The Puppet Master (Metal Blade)
By Martin Popoff
Look for a few twists in the tale this time, King Diamond, for his 11th solo album (!) adding occasional female vocals (Livia Zita), more guitar soloing, and most interestingly, a DVD on which he narrates what is another complicated story, one that is actually understandable from lyrics alone. Maybe too clear, King seemingly having to use every line for plot, and not many for poetry. I thought the DVD was quite mesmerizing, although some have called it amusing or cheesy. King as a storyteller is impressive. The whites of his eyes, his stone grimace, his piano-player hand gestures, and most importantly, his telling of the tale conversationally, no script… You are rapt at his devotion and his selling of the tale. He’s there in facepaint and a little bowler-type top hat, surrounded by candles, eerily with daylight shining through the curtains. It’s actually stranger that it isn’t night, a little unsettling. But yeah, back to the music.
There’s an earthy feel to The Puppet Master (especially with the double bass drum stuff), a dark series of very guitary songs that often remind one of Mercyful Fate. It’s cool that the line-up is the same as for Abigail II, these guys now beset, tested, and rested as serious heavyweights in their funereal field. Faves would be the drowny and dreamy “Blue Eyes” and “Blood to Walk,” and the most Fate-like of the bunch, “The Ritual” and “Living Dead.” Finally, “Christmas” could give Trans-Siberian a run for its (easy) money, and then crush it dead once those big chords and swirling leads kick in. Shockingly, this track is a worthy headbanger, and not in any way a novelty. Man, I can’t help thinking of Mercyful Fate’s venomous 9 album while digesting this doomy pile of axe-mad tangles. Two points doffed cuz I’ve flippantly decided I don’t like concept albums: Each track on its own somehow feels diminished.
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