I’m probably going to be deemed a heretic for this, but I think “Conspiracy” is a better album than “Them.” Yeah, yeah, I know, the holy pair of KING DIAMOND records are “Abigail” and “Them,” but this album, which is a sequel to “Them,” just speaks to me more than “Them” does.
To a certain extent, it’s KING DIAMOND as normal, just done well. King Diamond (the man) puts in his usual performance of guttural moans, clean singing and falsetto, perhaps trying some new things with his clean voice in “Sleepless Nights” but not straying too far from his comfort zone. Considering the size of his comfort zone, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Heavy Metal is the focus here, dark and evil, the guitars crunching and galloping. The drums and bass…are there, but they’ve never been the focus in a King Diamond-fronted band. One of the most remarkable things is that “At The Graves” clocks in at a hair under nine minutes, making it the longest KING DIAMOND song to date.
This story takes place several years after the events of “Them.” King’s an adult now and out of the sanitarium, but his doctor won’t let him see his mother. ‘They’ are back, but the doctor is muscling in on the house. Of course, you couldn’t figure out the story from the music video from “Sleepless Nights,” with its regrettable big hair and a kid getting eaten by a bed. Okay, that was pretty sweet. But I suppose you want to know about the music.
The album opens with a tinkling music-box lullaby as a less happy synth lurks underneath. As King moans, the synth becomes decrepit circus melody before the guitars rise from their graves to race us through the cemetery. I gotta say, I really like what guitarists Andy LaRoque and Pete Blakk do on this album. All King Diamond-fronted bands are remarkable for their guitarist solos, but here they have a level of finesse, of fluidity that makes them remarkable. A solo is the highlight of “Victimized” and both “At The Graves” and “Sleepless Nights” have great ones in spades.
Really, there are only two problems with this album. #1 is that the second half of the album is much weaker than the first half. After “’Amon’ Belongs To ‘Them’” you really don’t have much of a reason to stick around. “Let It Be Done” is merely a minute and a half eulogy, “Something Weird” and “Cremation” are rather unremarkable instrumentals (the former more than the latter) and “Victimized” is a fairly run-of-the-mill song. #2 is production—it’s that distant, underdeveloped sound you often get with albums from the 1980s. I’m sure that me complaining it will now allow veterans older than I to dismiss me as an ignorant whippersnapper, but this is one of those things from the good old days that, in retrospect, wasn’t so good.
This was the last good album KING DIAMOND (the band) would release for seven years and is one that seems to be underappreciated by many fans. I heartily recommend it. (Online July 4, 2006)