King Diamond: Conspiracy
07/05/12 || Sokaris
With horror, fans are almost accustomed to disappointment in sequels. A decent amount of time a follow-up is little more than a cash-in by an outside party that doesn’t understand what made the original great and doesn’t know better than to leave well enough alone. Then there are the exceptions, stories that were intended to contain two or more parts from the beginning, guided carefully by their creators to a logical conclusion. Hellraiser and Halloween (the first two of each) are prime examples, basically each being two-part films. So is King Diamond’s direct sequel to “Them”, entitled “Conspiracy” an example of the former, the latter or something in between? Is it a worthy follow-up to masterpiece that precedes it? To answer the first question: the latter. To answer the second: Goddamn yeah it is.
9. Once again, a tour-de-force of everything great about this genre. Catchy, diverse, metal-as-fuck riffs. Rip-roaring solos, unpredictable bridges and deep hooks. It’s smart without sounding like it’s trying to be smart. There’s tons of skill involved in the playing but everything sounds extremely natural. Overall the songs are kind of like a more evenly paced version of the set on “Them.” I would say that pretty much everything on here edges out “Tea” or “Twilight symphony” by a hair but even though this album manages to avoid some of its predecessor’s lows it’s also missing some of the dizzying highs. That is, aside from album opener “At the graves.” When it comes to Diamond my brain perpetually holds a three-way brawl between “The family ghost”, “The invisible guests” and this track that ends in a makeup and blood-covered stalemate.
9. Similar production to its sister album although its not quite as sharp. A tiny step down, but still excellent. The guitars are just a tad darker and the bass doesn’t quite stand out as its own instrument. Robert Falcao (who assisted the band in attaining the sound on all albums previous as well) had really hit his stride at this point.
10. Everything you’ve come to love and expect from a King album is present. I did notice that there’s a few more instances of acoustic and clean guitar sounds used to great effect. It doesn’t necessarily change the overall sound or atmosphere of the album but it’s always a treat to hear LaRocque pluck away in a different style. I can hear what might be slight influences from then contemporary metal heavy-hitters. There’s a few instances of injecting extra pinch harmonics that is somewhat reminiscence of the solo Ozzy Osbourne stuff and some of the more progressive bits are Queensrychesque. Neither one of these examples are very prominent in the larger scope of things and the duo of Andy and Pete maintain the signature King Diamond sound.
10. Piercing, commanding and perfect. There’s really no better vocalist for narrative-driven heavy metal like this. It’s the kind of thing that for the most part just wouldn’t work with someone else trying his style in another band. In turn, I can’t picture any other kind of vocals with this music. I suppose plain ol’ vanilla midrange metal cleans would fit, but King’s 52 flavors of voices (yes we’re sticking with the ice cream metaphor) just bring things to another level. You have to be one hell of a goddamn badass to be able to call yourself King, cover yourself in makeup and get away with it, let alone have legions of disciples arguing amongst themselves over the finer details of just how awesome what you’ve done is.
8. Creamy and rich with the occasional ultra-tasty chunk thrown in, keeping you looking forward to each next bite like good cookie dough ice cream (okay, we’re done with this metaphor).
7. Not quite as much jumped out to me as on “Them” but Mikkey Dee still turns in an above-average performance on his final King Diamond recording. He knows when to keep it simple but keeps plenty of variety in the tempos and syncopation of his parts. A slightly more elaborate approach would’ve improved things overall but the only reason I have this complaint was because of the superior arrangements last time around. It might be possible Mikkey was pushing himself less since he was played on “Conspiracy” as a session drummer and ceased collaborations with King after this release.
9. It’s hard to discuss the specific lyrical topics without spoiling the events of “Them” but “Conspiracy” deals with the aftermath of the events previous, spotlighting different characters and developing the story until the tragic end. King doesn’t conclude his stories with “…happily ever after” nor would you expect him to. One interesting storytelling device is the instrumental song “Cremation.” While most KD instrumentals are spooky interludes with spoken word and sound effects, this one does the opposite; the full band goes through a handful of riffs and vocals are purposely left out. Not using lyrics here is actually an interesting move because the music does the job of evoking a certain event in the story (you’ll have to read and find out if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
4. For the first time disappointing. This has always bothered me. Sure, it’s an iconic shot of King in probably his coolest and most detailed makeup but it’s the kind of thing that should be on the back of a record, or CD booklet or whatever else. To me, for a band with so much theatrical imagery it’s extremely disappointing that the cover art wasn’t used to evoke or elaborate on the plot of “Conspiracy.” Strangely enough, a well-done cover was commissioned and apparently rejected by King, though the black and white drawing still gets a place in the layout. Very few copies exist as Roadrunner apparently destroyed most of the copies of the original album. If history could be amended and justice done, another painting from the same artist that was used for “Them” would adorn “Conspiracy.” One of my biggest pet peeves in metal.
9. Top, center and white. Three in a row, a pattern is definitely emerging. The outside border that frames the logo (the only element to survive from the original cover) is a nice touch as well.
8. I own the original (aka the Don Kaye-free edition) which got a pretty thick booklet for its time. This gets double the score as the cover because it actually features some relevant artwork (the aforementioned drawing, which features the house from “Them” in the background). There’s also a small amount of text basically preparing you for the story. There’s a decent band shot minus King, though his coffin is present; I guess they figured his head taking up the entire album cover was enough.
Overall and ending rant Sequels can hold up. Sometimes a follow-up does do justice to its predecessor, expand its scope and satisfy for all the same reasons the original did. I’d still give a slight edge of “Them”, but “Conspiracy” still deserves its status as a classic and the two together make for an epic and exciting listen. Quite possibly the most accessible of the 80’s King Diamond material, a great starting point for newbies, an indispensable piece of the puzzle for KD enthusiasts and a fitting send-off to Mikkey Dee. ssential for fans and highly recommended to any curious but uninitiated.
- Released: 1988
- Label: Roadrunner Records
- Website: www.covenworldwide.org
- King Diamond: vocals, keyboards
- Andy LaRocque: guitars
- Pete Blakk: guitars
- Timi Hansen: bass
- Mikkey Dee: drums
- 01. At the graves
- 02. Sleepless nights
- 03. Lies
- 04. A Visit from the dead
- 05. The Wedding dream
- 06. Amon belongs to Them
- 07. Something weird
- 08. Victimized
- 09. Let it be done
- 10. Cremation