Live at Mayhem Festival
San Bernardino, California
June 27th, 2015
Review and Photos by Travis Baumann
King Diamond is the legendary frontman whose painted face and falsetto voice need little introduction. For any who are not familiar with him yet, he is a Danish Heavy Metal icon who has been putting out music under his own moniker since 1985.
He is renowned in the world-wide music scene for his intense macabre tales that play out like twisted operas on stage. His previous endeavors under the Mercyful Fate banner go even further back in the annals of time.
I have listened to Kind Diamond for quite some time, but in all these years have never had the opportunity to see him perform, so he was the biggest draw for me at this year's Mayhem Festival put on by Rockstar Energy Drinks.
With main stage headliners Slayer drawing an equally enthusiastic crowd, the event was as epic in person as it sounds in writing. King Diamond went on just after the sun drifted behind the surrounding foothills and the moon began to shine down through the clouds.
Kind Diamond's albums are steeped in suspenseful tales of the Dark Arts and involve many stories of ghosts and spirits. They are known for their sinister imagery, having taken on the pentagram and inverted cross as their own icons.
The stage hosted an impressive set-piece that looked like the main hall of an ancient haunted mansion, complete with a center banister balcony and staircases that stretched down either side of the stage. The drum kit was in the center on a riser. Large and small gargoyles stood along the railings and ominous Gothic stained-glass windows were illuminated on the back wall of the hall.
The band emerged on the top bannister with Mike Wead on guitar and Pontus Egberg on bass emerging to the left, while longtime contributor and lead guitarist, Andy LaRocque came out on the right. Their drummer, Matt Thompson slipped up onto his kit from below.
The man himself, King Diamond, came out onto the balcony and raised his mic-stand built out of human bones in the shape of an inverted cross, as a huge pentagram disc rose behind him. The crowd yelled out their approval.
The first song of the set was "The Candle" and the operatic theatricality of their enigmatic singer's presence was first felt. King Diamond gestured emphatically as he sang in his signature style. His lyrics weave heavy tales, mixing beauty and love with tragedy and evil.
They went into "Sleepless Nights" followed by the awesome "Eye of the Witch". They had a woman on the right of stage singing backup vocals and an additional female performer who would don different outfits and characters as the story called for them.
As they came to "Welcome Home", she came out in the guise of an ancient twisted crone who tormented the other members of her family. She returned bearing a tray of tea as the band transitioned into a great medley of "Tea" which lead into "Digging Graves" and "A Visit From The Dead".
As the old crone made her way off stage, King Diamond gave the audience a much appreciated dose of some of his previous band's material with the diabolical "Evil". All of the Mercyful Fate fans were more than stoked to witness this classic song live.
The female performer returned to the stage in a long black dress and a tray of artifacts. King Diamond asked if everyone would "Come to the Sabbath", inciting another volley of excessive cheers from the audience as we got a second dose of Mercyful Fate. The woman would hold up goat skulls and other trappings of witchcraft as she moved in rigid forms of ritual.
Stage hands dressed in long hooded robes brought out acoustic guitars on stands on each side of the stage so they could play the introduction to "The Family Ghost". King Diamond moved back up to the top of the balcony railing and was joined by the woman now in white showing signs of pregnancy. He moved all around the stage while she remained at the top, holding her stomach as if things were not natural inside.
The band exited the stage as the lights dimmed and then King Diamond returned at the top of the stairs. The woman came out as well and was now in black again, still pregnant. The band joined them and played "The 7th Day of July 1777" as the woman pushed King Diamond down the stairs. She then came onto a riser in front of the drums and gave birth to a small child which she was horrified by, she picked it up and slammed it onto the ground. Two robed and hooded men came out and dragged her forcibly off the stage as she struggled to escape.
This brought the band to their final chapter and my favorite song of the night, "Black Horsemen". King Diamond executed every note and every line perfectly and the entire theatrical performance cemented the stories and energy of the albums into an impressive and moving show.
The band left the stage as the outro, "Insanity" played and for a moment the audience was stunned by the finality of such a great experience, then cheered and yelled for more.
I thought it was a great performance and was definitely impressed with the entire stage setup, song selection and sound. It lived up to all of my expectations and getting to see Slayer immediately afterwards was definitely awesome.
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