King Diamond / Nile / Black Dahlia Murder / Behemoth

Chicago House Of Blues - 4/27/04

Review by Dr. Mality, Photos by Sgt. Deth

There are a lot of good bands in the heavy metal scene today, but how many real entertainers are there? By "entertainer", I mean individuals who go out and put on a complete package that offers more than just going on stage and playing songs with enthusiasm? The answer is, very few. I think of innovators like Alice Cooper and Paul Stanley of Kiss. These guys know how to put on a show and they also make you feel like a member of the family. I could also mention the likes of Overkill, Judas Priest and Motorhead.

And, of course, King Diamond. The legendary Danish master of mayhem has had an almost 30 year career (including first outfit Black Rose) of going out on stage and providing more than just live music. He creates an atmosphere and a memorable character to go along with his intricate, melodic heavy metal.

Many consider King Diamond and his band to be overdone and campy, but the attention to detail and superior performance that King puts into his show signifies that he takes his craft very seriously indeed. Therefore, the discerning metalhead is usually excited to see this ghoulish ringmaster come to town.

April 27,2005 was the date of King's latest entrance into the Chicago area, which is full of rabid Diamond fans and he drew a packed crowd to the House of Blues (including a few who sported King-like face make-up and trademark top hats). But before the King took the stage, there was a strong line-up of underground metal bands to whet our appetites first.

The career of Poland's Behemoth has unfolded with almost military precision. From their first days as an obscure black metal band to the recent well-received onslaught of their album "Demigod", these guys have taken it one step at a time and as a result, have steadily advanced in the ranks of metaldom. With their corpse paint and studded leather war gear, they cut a pretty intimidating picture on stage. The opening couple of numbers of their set were unbridled and chaotic, but as Behemoth continued, the true power in their material emerged. They have a knack of coming up with riffs that conjure up ancient days of barbarism and black magic. When charismatic frontman Nergal emerged wearing a bizarre war helmet and a long leather coat, it was like the arrival of a demonic priest. The band is super tight and posseses an incredible drummer in Inferno, and they got a very good response for a band opening the show at around 5:30 in the afternoon.

I couldn't really say the same for the Black Dahlia Murder. Despite being very popular and selling a lot of records, they got the cold shoulder from most of the crowd, which was composed of either very devoted oldschool metalheads or rabid underground death metallers. Despite the speed and heaviness of their music, BDM is coming from the new tradition of metal and were looked on with some suspicion by those in the crowd. To tell you the truth, I was reminded of senior high schoolers looking down on junior high schoolers. For my own part, I thought BDM delivered a very energetic and tight set which featured some new songs to be featured on their forthcoming "Miasma" record. Black Dahlia Murder ended their set with a ferocious "Funeral Thirst", but it was plain that this was not their crowd.

Nile got a better reception. These disciples of the pharoahs have a very strong following themselves and it was clear some were here to see them rather than King Diamond. One bald tattooed guy by us was constantly growling and grunting during their set in an attempt to out-guttural Karl Sanders. Nile's attack was pulverizing, low-tuned death metal designed to smash bones. The fast stuff was pretty much a blur, but slower dirges like the awesome "Sarcophagus" packed a truly brutal wallop. The band now features a two pronged vocal approach, with Dallas Toller-Wade handling the majority of the vocals and former lead singer Sanders offering his supremely gruesome growls only now and then. The band blasted through well-known tracks like "Chapter For Turning Into a Snake"and the dramatic "Rameses, Bringer of War", but they also gave us some sneak peaks at their upcoming record "Annihilation of the Wicked". "Cast Down the Heretic" was a furious highspeed hellride while "Sacrifice Unto Sebek" showed more of the Egyptian influence. The most impressive ditty,though, was "Annihilation of the Wicked" itself, which was a very lengthy song full of time and tempo changes. A real epic!

Nile features two relatively new players. Drummer George Kollias admirably fills in for his predecessors, hitting with the
same extreme double bass ferocity, while 19 year old bassist Joe Payne thrashes and whirls his head like a demon possessed. He is second only to Cannibal Corpse's George Fischer in that aspect. I must say, though, that Karl Sanders' lead guitar solos sounded kind of flabby and nowhere near as sharp as they do on record. Nevertheless, the band got a rousing response following their final track "Black Seeds of Vengeance", which had the faithful singing along.

The last time I saw King Diamond, he was with Mercyful Fate, back in 1998. Tonight, he was with his own band, so the set was bound to be different. I went with Sgt. Deth and his wife Kathi, who had seen King many t imes before, and they insisted I was in for a treat. They were not wrong. As I said at the beginning, King is a pure entertainer and tonight he demonstrated his skill

A cast iron fence was posted across the front of the stage, forming a barrier between the crowd and the band. A small white coffin with the name "ABIGAIL" on it was placed on a raised platform in the center of the stage. With little fanfare, the nattily-attired and top-hatted King himself strode to the coffin with a handful of lillies. He mouthed the words to the soliliquy that begins the "Abigail II" CD and then threw the lillies into the coffin with spite. The rest of the band appeared and we were off!

King knew enough to concentrate on the band's best stuff. It's impossible to please every fan, but you can't go wrong by starting things off with "Arrival" and "The Family Ghost" from the ultra-classic "Abigail". Right from the get-go, Diamond assumes his character, gesturing and leering like a real black magician. His admiration of Alice Cooper is evident but he advances it to another level. You won't hear such tired cliches as "Make some fuckin' noise!" from this showman. The fans will make enough noise without coaxing if you're worth a shit.

As much as King commands the stage, he doesn't crowd out the other members of his band. Bassist Hal Patino in particular puts in a very energetic performance, running from one side of the stage to the other and headbanging like there's no tomorrow. Guitarists Mike Wead and Andy La Rocque are a bit more subdued, but they have to concentrate on some pretty intricate guitar during the course of the evening. I kept my eye on La Rocque,who pulled off some pretty cool maneuvers with his axe. I still say Shermann and Denner of Mercyful Fate are a bit better, but Mike and Andy deserve a high place in the pantheon of great guitar duos.

King also had a multi-talented female performer help him out in enacting his tales on stage.
This sexy Hungarian gal portrayed the tormented "Miriam" during the "Abigail" songs, helped King with a black mass when the band played Mercyful Fate's "Come to the Sabbath" and played the tragic Victoria when "Blood to Walk" from "The Puppet Master" was cranked up . During the last song, she was particularly effective, wearing an eerie white mask and making the jerky movements of a human puppet. But no doubt she had the most fun portraying the wheelchair-bound "Grandma" as the band played the title track to "Them". Wearing a ridiculous mask and baggy clothes, she hobbled around the stage in a rage, pointing her cane at the crowd and threatening to clobber King with it.

Most of the set concentrated on the two "Abigail" albums, "The Puppet Master" and "Them", though we did get to hear the excellent "Eye of the Witch" from "The Eye". Nothing from "Conspiracy", "Voodoo", "The Graveyard" or "The House of God". "Come to the Sabbath" was a decent choice for a Fate song, but I would have liked "Curse of the Pharaohs" or "A Dangerous Meeting", myself. You can't win 'em all.

All during this time, King held the crowd in the palm of his hand. In each song, he assumed a character. During the tender ballad that ends "The Puppet Master", he sat seated while talking to "Victoria" and his movements were full of sorrow and longing. During the encore "Halloween", he became an energetic shaman dancing with his cross of bones. And for the final track, oldschool Mercyful Fate fans got another treat, as "Evil" was played flawlessly by the band.

Leaving the show, I swear I have never heard the word "awesome" spoken so many times by so many people. I don't think anyone was disappointed in Diamond's set. People spend their hard earned money to get entertained. With King Diamond, not only do you get a trip to the dark side, you get your money's worth as well.