King Diamond Brings Brutalizing Metal to New York's PlayStation Theater: Live Review

King Diamond
Review
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King Diamond’s resurrection of Abigail, his classic 1987 concept album, has been a much-anticipated event on the metal concert circuit. The sold-out crowd that packed New York's PlayStation Theater on Saturday for the last show of a three-night stand proved that fan enthusiasm was high. Joining King Diamond for tour support was the Bay Area’s Exodus, which sweetened the deal. Although the latter group’s aesthetic is far different from the headliner’s baroque style of music, the bill was a smart lineup that paired two elder-statesmen metal acts.

Although Exodus co-founder Gary Holt was absent due to his current touring duties with Slayer (he has been filling in for original Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman since 2011; Hanneman died in 2013), that didn’t keep Exodus from delivering 45 uncompromising minutes of pulverizing thrash with touring guitarist Kragen Lum of Heathen. Led by singer Steve “Zetro” Souza, the quintet pumped up the room with new tunes like the title track from Blood In, Blood Out and “Body Harvest,” along with brutal favorites “The Toxic Waltz” and “Bonded by Blood.” The band capped off its set with “Strike of the Beast,” which actually spurned the people in mosh pit to charge at one another in a gleeful wall of death.

King Diamond had promised new stage effects for telling the story of Abigail in its entirety, but from a props perspective, there didn’t seem to be much difference in his presentation; he’s still using the already impressive dual-staircase catwalk that has been part of his shows for a few years now. However, the dedication with which he and his band performed the album was profound. Guitarists Andy LaRocque and Mike Weed, drummer Matt Thompson and bassist Pontus Egberg deserve as much credit as King for the show’s entertainment value, given the complexity of the material and the fervor they used to attack it.

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Fans got to hear selections from other King Diamond concept albums like Them -- one of its characters, Grandma, made her traditional onstage appearance in a wheelchair, wearing a ghoulish mask and pounding a cane -- and Eye of the Witch, as well as Mercyful Fate songs “Sleepless Nights” and “Melissa” before the group embarked on Abigail. Against a backdrop of a stone castle with stained-glass windows, upside down crosses and an illuminated Baphomet symbol, and bathed in red, blue and purple lights, King and his team of ace musicians spun the story of doomed couple Jonathan Le’Fay and Miriam Natias, who meet a gruesome fate after they move into an ancestral mansion. Helping to illustrate the gothic horror tale were a black bassinet straight out of Rosemary’s Baby that rocked eerily and an actress portraying Miriam who wandered up and down the steps in a white gown carrying a lamp. They made for interesting visuals as the band jumped headlong into “Funeral,” the chugging “Arrival,” “A Mansion in Darkness” and the commanding “The Family Ghost,” while taking just a slight pause for the beautiful acoustic intro of “The 7th Day of July 1777” before resuming their feverish stride for the rest of the song, followed by the riveting “Omens,” “The Possession” and “Abigail.”

In an unusual gesture, after taking some bows, King didn't return for an encore. Instead, he let the story end with the ringing notes of “Black Horsemen,” the finale track to Abigail. But then again, what would really be an appropriate follow-up after telling a gruesome story about the ghost of a stillborn child who takes demonic possession of its new mother?