Still reigning decades later.
Photos by Heaviest of Art, taken at the City National Grove of Anaheim on December 3.
When Tobias Forge and GHOST first hit the scene a few years ago, the world was taken by storm. From the satanic pope outfits to the stage theatrics and BLUE OYSTER CULT-like soundscapes, Forge revitalized the live performance and presented metal of decades past for a modern time. Whether you're intrigued by the band's appeal or not, it's no question that GHOST have brought in masses of new listeners, serving as a gateway to bands like CANDLEMASS, ALICE COOPER, BLACK SABBATH, and more.
Now, to what does Forge attribute many of his creative choices? Enter KING DIAMOND, master of satanic live imagery and eclectic musicianship. Throughout the course of their existence, the Danish unit has mastered the craft of becoming one with the stage persona, pairing some of metal's most iconic songs with an evolving, multi floor performance stage inhabited by live actors. One would attend a KING DIAMOND show for the music alone, but with the visual pleasures that accompany the riffs, it becomes a requirement to attend at least one show in one's lifetime.
With their recently announced new album The Institute on the way, KING DIAMOND took to the road and played across North America alongside UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS and IDLE HANDS, two of metal's top newer bands not over a decade into their career. This trio made their way to the City National Grove of Anaheim for their second to the last stop on the tour and Heaviest of Art was present to bare witness to the greatness of metal's past and present.
Despite extensive work hours, the rare occurrence of rain in Southern California and a Downtown LA traffic commute, we managed to make it just in time before Portland's IDLE HANDS concluded their set. Having seen the tour in Los Angeles just a few days prior, we witnessed the electric capacity of frontman Gabe Franco and co., who repeated said level of electricity in Anaheim with tracks as mighty as Give Me To The Night.
Their feel-good, goth rock take on the genre makes you want to throw on some aviator shades and a leather jacket for a night on the Sunset strip. Seeing the force that is the guitar duo of Sebastian Silva and Cory Boyd makes you wonder whether you were born in a different era given the soaring guitars and long hair/leather jacket wearing ensemble.
Coming in at #28 on our Top 30 Albums of 2019 list was their new record Mana, the trailblazing new effort of which tracks were played from throughout their set. This is a band to keep an eye on not only for their studio abilities, but their live one as well.
Following the roaring IDLE HANDS performance, UK's UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS hit the stage to a mesmerizing backdrop. The band were backed by a large white drape, serving as a conduit to the projections that were to follow. Red lighted shrouded the band upon the start and we were off towards a mind fuck of musical adventure.
UNCLE ACID fuzzed out listeners with tracks hailing from their spellbinding debut Blood Lust (2011) to last year's Wasteland (2018), offering something for fans old and new to indulge in. Opening with I'll Cut You Down, the band kicked it off with one of the more revered songs in their discography, which many consider to be a staple in the modern acid rock/psychedelic rock genre. Add Death's Door, Pusher Man, Shockwave City, and more and you have yourself one fine collection of riffs.
No drugs were needed to make one hallucinate several times throughout the performance, due in part to the psychedelic visuals behind the formidable quartet. Our slideshow below offers but a glimpse of said visuals while the band teared through a jam-packed set of stoner rock goodness.
As UNCLE ACID comes to a close and give their thank yous, the crowd becomes full of anticipation. The red curtains close and those at the beer lines rush down the multiple levels of the City National Grove of Anaheim for a spot closer to greatness. The time has come for KING DIAMOND.
Lights dimmed and the sounds of URIAH HEEP's The Wizard filled the room, paving the way for the evil to come. The curtains open and audiences are treated to a massive mental institution stage set up while iconic album opener The Candle echoes throughout. KING DIAMOND is walked out from the asylum doors by a hooded figure, laying on a test subject bed resembling the very struggles he faced while undergoing medical treatments. As he gets up and realizes his surroundings, he proceeds to turn on the power. The Institute is now open.
Andy LaRocque and the others walk down from the top floor of The Institute in badass fashion and begin to rock the night away with none other than Behind These Walls. Pontus Egberg comes forth and lets loose resounding bass work, banging this head with jolting energy and letting the hair fly. Mike Wead doesn't fall short and teams with up with LaRocque for a seamless play-through of back-to-back hits consisting of Arrival, A Mansion in Darkness, and Voodoo. With Matt Thompson at the helm for drums, you better be sure that each song had a heartbeat, and a devilishly good one at that.
Each musician was at their best, playing with upmost precise ferocity. Jodi Cachia had a phenomenal on-stage performance, acting as the beloved grandma, a patient of The Institute, and much more. Facial expressions, body language: it was all there and made you feel as if Mr. Diamond was truly the madman behind her despair. Livia Zita's backing vocals are as spine-tingling as ever, adding a layer of depth to KING DIAMOND's iconic falsettos. This was truly an audio-visual pairing for the books, and as much as one can try to explain the occurrences, it cannot capture the greatness in the air.
If the below slideshow isn't enough of an indication, a KING DIAMOND performance excels on every level and Anaheim was no exception. Each musician ripped through the legendary setlist, visuals exceeded all expectations, and sound was truly bombastic. The new song Masquerade of Madness sounds twice as great live as it does via the headphones, shutting down those who ever doubted Mr. Diamond's musical longevity. The show was an immersive experience that leaves many begging for more and though the tour has concluded, our anticipation is at an all time high for the arrival of the The Institute.
Where does one enroll as a patient?
KING DIAMOND's first album since 2007, The Institute, is set to arrive next year but you can stream the first offering Masquerade of Madness at the link HERE.