Released: 2004, Metal Blade
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
All hail to the King! After a brilliant return with last year’s THE PUPPET MASTER (my pick as the best CD of 2003), King Diamond embarked on a lengthy U.S. tour where several shows were recorded for later release. Unfortunately, I was unable to make last October’s Seattle show so the next best thing is King’s latest, DEADLY LULLABYES LIVE, a stunning two-CD set recorded on THE PUPPET MASTER tour. This collection traces King’s solo career from 1986’s FATAL PORTRAIT right up to THE PUPPET MASTER. Oddly, there are four consecutive albums that are completely omitted from the live set—THE SPIDER’S LULLABYE, THE GRAVEYARD, VOODOO and HOUSE OF GOD. No reason is given, but with the exception of THE SPIDER’S LULLABYE, all had their high points. King’s voice truly has never sounded better and he is still able to hit the inhumanly-high falsetto he is known for. In fact, his voice even sounds BETTER in places than on the original recordings! It is no secret that live albums typically suck. They are just unable to capture the ambience and emotion of a live show. They are released for contractual obligations and the “die-hard” fans snap them up while most other people save their money. DEADLY LULLABYES LIVE, however, is the rare exception to this archetype. The audience is not artificially boosted at the choruses and then silenced during the verses and there are some slight imperfections that were left in to legitimize the live feel, as well. It is as if the listener is actually right there in the audience. Backing King is long-time collaborator Andy LaRocque on lead guitar, Mike Wead on rhythm, Hal Patino on bass and Matt Thompson on drums and they are an incredibly tight live band. Hearing this CD just makes me kick myself for not making the trip to Seattle because if the CD is any indication of how great the tour was, all I can say is “WOW!”
In a brilliant choice of sequencing, the first eight tracks of DEADLY LULLABYES LIVE trace the Abigail story covering both the original ABIGAIL from 1987 through 2002’s ABIGAIL II: THE REVENGE. Not every song from the original CDs are played however the chosen tracks are played in exactly in same the running order as they initially appeared. ABIGAIL is one of the best heavy metal CDs of all time, so hearing “A Mansion In Darkness,” “The Family Ghost” and “Black Horsemen”—three of King’s best songs ever—strung together is absolutely spellbinding. Followed up with “Eye of The Witch” and “Sleepless Nights,” the crowd is going crazy, singing along with the choruses and it is obvious King is getting off on their energy.
The second CD follows suit with what could be called “THE PUPPET MASTER Suite.” The first five songs cover that album and are just as powerful when played next to the timeless ABIGAIL tracks. “Blood To Walk” has become a King Diamond classic and the live version is just as strong as the studio track. LaRocque and Wead trade solos on this track and demonstrate what a force they indeed are. Background vocalist Livia Zita was taken on tour to sing the parts of Victoria, the doomed girlfriend of THE PUPPET MASTER’s narrator. Zita’s vocals on “Blood To Walk” and, especially in her duet with King on “So Sad,” make these tracks absolutely unforgettable. I can only imagine the powerful visual experience of witnessing this track live. 1988’s THEM is covered by “Welcome Home” and “The Invisible Guests,” each among King’s finest moments. The opening riff of “The Invisible Guests” is instantly recognizable and LaRocque and Wead trade intense solos to get things going. For his encores, King trots out every metalhead’s holiday favorites, “Halloween” and “No Presents For Christmas.” King’s demonic cackle closes out the festive proceedings with holiday wishes to everyone and as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
DEADLY LULLABYES LIVE is sure to be immortalized among the great metal live albums of all time. LIVE AFTER DEATH, WORLDWIDE LIVE, ALIVE!—DEADLY LULLABYES LIVE has every right to be included. Those new to the evil, twisted tales of King Diamond would do well to get started with this release, but long-time fans will also revel in hearing King’s unmistakable voice churn through his macabre melodies in the Grand Guignol-like live setting. The only thing that could top this would be a live DVD. Metal Blade/King…are you listening???