King Diamond

support Batushka
author AP date 10/08/19 venue K.B. Hallen, Frederiksberg, DEN

As both of King Diamond’s comeback shows in Denmark (respectively in 2013 and 2016) took place in an outdoor festival setting, there is a sense that his return to K.B. Hallen — which re-opened earlier this year after a devastating fire in 2011 — will be just as special. The influential heavy metal artist has not played at this venue since 1990, and it was here that a 15 year-old Kim Bendix Petersen saw his first live concert on December 3rd, 1971 (Grand Funk Railroad) and allegedly decided on what has become a long and illustrious career in music. Needless to say, K.B. Hallen is at maximum capacity tonight, with 4.500 fans old and young eager to give Petersen and his trusty cohorts a homecoming to remember.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest


Batushka

In any other setting Batushka would likely be the most theatrical act on the bill, but even their production is dwarfed by the setup King Diamond tends to bring. Still, with the stage dressed like a church altar and all of the seven musicians wearing priest garb, the Polish outfit is a sight to behold, and needless to say, vocalist Bartłomiej Krysiuk and his six cohorts rely very heavily on it for their performance. Apart from the slow expressive movements of Krysiuk himself, the musicians remain eerily still for the entire duration of the concert, thus upholding the solemn atmosphere Batushka hope to create with their unique style of black metal. Krysiuk bassoons his sermon at us with a mixture of snarling growls and Gregorian chanting, extending his arms wide and brandishing a variety of books and icons as though he were blessing us. And these bells and whistles certainly seem to be having an effect on parts of the audience, as the likes of “Wieczernia” (taken from the band’s sophomore album “Hospodi”) are met with roars of approval. But if you choose to look through all the smoke and mirrors and focus on the musical aspect of the concert, it is honestly difficult not to be overcome by boredom, given how simplistic the material on that record is. The unfriendly parting of ways between Krysiuk and his former bandmate Krzysztof Drabikowski had quite an impact on the songwriting underlying “Hospodi”, and if you’re looking for those fantastic songs he composed for the group’s début album “Litourgiya”, you’d be better off listening to his version of Batushka’s sophomore album: “Панихида”. Indeed, while Krysiuk is casting what I presume to be holy water unto the audience from a tall chalice during the last song, it becomes painfully obvious to me that Batushka is a visual experience first, and a musical one second. If that rocks your boat, then by all means — chase the Polish mystics into the mainstream they so desperately long to be a part of. But if you’re looking to be challenged, I’d suggest returning to the band’s roots on either “Litourgiya” or the aforementioned “Панихида”.

5


King Diamond

Bendix Petersen was not kidding when he boasted that King Diamond’s stage production would be the biggest we’ve seen yet. His horror house for the evening comprises three floors with an assortment of theatrical props, and a crooked, inverted cross looming over it like a maleficent moon. As “St. Lucifer’s Hospital” (the intro clip from King Diamond’s forthcoming album) rings through the venue, the band enters in a procession with the man himself at the helm, and when it gives way to the opening track “The Candle” from 1986’s “Fatal Portrait”, I am immediately struck by how heavy and punchy the sound mix is. Often when I listen to these classic albums at home, I forget about the limitations the artists had when translating their music onto records using analogue tools and techniques, and so I tend to expect for the music to sound like that in the live setting as well: organic. But time and time again, the likes of King Diamond make a fool out of me by sounding heavy as f**k — and not in that compressed, inhuman way like so many of the modern metal outfits. After Bendix Petersen has bid us welcome and promised us ”a really BLACK evening”, the eponymous “Voodoo” off King Diamond’s 1998 LP is delivered in a bone-breaking rendition, its sampled tribal percussion accompanied by a possessed dance by the female actor tasked with bringing the music to life.

She plays many a role throughout the concert, which, like Batushka’s, is riddled with theatrical elements. But unlike the Polish outfit, these frills never steal the spotlight from King Diamond’s music, the complexity and eeriness of which keeps the audience bewitched throughout. Songs like the blistering “A Mansion in Darkness” (taken from 1987’s revered “Abigail” LP) are played with an almost inhuman precision by the band, with Bendix Petersen’s trusty co-writer and lead guitarist Andy LaRocque, as well as drummer Matt Thompson in particular cutting an incredible figure on stage. “Halloween” and “Welcome Home” are played with an energy and enthusiasm to rival that of Iron Maiden, the gusto of his compatriots often inspiring Bendix Petersen to play air guitar with his bone cross microphone holder whilst baring his teeth. Yes — the entire band is in festive spirits tonight and obviously their fervour has no problem infecting the audience as well; this music does not lend itself that well to moshing, but the devotion of the crowd is still palpable, and expressed through an inferno of banging heads and lashing hairdos.

Having been born in 1987, I was too young to grow up with King Diamond, and as such it might be a stretch to dub me a massive fan of their music. But personal preferences are easy to put aside when faced with such a commanding performance as this. The band feels it, we all feel it — even the notorious Grandma lurking in the shadows during the legendary “Welcome Home” taken from 1988’s “Them” feels it; this is a magical night, one of those that will be remembered as another milestone in King Diamond’s illustrious career, and a show against which all others should be measured when talking not only production value, but also skill of musicianship. At 85 minutes or so, the concert tonight is perhaps a little on the short side considering how long the band’s fans have had to wait for an indoor headliner, but even so the King and his cohorts manage to include both deep cuts like “Behind These Walls” (off 1990’s “The Eye”) and a very promising new song, “Masquerade of Madness”, in it. As such, when LaRocque announces the arrival of the final track “Black Horsemen” with a beautiful Spanish guitar intro, it feels like the dawn of a new era rather than a celebration of days of yore. Great things still lie in store for the King, and I’ll be on the frontline when that new record eventually drops this year or the next.

9

Setlist:

  • 01. The Candle
  • 02. Voodoo
  • 03. Arrival
  • 04. A Mansion in Darkness
  • 05. Behind These Walls
  • 06. Halloween
  • 07. Masquerade of Madness
  • 08. Welcome Home
  • 09. The Invisible Guests
  • 10. Sleepless Nights
  • 11. The Lake

— Encore —

  • 12. Burn
  • 13. Black Horsemen

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