In the 1980s, King Diamond and his other black metal outfit, Mercyful Fate, provided for many hours of my musical entertainment. King's truly dramatic presentation of his music and lyrical content is what brought me back time and again to his albums. On stage, King is adorned with inverted crosses, Goth costumes and black and white corpse make-up. The make-up has changed over the years ever since Gene Simmons had issued a court order to Diamond to stop wearing the design that he was painting on his face as it resembled Gene's trademark make-up from KISS.
For those who are familiar with King Diamond, the image he projected in the mid 1980s as a Satanist is usually the first thing that comes to their minds. As King is now over 50 years old, he has softened up a bit as far as the Satanism goes, and now claims that he is not involved or a member of any church, including the atheistic (not theistic, mind you) Church of Satan. For me, it was never about King's dopey beliefs or political leanings, it is mainly about his stories of horror that he brings to his recordings.
Them is his third record after his departure from Mercyful Fate. In this original tale from Diamond, King tells the story of the evil haunted house of AMON and his institutionalized 'Grandma'. Yes, King writes himself into the story as a nine year old boy living with his younger sister Missy and their mother. Apparently, the 'invisible guests' are harmless and dormant until Grandma comes home from the asylum and gives the spirits strength with a witch's spell concoction of blood and tea.
This story was immediately sequeled a year later with his next album Conspiracy but with so-so results both musically and story-wise. Them seems to be a fan favorite, even director Kevin Smith used the song The Invisible Guests in his recent film Clerks II.
Out of the Asylum starts off creepily enough with single random keyboard notes playing a haunting melody as the ghosts of the house of AMON converse with each other in a narrative way describing their view from the attic window watching Grandma approach the house. All voices are performed by King very effectively. The two minute intro paves the way seamlessly into one of the best tracks on the CD, Welcome Home. The music is pure heavy metal with two lengthy flashy guitar solos, and some stellar drumming from drummer Mikkey Dee, who while keeps the beat very metal, he adds a groove hidden underneath with his uncanny talents. King's tale draws the listener in, and he also adds more humor in his lyrics than he has in the past yet he still is dead serious about the storyline.
♫Grandma- take a look
What do you think of the house and the silvery moon?
We're going to repaint the front door soon.
Let me help you out of the chair, guh-guh-Grandma...♫
The better songs include The Invisible Guests, which was King's formal introduction to THEM from Grandma - complete with nine guitar solos, Tea sounds like classic Mercyful Fate, with King singing his impossibly high, melodic moans over some evil sounding metal.
Although the plot never suffers, some of the tracks are just so-so. Mother's Getting Weaker suffers from the lack of any melodic hooks that King spoiled us with the first four songs. Twilight Symphony is a good enough song, but with King's bright idea of introducing a new character, Dr. Landau in the last song on the album would be very confusing to listeners who don't have the sequel album Conspiracy, where it's revealed that Dr. Landau is pretty much the villain from that album.
The pinnacle of Them is Bye, Bye Missy, easily the best song off this disc. King adds emotional elements not only with his lyrics, but the different voices he uses to illustrate the tale. King usually sings in a high pitched Frankie Valli type of voice anyway, but for his younger sister Missy he adds a bit more substance. The song's heavy metal element of the music is more dimensional to add to the story line, even the guitar solos conjure up images of the story's unfolding tale.
My only gripe with the album is the poor mix, even in this so called remaster. While King's many vocals sound as present and alive as ever, the bottom half is inexcusable. The bass is hardly audible; the drums sound like Mikkey Dee is drumming on paper bags sitting on a kitchen table. I was hoping that with the album being remastered, they would fix this - but remastered doesn't always include a remix. In fact, the only reason I cannot give this album five stars is because of the poor sound.
At least the two demos for Bye, Bye Missy and The Invisible Guests have the same sound quality as the rest of the album. The two rehearsal demos do not have King's vocal, and with all of the chord and time changes in these songs, it's a miracle the band get through the song without the guide vocal. Also there is another bonus track called Phone Call, a dramatic track, it contains no music. Since the album already ended with a dramatic track with Coming Home, it wouldn't make much sense to two of these types in a row, or two endings if you will.
I enjoyed this album so much when I was younger and I used to wish someone, somewhere would make a movie based on one of King's albums. I mean Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar started off as concept albums; it wasn't that silly an idea, except for the fact it falls into the Black Metal genre. I still wouldn't find it ridiculous if Them found it's way to become a musical or something. His lyrics effortlessly become moving pictures in your brain anyway. It could happen. I am beginning to see resurgence of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, and not just in Kevin Smith's movies. Who knows?
1. Out From the Asylum
2. Welcome Home
3. The Invisible Guests
5. Mother's Getting Weaker
6. Bye, bye Missy
7. A Broken Spell
8. The Accusation Chair
10. Twilight Symphony
11. Coming Home
12. Phone Call
13. The Invisible Guests (Rehearsal)
14. Bye, Bye Missy (Rehearsal
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MERCYFUL FATE: DON'T BREAK THE OATH