Released: 2016, Empire Records
I was writing some album reviews in late October and I was in the Halloween spirit…Halloween is after all the ‘Heavy Metal Holy Day’! Please enjoy this mini-seasonal themed set of reviews of 10 albums by Cradle Of Filth Ichabod Krane, Lordi, Metal Witch, October 31, Poltergeist, Sleepy Hollow, Them and Trick or Treat!
This was a last minute entry into my 2016 Halloween special, the debut album by a band called Them. Before you suggest that the band name is lame, allow me to explain. Them was a German King Diamond tribute act who (I’m assuming!) picked their names after the unnamed evil spirits (‘them’) who were the main antagonists in the King Diamond double concept album series, “THEM” (1988) and CONSPIRACY (1989). Makes sense! As you may expect, the band continues on in the classic King Diamond horror Metal vein.
SWEET HOLLOW came out on the lesser known Empire Records a month before Halloween and present an atmospheric and engaging 12 track, 55 minute long album. I like the cover art as well! Classic, gothic Halloween and horror are the lyrical themes of SWEET HOLLOW. Musically SWEET HOLLOW is very much like King Diamond, as one may expect from a King diamond tribute act. Since King hasn’t put out a studio album in almost 10 years and Mercyful Fate have not put out a studio album in almost 18 years, this is the next best thing!
The album starts with a scary intro piece (called ‘Rebirth’) with the sound of someone (presumably) digging up a grave and opening a coffin, while speaking with a demonic, other-worldly incantation, and then a swirl of gothic Halloween-like keyboards and more voice-over as things come to a climatic finale and the first song, ‘Forever Burns’ rips from the grave! There is only one King Diamond (the man) but the performance of vocalist, Troy Norr, is a brilliant imitation. Yes, he does the King falsetto perfectly. It’s great. Norr is a Metal veteran dating way back into the 80’s when he was the singer in a lesser-known band called Coldsteel. He gave no indication he could sing like this! The rest of the band is a bit of an international amalgamation of players, anchored by Markus and Richie from the progressive Power Metal band Lanfear, plus a couple of well-known guns for hire Mike Lepond (Symphony X) on bass and Kevin Talley (ex-Six Feet Under) on drums. There is quite a lot of firepower there and I was a bit surprised, but happy (!) how fast and heavy this album is. Basically this compares to the heaviest of King Diamond songs in tone, tempo and execution. The wole albums rips, great song-writing, creepy female vocals, lots of over-playing (no such thing) and the album has a great hyper-energetic, yet gothic atmosphere. This might even remind me of the band Hell, so competent, classy and competent, flying solos, this album is pure Halloween fun.
I hate having to reference another band so often in a review of another band but the parallels and influence is far too obvious not to mention. The creepy little spoken word, haunting instrumental ‘The Quiet Room’ could have come from any King Diamond album and you would never know the difference. It’s that uncanny and that good. SWEET HOLLOW is total solo King Diamond worship and that is very welcome because Metal needs more bands like this. Buy SWEET HOLLOW and worship it in the graveyard of steel and it will hold you over until King releases his new studio album in 2017.