Before writing anything about this album, I would like to make clear that if we’re talking about such a legend as KING DIAMOND, we can’t measure him using the same standards as with any newcomer. This genius had give us some of the greatest Heavy Metal albums since the 80s, both with MERCYFUL FATE and with this band carrying his own name; I won’t go deeper into this subject, but I would like to say that the status this musician had reached just doesn’t allow him to make mediocre or repetitive albums.
Although we can’t say that “The Puppet Master” is a bad disc, it’s far from the level of its immediate predecessors and it’s surely not a worthy follower for “Abigail II”. It’s built in base to his over known formula, but without giving anything, ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING new. If you don’t innovate, you don’t experiment and so, if everything goes perfect, you can do something equal to your earlier efforts. This album lacks fastness; guitar solos, though still great, are predictable and appear exactly when we can expect them, bass is irrelevant, drums never dare to take a risk in any song and riffs are just sticky and boring. Add to this an overdose of vocal effects, which had demonstrated to be wonderful and a distinctive touch in KD’s career, but just now they’re really forced and unnatural. They don’t surprise at all and don’t find any company by side of the strings anymore.
By far, the best in this album is the story told. I don’t think it’s necessary to tell you that this is another conceptual album, something done without interruption since “Abigail” (1987). “The Puppet Master” theme is just one of my favourite by King Diamond and is about a macabre horror tale developed in Budapest. The villain is…well, you guessed: a puppet master, who makes his puppets out of zombies, corpses which he returns to life before the shows in which they have to act.
But let’s go to the music right now. Everything begins with “”, an unquiet, atmospheric intro, after what we go directly to the title track. This is like the standard song of the band; a lot of voices, direct, straight forward riffs, solos… all sank in a mid-tempo rhythm. Is a good song, a highlight without doubt, but makes clear since the beginning, at least for we who had bought the whole discography, that we’re going to listen once again something that we had heard a lot of times before.
Then comes “Magic”, which surprises a lot with the initial riff; what were they thinking about? They wanted to convert the song in a radial hit with that fuckin’ riff? Well, the song is really catchy, but after a few listens it bores a lot. This track made me remember the most commercial and uninspired era of MERCYFUL FATE and specially the album “Time”.
The 4th piece is “Emerenda”, which is really slow and melancholic. Is nice to hear at first, but it turns too long, unnecessary long. Then come “Blue Eyes” and “The Ritual”. They are also too slow and I miss a lot some protagonist role by side of the drums and a solid guitar work to save them from mediocrity. By its side, the always outstanding KING DIAMOND’s vocal strings don’t dare to venture beyond what is expected.
“No More Me” is a transition track and its sense is more related to the story than the music, with spoken parts and gloomy atmospheres. So let’s go to “Blood To Walk”, where FINALLY! We find some speed. By times it sounds really thrashy, thanks to rhythmic riffs, fast and blasting. It is my favourite song of the album, but then we have to deal with “Darkness”, another slow, boring and equally mediocre during its whole length.
The 10th piece is called “So Sad” and its main characteristic is the use (and abuse) of female vocals. Then we find a little bit of rapidity in “Christmas”, but unfortunately, just for a while and “Living Dead” closes the album without any glory; an empty end for an empty disc.
As a conclusion, I would dare to say that this is by far the most disappointing of this legendary Danish group. No strength, no will of greatness and as I said before, in base of an already overused musical concept. I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody… ok, newbies can get a general idea about what the band is about, but I don’t think they would be really interested in getting deeper into the band. And well, for those who are die-hard fans of this sick genius called KING DIAMOND, just see this review to see the sensation that “The Puppet Master” produced in someone like you. (Online June 8, 2005)