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The Puppet Master

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★★★★½
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  • Back in 2002, King Diamond boasted on his website that his new album, The Puppet Master, would be out sometime in October 2003 and he made it quite apparent that he is not holding anything back in this new story filled with terror and sorrow. KingThe rules of censorship are being thrown out the window.”, claimed his evilness, “This is going to be the rawest story/album we have ever done; if you are into horror, you’re definitely going to get it with this album!” furthermore assured his fanatical fan base that this album is going to make the hairs stand up on the back of listener’s neck. ”

    Ever since he burst onto the metal scene in the early 80’s as the lead singer to the Danish satanic metal band Mercyful Fate and throughout his extensive solo career, King Diamond (the late Kim Bendix Peterson) has been shocking audiences and delighting fans alike with concept albums filled with his gruesome tales of horror and macabre.

    Ever iconoclastic and firmly ensconced in macabre metal, the King rarely deviates from his secure secret formula of terror and often times goes so far as to engineer and master his albums, most certainly to ensure their evil integrity. The problem with Diamond is that he “blew his wad” back in year one and, in this writer’s humble opinion, totally misrepresented The Puppet Master, an album I firmly believe is the pinnacle and possibly a monumental crossroad in his illustrious career. After writing and singing Mercyful Fate songs like Evil, Satan’s Fall, Desecration of Souls and ever-heterodoxical The Oath, there is nothing more terrifying or blasphemous that King Diamond can either do or say. Having touched upon and even dedicated complete albums to: insanity, human sacrifice, the occult/magic/the supernatural, torture, abuse, voodoo, bestiality, murder, adultery and even pedophilia, one needs to remind Mr. Peterson that we only have so many deadly sins and he’s pretty much covered them all twice. Not that he ever actually engages in these acts as whenever he feels his topics are too extreme, he writes the album’s disclaimer personally disdaining anyone who would even consider acting on the topics discussed in said album. Albeit paradoxical, it seems as if the King himself feels morally responsible for possibly misguiding his fan base.

    While his topics seem to be horrific in nature, his music is delightfully consistent, ever intriguing and heavily influenced by great artists like Deep Purple, Alice Cooper and the often-overlooked Uriah Heep. Though the King’s multi-octave range has waned in recent years, his song writing hasn’t and though he doesn’t deviate from his formula often, he does periodically experiment with new ideas, recording techniques, sounds and nuances.

    It seems like Diamond tends to toggle between putting out a superb album and an acceptable album as his last masterpiece was 1998’s VoodooHouse Of God and the completely unnecessary 2002 sequel to 1987’s Abigail, the uniquely titled Abigail II: The Revenge. One would tend to agree that release of The Puppet Master was much needed. before boring us into the new millennium with 2000’s

    From its very first second to its last strains, the listener is assaulted with inspired playing, fantastic songwriting and aural perfection. Billed as horrific, King instead presents his audience with sheer beauty as he experiments with several firsts on this his 11th studio album.

    One of his firsts is that in the midst of all this horror, King includes the topic of love and surprisingly, it is believable and wonderful. Many a time I find his macabre topics and lyrics to be laughable at best and have often wondered if Diamond writes these stories with tongue firmly planted in cheek. As a result, I was never prepared for the sincerity at which the King emotes his protagonist’s love for his sweetheart Victoria.

    The band must have also sensed Diamond’s newfound faith and heartily embraced it with their performance on the album. Drummer Matt Thompson’s playing is nothing less than awe inspiring as he easily changes genres from the fastest raging metal to the slowest power ballad and all points in between. His solid grooves add texture and foundation to the songs. Even guitarists Andy LaRoque (the King’s only mainstay in his ever changing line-up) and Mike Wead suspend their neo-classical leads from time to time to belt out sustaining, soulful solos that would make David Gilmour proud.

    But the most notable addition to the line up is that of Hungarian singer, Livia Zita, whose angelic voice King uses sparingly but effectively throughout the album. Not only do both voices compliment one another greatly, but Livia’s singing enhances the songs Magic, Emergencia, So Sad and the album’s epilogue right after the final song Living Dead.
    Interestingly enough, The Puppet Master marks the second time King Diamond has touched upon the topic of Christmas, but unlike it’s brutal annihilation in 1985’s No Presents For Christmas, Diamond reveres it by opening the aptly titled Christmas with verse from the Little Drummer Boy, beautifully sung by the Budapest born Miss Zita. Further research points to the fact that the King’s favorite meal is a traditional Danish Christmas dinner and I wonder if he does indeed prefer seeing a present or two with his name on it under the old jule træ.

    For all of The Puppet Master’s greatness, the bonus DVD featuring his lordship personally telling his morbid tale is a pure let down. Totally packaged with a horra-terror intro, replete with thunderclaps and candles, Diamond’s performance is hilarious and further drives home the point that maybe he fully doesn’t buy into his own persona. King Diamond and Metal Blade would have done far better to fill the DVD with either bootleg concerts, past music videos or anything that would make the viewer desire to watch the DVD more than half-way through.

    Mind you, I am not suggesting that King Diamond should totally suspend writing his horror/occult themed albums, but he should stop trying to top himself in this genre and not be afraid to stray from the small area he fenced himself into as he is the millennium Mozart and The Puppet Master is nothing less than contemporary opera. He is truly a unique performer, a musical genius and is revered worldwide by a devout fan base, which even contains fellow musicians. But the time has come for his highness to put away his plastic spiders and Chucky dolls and broaden his horizons by collaborating with other artists. Quite frankly, with a little spit, polish and better lyrics, The Puppet Master could easily have a theatrical run by a top notch touring company which would rival Phantom Of The Opera, Starlight Express, Cats or any one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s many over-hyped banalities.

    Until then, I will continue to relish listening to The Puppet Master and dreaming of what may or may not come. If you are to buy any album from King’s arsenal, let it be The Puppet Master and then don’t be afraid to work your way back.

    Posted on December 2, 2009