawn Drover, who writes nearly every song (lyrics included) contained therein, the man wholly responsible for finding a castle-black catacomb unlike any others and bringing it into the slightly more luminous new millenium. Unfortunately, no matter what the King puts out, it will probably receive more attention than anything Eidolon is capable of at the moment, but Glen’s band is surely one to watch for in years to come.
Metal Blade Records, 2828 Cochran St., Suite 302, Simi Valley, CA 93065-2793; http://www.metalblade.com