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Album Reviews : King Diamond – Songs for the Dead Live

By on February 7, 2019

There will only ever be one Queen, Prince has exited this mortal coil and its unlikely music fans will ever agree on just who the Princess title belongs to (for me there is only one, hip hop artist Concetta Kirschner AKA Princess Superstar). The lofty title of the King must belong to Kim Petersen AKA King Diamond! Forget about Elvis Presley, the heavy metal King is the one to admire.

With the greatest respect to the revered sexagenarian, Petersen’s on-stage performance across the brand-new Blu-Ray/DVD, Songs for the Dead Live, is colossal. That statement has been prefaced as such due to the physically commanding presence he offers. Performers of a similar vintage have surely struggled as father-time wore away at physical, and in some cases mental health. But not Petersen. His serpentine roving, vocal cadence and stage demeanour are all in full flight. Time will tell; however, this Blu-Ray/DVD might be Petersen’s live performance magnum opus. It’s that good!

According to Napalm Records, Songs for the Dead Live “present(s) the Abigail album in its entirety plus several Mercyful Fate and King Diamond classics”. That roundly sums up the music, however as one should anticipate, this DVD is so much more than a visual record and reproduction of many album’s worth of music.

Divided into two performances of the same show, the Blu-Ray/DVD was recorded on June 17, 2017 at the Graspop Metal Meeting (Begium) and November 25, 2015 from The Fillmore in Philadelphia. The stage and set design have been created for theatre and economy, no point crowding the stage with a heap of gargoyles when a few can make the point. Petersen offers sermon after sermon from the stairs leading to a raised platform behind the drum kit, the upside-down crucifixes add weight to his luciferin lyrics. With a light show commissioned from deep within Valhalla, the constant flashes evoke a hell-scene of storms and tempest and Abigail herself makes repeated appearances.

The musicians, headlined by long-time King Diamond guitarist and one-time Chuck Schuldiner (Death, Control Denied) collaborator, Andy LaRocque, are joined by the same cast that has been onboard since at least 2014. Drummer/ percussionist Matt Thompson should really be better known by this point, he’s got the chops to have earned a greater profile.

The Graspop Metal Meeting performance of “Arrival” from Abigail (’87) is when things really get moving, which highlights the only real grievance with these types of DVD releases.

The DVD is certainly entertaining so there’s not that creeping desire to fast-forward through ‘boring bits’, however it’s not until about 40 minutes in before “Omens” (Abigail) that a song title is announced or broadcast. No one would (or should) expect a performer to announce every song, however the editors of the Blu-Ray/DVD should think of the many new and unfamiliar fans who would certainly appreciate this information. That said, it could just the review copy that I received that lacks song titles.

For the long-time fan, if you wanted a pro-shot live performance from the greatest underground heavy metal frontman, Songs for the Dead Live is the business. If you are new to the King and his work, the Blu-Ray/DVD is an excellent starting point for diving into the magnificent catalogue that Peterson and a superb cast of musicians have curated since 1985.

Band: King Diamond
Album: Songs for the Dead Live
Year: 2019
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label: Metal Blade Records
Origin: Denmark


Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith