King Diamond: The eye
18/05/12 || Sokaris
With “Fatal Portrait” King Diamond proved that he was a force to be reckoned with, whether it was as a part of Mercyful Fate or on his own. “Abigail” provided the basic KD template further defining the act separately from MF and introduced their first full length concept album. “Them” and “Conspiracy” proved lineup changes wouldn’t rock this heavy metal boat and tackled an even more conceptually ambitious two-part story. All of these albums I’ve covered in previous installments of Class6(66). Those albums (and obviously this one as well) are classics that should be investigated by metal fans the world over as they represent a very unique and important chapter in the annals of the genre. What’s most impressive is there’s only three years, six months and four days between the debut and “Conspiracy”. Very few bands can provide such high amounts of quality and quantity and the second half of the 80’s was a much richer time thanks to King’s contributions. So at this point in history Diamond had a hell of a lot to live up to and even though “The eye” was technically the weakest album he’d participated in at the time of its release, that’s only because the company it kept was so stellar. On its own it’s an excellent record with a well delivered historically set horror concept, jaw-dropping musicianship and classic tracks that any band should be damn proud of. “The eye” might not be the definitive release from King Diamond but it’s still earned its place alongside the greats.
8. From upbeat speed influenced sections to classic metal hooks and the occasional groove delivered only the way King can. As per usual, though the band has great choruses they generally don’t become over-reliant on them, offering extended bridges, dramatic tempo shifts and an abundance of riffs. There’s maybe just a slightly larger touch of neoclassicalism, brought forward by a more bold use of keyboards and some of the melodic guitar work. This may have been intentional considering the time period of the story, but whether it was conscious or not it helps add color to the concept and give the album its own feel. There aren’t any drastic differences from the previous four albums in style though I have to criticize a few songs for occasionally sounding tired and some weak endings overall. “Father Picard” just kind of peters out with one of the most out of place fade-outs I’ve heard and it disrupts the flow of “The Eye.” I can’t recall many instances of King Diamond fading out for a track’s conclusion and though it can be a good way to end a song, starting an ultra fast fade out exactly as a new riff comes in doesn’t really make sense in most cases.
7. Decent but the guitar has a bit of a dull tone to it and it sounds slightly small. The drums seem to dominate the upper frequency and in general take up too much of the mix, which hurts things because the drums have an extremely synthetic tone. As mentioned before there’s a more liberal use of keyboards (provided once again by producer Robert Falcao) such as the opening of “Behind these walls” or “Burn”, one of the album’s standouts in which King announces “They say the devil is here tonight, then let him play his violin so wild!” and sure enough the keyboard emulates a catchy violin melody. The effect itself is somewhat cheesy and dated but this moment is a good example of what really makes a King Diamond album special. The mix could’ve brought the guitars a little more forward but other than that “The Eye” received good treatment at the console.
8. Mostly kickass, diverse guitar work. There weren’t necessarily new approaches being brought to the table at this point but the band had a signature sound and they were delivering at a nearly unmatched level. There’s a slight drop in my scoring that I attribute to the fact that there are a few too many of those “let the guitar ring out under the chorus” moments where the guitar is mostly just filling space rather actually contributing something memorable. Even though those moments still work from a songwriting perspective, that’s one of the small contributors that make this album slightly weaker from those that came before. Excellent solos are a given at this point. Anytime Andy or Pete start to explore the little frets the listener is in for a treat. One moment of acoustic guitar is featured, the LaRocque-penned instrumental “Insanity.”
8. The King retains his throne but he doesn’t use his full power much here. The music is overall a little less heavy so that might be why but a little more force behind the falsettos would have brought the score up a point easy. There’s still good variety and voice-acting bits featured on “The Eye”. Second track “The trial (chambre ardente)” displays Diamond portraying both a male and a female character and the song features some genuinely creepy dry-sounding laughter.
6. Although the mix allows the bass to be heard, Hal Patino does little to step outside of the guitar lines. It’s unfortunate as this was his last recording with the band and he was usually good for a cool bass lick or two per album.
5. Snowy Shaw steps in and turns in what I’m sure was a decent performance, but I’m not a fan of this album’s percussion. Unfortunately the drum sound almost completely ruins his sole appearance on a King Diamond album. Although his arrangements weren’t necessarily exciting there were some cool moments and generally what he came up with would’ve worked well. Because of his use of drum pads, though, we get an album with instrumentation built on top of what sounds like a cheap early 90s drum machine. It takes a perfectly fine drum beat and turns it into the kind of thing that would ooze out of the shitty speakers of a Casio keyboard after someone’s pressed the “DEMO” button.
10. Though it might not have as many singularly memorable elements as the storylines featured on “Abigail” or “Them”/”Conspiracy”, there was an attempt to try something different with the lyrics and it worked like a fucken charm. This time King tries his hand at historical fiction, bringing together characters all based and named after real people that lived in France during different periods in the Inquisition years. Different stories are all centered around a mysterious necklace that seems to bring ruin to all those that possess it. It’s somewhat of an anthology-style story and allows King to dabble in shorter works with an over-arching theme instead of trying to match the scale of the tale featured on the last two albums.
5. It sure is fucken purple. It’s a fine idea for a cover, the necklace mentioned in the last paragraph featured prominently. The design works, a flying demon with a stylized eye-shape underneath. The problem is the complete lack of detail in the artwork. What should be some kind of hideously black batwinged figure instead looks like a really burnt cookie, or some other kind of fucked up pastry. Looking at the back we get… oh for fuck’s sake, King, again!? Taking what would be damn fine cover art and shoving it elsewhere? There’s additional artwork that features a well-done, fully colored painting of one of the album’s characters, Jeanne Dibasson, being burned alive as a witch. For whatever reason this is relegated to the back of the album’s booklet and outside of the traycard. While it does make sense for the actual “eye” to be featured more prominently on the cover since the lyrics travel throughout different stories connected only by the necklace, this simply looks a thousand times better and the aforementioned jewelry is still visible in the misused painting.
9. Top, center and white just like the last three. I still love that logo.
8. The original edition, houses a short introduction to the story, a brief description of the featured characters and a ton of thanks. Interspersed are band pictures in black and white. Considering the time period this is as full a package as it got. The colors on the CD are kind of out of place though. The disc is divided into thirds, one colored purple, one yellow and one is just the silver reflective surface of the CD.
Overall and ending rant
In its time, “The eye” wasn’t as well received as it should have been. The 90s weren’t as kind to King Diamond and the band was unceremoniously dropped from Roadrunner Records. Time has treated the album well and most fans view the album as a triumph even if it didn’t quite stack up to the last few releases. Despite a few flaws and an extremely poor choice regarding the recording of the drums it still stands as a true classic.
- Released: 1990
- Label: Roadrunner Records
- Website: www.covenworldwide.org
- King Diamond: vocals, keyboards
- Andy LaRocque: guitars
- Pete Blakk: guitars
- Hal Patino: bass
- Snowy Shaw: drums
- 01. Eye of the witch
- 02. The trial (Chambre ardente)
- 03. Burn
- 04. Two little girls
- 05. Into the convent
- 06. Father Picard
- 07. Behind these walls
- 08. The meetings
- 09. Insanity
- 10. 1642 imprisonment
- 11. The curse