It came as quite a shock when legendary Danish frontman King Diamond had to step away from music in 2010 to undergo triple heart-bypass surgery. Thankfully, just a couple of short years later, the rejuvenated frontman returned to the stage in all his corpse-painted, theatrical grandeur, choosing to keep his focus on touring rather than making an immediate return to the studio.
Still playing to sell out audiences everywhere, the time away clearly did no harm to King’s loyal following, especially when he decided to play his classic 1987 album Abigail (Roadrunner) in its entirety. Released as a live CD as well as a DVD and Blu-ray, Songs For The Dead (Metal Blade) – although featuring two virtually identical setlists (the exact same songs just with a slightly different running order) – still captures two very different live performances from that tour. The first in front of a huge outdoor festival audience at Belgium’s Graspop Metal Meeting in 2016, and the other inside the more intimate setting of The Fillmore in Philadelphia in November 2015.
After entering the stage to ‘Out From The Asylum’, the band launch into ‘Welcome Home’ from 1988’s Them (Roadrunner), King announcing his arrival with his trademark piercing falsetto in the first fifteen seconds. ‘Sleepless Nights’, the classic ‘Halloween’, and ‘Eye of the Witch’ follow before dipping into the Mercyful Fate back catalogue with ‘Melissa’ and a thumping version of ‘Come to the Sabbath’, the first part of the show coming to an end with the atmospheric ‘Them’.
If you’re familiar with the Abigail album (and if you’re reading this then you probably are) then you’ll be fully aware of what’s in store for the next forty minutes or so. From the ‘Funeral’ intro which sets the scene to ‘Arrival’, ‘A Mansion in Darkness’, ‘The Family Ghost’ and ‘The 7th Day of July 1777′, the story of Abigail unfolds just as compellingly as it did the first time you heard it. ‘Omens’, ‘The Possession’, ‘Abigail’ and ‘The Black Horsemen’ complete the album, with King leaving the stage to instrumental ‘Insanity’.
As mentioned before, the only noticeable difference between the Graspop and Fillmore performances is the switching of ‘Halloween’ and ‘Eye of the Witch’ on the set list, otherwise, the two shows are exactly the same. The sound quality on both recordings are virtually identical too; a well-produced classic live sound complete with an occasional tweaking of crowd volume. King’s voice seems a little stronger in places on the Graspop show, but there’s so very little in it, and the overall musicianship is so tight, that you could happily choose either.
In the absence of any new material (for now, anyway…), Songs For The Dead fills the blackened void very nicely indeed.
7 / 10