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Everyone can recall the first time they heard, played, or saw, a certain entry into a long running series. I’m no different. With Apoch’s Metal Review now in it’s fourth year, and I start to reflect on fourteen years of Metal intrigue, it felt appropriate to share the early days of my journey into the land of rebellion, frostbite, gore and unicorns by discussing some of my first experiences with my favorite bands in the day before instant internet gratification, when you had to physically search for and even wait to buy a physical pressing. This was before cable and DSL became standards, before the social networking boom, prior to the creation of Youtube, iTunes, and the Metal Archives. This is a look back at my first album from…

King Diamond (Logo)

One of the very first Metal bands to make a huge impact on how I view music is the legendary King Diamond. I admit, I got to the party a little late, but up to this point I at least had heard a song or two from Mercyful Fate thanks to a local college radio station’s Monday Metal programming, though I didn’t even know it since they rarely ever said what was playing due to the lack of live DJs for the automated system they used. However, this actually wasn’t what spawned my love of the two bands over the years.

I remember sitting around my bedroom, pouring over the then latest issue of Metal Maniacs, looking for new and interesting bands, as my enjoyment of the “Nu-Metal” craze was quickly dwindeling, and I was tired of seeing Slipknot all over the place. Matter of fact I think they were on that cover. Either way, as I read the various articles, I happened upon an advertisement from Metal Blade Records, which was showing off the new King Diamond album, The Graveyard. The artwork intrigued me right away, and upon seeing the other album covers in the “Don’t forget to check out…!” portion of the ad, my curiosity had been peaked. Later that day, my father picked me up to spend time with me for a little while, leading to a long car ride all over North East Pennysylvania and back. He handed me my allowance (a little more than usual when I said it was for a CD), and he drove me from one music store to another until I finally tracked down a copy of this album at the local used CD store.

King Diamond: The Graveyard

A little while later, I finally made it home, tore off the plastic, threw it in my CD player, and laid down on my bed with the lyrics handy. The spoken word introduction was creepy, and struck me as something a little more unique than usual introductions with naration. It didn’t take long before the album proved that assumption right, as “Black Hill Sanitatium” kicked in, and the story began to unfold…

At the time, I had no idea almost all of the King Diamond albums were one large story, and as a man who loves a good book (or, well, a teen who loved a good book back then), I immediately was lost in the concept of a mental patient seeking vengeance for being thrown into the looney bin, and doing so by kidnapping the man’s daughter, Lucy. The falsetto vocals took a bit to get adjusted to, but it worked perfectly with the lyrics and tone of the album. I felt it properly portrayed the insanity of the main character, pulling me in deeper as the song went on. The catchy riffs and creepy atmosphere had me bobbing my head along, captivating my heart as the chorus proclaimed that the sanitatium was driving him crazy. A few songs later, I realized they were all linked, and as the album continued on, chapter by chapter, I fell more and more in love with this band.

I sat up at some point and found myself on the edge of the bed, moving closer and closer to the speakers as the story continued to grow, though I admit the closing few songs started to lose me, not quite capitalizing on the build up set into motion prior. The inevitable conclusion and its reference to “Heads on the Wall” really drove the point home. The second the album stopped, I just sat there in awe of what I had heard, as, outside of The Who, I had never experienced anything so literary driven. I played the album again, and again, and again. I can’t even tell you how many times I tore through it, but for a summer night with no school, I didn’t care. All I know is I eventually just passed out and woke up with the lyric sheet in hand and the stereo still on, waiting for me to hit the play button again.

For months I saved up my allowance. I still purchased albums from other bands, either out of intrigue or suggestion from friends or the owner and employees of that local used CD store that introduced me to a lot of my favorites to this day. I began buying all of King Diamond‘s albums, many of the older ones being the gold disk Roadrunner Records reissues, which became the pride of my slowly growing collection. I admit I’ve never been too into Fatal Portrait, even when I first heard it I felt a bit let down that it wasn’t as engrossing as The Graveyard, but I didn’t let it deter me from exploring this group. By the time Voodoo had come out, I finally owned and heard all the albums up to that point. It was a labor of love, many other releases I wanted had to sit on the shelves, and were never even added until much later in my life. I felt completely fulfilled, and still spent plenty of time listening to Abigail, “Them”, and The Spider’s Lullabye, one I felt was better than many fans were giving it credit for, which I still feel to this day.

This also lead to my discovery of Mercyful Fate amid the quest to own them all. This actually derailed that venture for a bit, as I wanted the roots of Mr. Diamond in my collection, and my heart before I went on. I managed to obtain all of them up to Dead Again, though due to a theft at one point, most of that collection is long gone. But, this band is a discussion for another article all together…

In my ninth grade high school English class (or was it eigth?), my teacher asked us all to bring in music to better know one another. Of course I was subjected to Backstreet Boys, Sugar Ray, and whatever mainstream garbage was popular. Nobody had anything really of interest except for a friend with Weird Al Yankovich, someone bringing in a Queen album, and some DMX that didn’t play for too long. I brought The Graveyard, which nobody wanted to hear. I asked my teacher to please read the lyrics, and for days she had them, but never even bothered to open them because she didn’t like Metal. This was the thing that hurt most of all, that no one would listen to my passion, but yet everyone was willing to give the white entitled boy time to spout ebonics and grab his crotch, or hear how dreamy the females found Justin Timberlake’s butt. The fact that nobody would give me the time of day to tell how important this album was to me, to let me share something I felt was so vital, so grand, so intellectual and character building that I started to seperate myself further from the world outside of others like minded to me.

This may seem bad, but it did help me. I kept to myself more which helped me get more done including better grade in school. I found truly loyal friends who wouldn’t turn on me in an act of self-preservation, joining in when the bullies started things, but rather stood by and defending me, helping to learn to stand up for myself. It also helped to instill some really strong moral values that are greatly lost on others. My passion to hear all the albums helped me become a man who tries to finish what he starts. I learned the true value of loyalty and respect among others thanks to those who sought out my friendship amid the many who looked at me as someone to use, or as just some kind of freakshow on display for their amusement. I learned how to be myself through time to explore my inner being through connections to this album and many others from various bands. This was the one that started it all.

Since then, I’ve lost a few of the albums and had to replace them. Many of the gold disk reissues have been damaged, but still work aside a bad skip here or there, especially on Abigail. I’ve also lost The Graveyard and The Spider’s Lullabye, and never had the chance to replace them until recently. But, I’ve also been the first in line on release day to buy the more current offerings, including Abigail II: The Revenge, The Puppet Master, and Give Me Your Soul… Please, all of which have various meanings in my life, such as the second of those three bringing up a great year’s worth of happy memories, though hard to listen to at times due to the heartbreak that year ended with. I’m also anxious to be one of the people who get the chance to make his voice heard early on their group’s upcoming album thanks to this site working with Massacre Records, as well as Metal Blade Records.

Recently, Metal Blade Records reissued four of the albums from King Diamond. I didn’t get a chance to buy them all, but I intend to at some point when I get the money since they dropped at the worst possible time for me financially. I did, however, go out of my way to make sure I had enough money to pick up the remastered version of The Graveyard. It kills me they are in digipack form. I hate this style, and it only took one day for the center of the case to have one notch break, making it impossible to hold the disk in place. So, now it sits next to it in a slimline jewel case so it doesn’t fall on the ground and end up scratched beyond repair since folded carboard doesn’t lock like a normal jewel case does, nor can it just simply be replaced by buying an empty shell. I rediscovered one of the most important albums of my life. I was worried the remastering of this effort may hurt my memories, but Andy La Roque did a great job, and I enjoyed this version just as much as I did the original. In fact, it was like hearing it again for the first time due to the quality, and the large gap where I did not have a working copy in my possession.

Looking back, had Youtube been available, had I taken part in Napster (which I think was around at that time), had iTunes existed, or any of these instant satisfaction means of obtaining music, I don’t think I’d be the same person I am today. The journey that The Graveyard led me on wound up being a spiritual one, like a musical version of finding one’s self through a native american ritual or quest for enlightenment. There’s so many things about myself I can thank this album’s impact on me for. It honestly kills me knowing that what I went through to obtain these, and the satisfaction of a job well done such as this, will never be felt by today’s youth thanks to the digital age. Today’s children are truly missing out on a crucial piece of human growth. I guess I can just sit back and say I’m glad I was born no later than when I was, and that were I lived wound up being so technologically deprived.

King Diamond (band)Article based on physical material material provided by personal funds.