King Diamond + Batushka
@ K.B. Hallen, Copenhagen
10th August 2019
Review by Kieron Hayes
King Diamond. The man needs no introduction, he’s about as legendary a (living) figure in the world of heavy metal as you can get. He’s also been on my must-see concert bucket list for about as long as I’ve been into music, and on the 10th of August he would be playing in his homeland’s capital, Copenhagen, a city I happen to live just a few hours train ride from. This was an opportunity not to be missed.
Thrown into the bargain would be a second chance to see Batushka, as they were opening for him. I’d seen them just over a month prior supporting Lamb of God and Behemoth. In that instance it wasn’t entirely clear which version of the band it was, though I assume the Metal Blade-signed version of Bartłomiej Krysiuk, given the high profile of the other bands involved. This time, the copies of Hospodi available on sale left no question as to which version of the band it was.
However, just like then, I wasn’t really so interested in the politics of it all, I was just there to enjoy the music, and the experience was very much along the same lines as last time. This show is all about the performance, and delivers everything as if everyone is there to be blessed by the divine father on stage.
The backdrops were dominated by saints and other holy figures, the stage littered with lecterns, altars and pulpits and the band members all soldiered on clad head-to-toe in robes. The emphasis here is on the atmosphere of delivering a sermon, and the masks and robes seemed to put the power of the show itself above any individual egos. This isn’t a wild rock ‘n’ roll show, but a sombre, reverential declaration.
Certainly, this went hand in hand with the doomier side of the music, the sound of a slow, steady march of a tyrant, while the black metal at the core lent an unholy colouration to the seemingly religious theatricality: this was a ritual, with all the appropriate reverence, but one to usher in something dark and powerful.
This part of the night ended much as it had begun, amid ominous, reverberating sounds, with the band members marching along slowly. It left much the same impression of a real experience as it did last time, though it did feel like a bit more variety in their sound might be needed to keep that feeling fresh as time goes on.
The stage was set up for King Diamond, and you could tell that age was certainly not mellowing the band’s taste for the theatrical. It was a multi-levelled asylum, a twisted cross between a mansion and a madhouse, with a cell door, beds, railings along the stairs, gantries and walkways, the works. The King himself was wheeled out on a gurney, but burst to life to welcome us all to the institution.
King Diamond’s biggest strength has always been the perfect blending of story and music, always managing to make both aspects sound important and have them complement one another. This translated perfectly into the live show, with those aforementioned theatrics playing a big role in making for a visual spectacle, but always in support of the core of iron solid heavy metal.
The sound quality was top notch, allowing us all to hear just how well the performers were all doing: the drums were the pounding of the horses drawing the dark coach through the night while the guitars wove together the pouring rain, the swerving turns and the cracks of thunder and lightning. King’s vocals were, of course, a highlight, his banshee wails as delightful as ever, working together with backing vocals from his wife, Livia Zita. Andy LaRocque’s guitar work was just as bombastic and brimming with energy.
The setlist was an interesting choice, one firmly dominated by the classics: aside from “Voodoo” and the new song, “Masquerade of Madness”, everything was from their first 5 albums from 1986-1990. Being a huge fan of The Puppet Master, I was a tad disappointed not to hear anything from that, but nothing they did play felt lacking or out of place in the slightest. Such is the way of things with a back catalogue so extensive and consistently good.
And every one of the songs played had some kind of dramatics on stage to go with it, usually performed by Jodi Cachia: in “Voodoo” she danced about the stage, “A Mansion in Darkness” saw her in a white dress with a lantern, then as a nun in “Behind These Walls”. “Masquerade of Madness” saw her don a fitting iron mask, and in “Welcome Home” and “The Invisible Guests” we got to see her as the legendary Grandma, complete with chair and cane to wave at the audience.
King himself got in on the action too of course, suitably hamming it up between vocals (or during them), pulling out a doll from an “Abigail” casket, and of course with plenty of banter with the audience (though it was naturally in Danish, so I couldn’t understand it unfortunately).
All in all, this was an amazing show, one I’d happily repeat again. King Diamond has struggled with health issues in recent years, and it was glorious to see him on stage and back at full force, not one bit diminished by any of it. Like Batushka, this was a show all about the performance and the stagecraft, but where that was sombre and solemn, this main event was filled to bursting with energy.
Hail to the King, baby.
King Diamond setlist:
A Mansion in Darkness
Behind These Walls
Masquerade of Madness
The Invisible Guests