For some reason, this seems to be a lot of peoples’ least favourite KING DIAMOND album. I would kindly remind them of the two low points preceding this, but for some unknown reason people also seem to like “The Eye.” I don’t get it.
This is KING DIAMOND (the band)’s seventh full length studio album and, as a trend, only retains from the original line-up King Diamond (the man, MERCYFUL FATE) and Andy LaRocque (DEATH, ILLWILL, guest appearances on AT THE GATES and EINHERJER records) on guitars. The rest of the band only lasted another album or two.
As with all post-“Fatal Portrait” KING DIAMOND albums, we’re dealing with a concept album here. King restricts himself to the first person limited viewpoint, which he employed effectively in “Them” and “Conspiracy.” His nameless narrator is a man wrongfully institutionalized for molesting the mayor’s pre-adolescent daughter, though it was actually the mayor who the narrator caught. The narrator may be incarcerated for the wrong charges, but it’s pretty clear he’s insane as well, at least judging from the murders he commits in escaping the asylum and afterward as he plots his revenge against the mayor from the titular graveyard. The daughter (Lucy) is involved in his sick scheme.
Aside from the narrator’s delusions, “The Graveyard” is the KING DIAMOND album most rooted in reality. The music (after all, isn’t that what I’m supposed to talk about?) reflects this. The two songs that take place in the asylum, “Black Hill Sanitarium” and “Waiting,” are appropriately claustrophobic, scheming but desperate. The sound on this album conveys a sense of dirt and grime, fear, desperation and insidious madness. “Sleep Tight Little Baby” is a deranged lullaby as the narrator buries Lucy alive and “Up From The Grave” is another lullaby as he digs her back up. The chorus of “I’m Not A Stranger” has me squirming in my skin as the narrator abducts Lucy from school simply by sweet talking her. “I Am” contains desperate passages and touches of madness.
The lyrical content is disturbing and partially what really carries the album to such a high rating. But there’s also a moment. You know, one of those times on a CD when you just stop, you get goosebumps and a chill goes down your spine. At the end of “I Am” King Diamond goes into vocal hysterics described by some as over-the-top and cheesy. According to an interview, this was completely unplanned and a spontaneous display of emotion. I won’t describe it, but knowing that little bit put so much more impact behind it.
Ultimately, if you’re only going to listen to the music, a KING DIAMOND fan will be pleased, though on its own it isn’t the band’s best work. If you’re going to immerse yourself in the story, the music will add immensely. Prepare yourself for something intimately unsettling in a way flagrant blasphemy or blood-drenched gore can never touch.
Just ignore the ending. It knocks a full half-point off the rating for its predictability and contrived nature. And abide by the warning in the booklet—no matter that he’s the protagonist, do not emulate the narrator’s actions. There are no good guys in this story. (Online March 3, 2006)