#950: Happy 60th Birthday to this iconic Mercyful Fate vocalist!

Q #1,946: Happy 60th Birthday to this iconic Mercyful Fate vocalist!

A.

King Diamond is one of the most iconic and recognizable voices in the metal world, and his first endeavor as a singer in a band was purely circumstantial. Initially a guitarist looking to join a band, he saw an ad for a band (Black Rose) looking for a vocalist and thought he would show up as a singer/guitarist in an attempt to infiltrate the band in order to play guitar. Asked to perform Deep Purple covers, King had never sung a note before in his life. After a few hour long rehearsal and blowing out his voice, he began to learn to control his breathing on his own. Never taking a vocal lesson, everything began to unlock vocally as he moved forward with his performances. His iconic falsetto vocals slowly made an appearance the material in Black Rose. Approached by a fan after a show, King said he was told how great his falsetto parts sounded, and that he should do them more often. He most certainly has.

Releasing seven studio albums with Mercyful Fate, and twelve studio albums with King Diamond, he has served as an influence for generations of musicians. The shock rocker pioneered the heavy metal horror concept album, with ‘Abigail’ in 1987 and has never once looked back. By the time King was doing press tours for Abigail, he had already casually sold over 100,000 albums.

Multiple variants of the King Diamond makeup have been created over the years, but King has never seen a KISS “Unmasked” era. When appearing as an unlockable character on the Guitar Hero video game franchise, the game’s creators did not allow him to don his usual makeup as it contained inverted crosses. King agreed to alter his makeup for the game as long as he was able to design the alternate version. A year ago in July he performed without makeup at a show in Milwaukee per doctor’s orders, but this sort of instance is few and far between.

Speaking of doctor’s orders, after King went under the knife for triple bypass heart surgery in 2010, he was the only patient in the hospital’s history to walk on his own from the intensive care unit to regular care. Perhaps he had a little help from ‘Them.’

King’s persona has been the stuff horror legends are made of for nearly forty years. He has said that while some of the rumors originated from actual events, a great deal of the stories that have gotten back to him simply aren’t true. That being said, he has done his best to keep certain details ambiguous over the course of his career so that it may be left up to the fans’ imaginations. The goal of the over the top stage shows is to assist with the musical experience, not to counteract it. King’s theatrics are to accompany the music in such a way that the listener will have no choice but to conjure the imagery that they have seen accompany the material live.

While the stage show includes some non-threatening props like the use of real human bones as a microphone handle, it can also lead to some potentially hazardous working conditions, as King nearly lost his life during one particular performance. The crew member who would normally handle this casket-based stunt handed off the task to another, who had never handled the materials before. His misfire due to botched timing left King inhaling nothing but fumes, with the added potential of creating a small explosion due to exposure to flames. King said “I kicked for my life,” and finally leapt out yelling “Are you trying to kill me?!” I’m fairly certain that King could’ve performed a live human sacrifice on that particular evening, and nobody would’ve known the difference amidst the show’s normal theatrics.

King Diamond are reportedly working on a new album for a 2017 release, the first ‘comeback’ record since his back and heart surgeries, and the first album since the Grammy Nominated “Give Me Your Soul…Please” back in 2007.

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#936: Happy birthday to this guitarist who played for King Diamond, Megadeth, and Testament

Q #1,932: Happy birthday to this guitarist who played for King Diamond, Megadeth and Testament

A.

Canadian guitarist Glen Drover turns 47 today – Happy Birthday, Glen!
Glen Drover (@glendrover555 on Twitter) is most known for his lead guitar work with King Diamond, Megadeth and Testament, despite releasing a large body of work with his original band Eidolon. Glen and his brother Shawn (Act of Defiance, ex-Megadeth) released three Eidolon records prior to Drover landing the King Diamond gig in 1998. Glen would only appear on the studio album ‘House of God’ and would leave the band by 2000. Three more Eidolon albums later and Glen would then become the new lead guitarist in the reincarnated Megadeth in 2004.

Initially this new Megadeth lineup was an entirely different touring lineup from the lineup alongside Dave Mustaine on ‘The System Has Failed,’ and the touring lineup briefly included longtime drummer and fan favorite, Nick Menza who recently passed away last Saturday night at the age of 51. When Menza was deemed an improper fit for the next Megadeth line-up, Drover’s brother Shawn was brought into the fold. Almost fifteen years prior, Mustaine had turned away Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell before the release of ‘Rust in Peace,’ as ‘Dime insisted that his brother Vinnie join the band, too.

Drover would remain in Megadeth through 2008, with his brother Shawn remaining long after his departure, recently departing in 2014. Glen played on one studio album (‘United Abominations’), and appeared on the live ‘That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires’ release. After his departure from Megadeth, Glen Drover also served as a fill in guitarist for Testament’s Alex Skolnick multiple times up until present day.

What an unbelievable group of legendary bands to be a part of in less than a 20 year span. It should go without saying that Drover’s guitar abilities are in the top tier, as he has been tasked with filling in for and replacing some of metal’s most legendary guitarists. During his Megadeth years, he’s had to fill multiple pairs of shoes, including Chris Poland and Marty Friedman. In King Diamond, he had to replace the ridiculously underrated Pete Blakk. This reads like a metal guitar player’s list of dream gigs, but it can also start to slip into nightmare territory fairly quick. Drover recently commented on being tasked with being the new guy in such a prolific band like Megadeth with such a devout following.

“… there was a lot of force of trying to be somebody else to a tee. And I don’t think that’s right, because I think that — like I said — you should try to keep certain pieces intact, certain melodies and certain key points of solos or whatever it is. But everybody’s got their own DNA, and that should be injected. You shouldn’t try to play something note for note… for me, it didn’t take too long to get to the point where it became boring.”
Glen Drover, 2015

Now for me personally, I don’t know how playing for a band like Megadeth cold be boring, when you are tasked with covering some of the intense guitarists the genre has ever seen. Recently former Forbidden guitarist Craig Locicero posted a link to all of Chris Poland’s isolated guitar solo tracks on ‘Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?’ You’ve never heard that record correctly. Never. Listening to those in isolation is a real eye-opener. Nobody has played those Poland leads “note perfect,” and it’s likely no one else will at this point. So if Marty Friedman isn’t playing Chris Poland to a tee, but everyone loves Marty anyway because of the material he was fortunate to be a part of, why are fans so unforgiving with other players? Is it because they’re really in love with the material, and want to listen to the record live instead of seeing someone try to make it a bit of their own?

Earlier I used the term “fill multiple pairs of shoes.” It never struck me until writing that in this email, that guitar players are about as likely to fit another guitarist’s personal style as they are fitting in another guitarist’s actual shoes. Sure, there are some guys out there who can seemingly recreate any number of other players, but do they then also maintain their own style? When listening to ‘House of God,’ a lesser of the King Diamond releases, and something that has remained largely off my own radar while still holding King Diamond as one of my all time favorite bands, I instantly hear Glen playing, just as I can always pick out Andy LaRocque’s playing. Whether it was on Death’s ‘Individual Thought Patterns,’ At The Gates’ ‘Cold,’ or Sylencer’s ‘Afflicted,’ you can hear everything about Andy coming through in his work. There’s something to be said for the ability to carve out your own sonic footprint, especially in the overly saturated Internet age.

Being comfortable in your own shoes and knowing your own limitations and embracing them; that’s what I would argue makes for some of the most interesting guitarists. These guitarists master playing to their own strengths and make it work within the material they either created or were given to contribute to. But I can also understand the fan’s eagerness and – let’s call it what it is – selfishness to demand the utmost respect be paid to their favorite musical soulmates. You don’t want to go see a band play a bunch of songs that become unrecognizable as the night goes on, but there needs to be some sort of room for interpretation, if not simply error. These days when I see anyone make subtle mistakes, I love and appreciate the authentic nature of what’s going on. If someone is putting their whole body into a performance, and you hear some differences, or a flub or two, you know they’re not faking it. They’re not using backing tracks. I’m sure some bands use backing tracks because they couldn’t perform in the studio either, but are some bands feeling too pressured to deliver the note-perfect album like performance that so many seem to long for?

Like anything else, I would argue that moderation is the key to finding the musical middle ground between fan expectation and a band’s musical execution. Drover’s time with King Diamond and Testament didn’t prove to be as harsh. “You know, when I played in bands like King Diamond and Testament, where it was okay to be, like ,’Okay, try to play the solos like they are, but you’re not that guy, so you inject your own personality into that.'” said Glen, “For me, even outside of that, just watching as a fan, I wanna see what the guy has to offer. I don’t wanna see somebody being a complete clone. That’s boring. I can listen to the album at home, man. That’s the way I see it. But not everybody sees it that way. And that’s cool.”

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#828: What King Diamond song made its debut 30 years ago today?

Q #1,823: What King Diamond song made its debut 30 years ago today?

A.

‘Snow Presents for Christmas’ (iTunes) was the debut single from the newly formed King Diamond band after vocalist King Diamond, guitarist Michael Denner, and bassist Timi Hansen departed Mercyful Fate in 1985. The band chose to embrace the King Diamond moniker as it was known from the Mercyful Fate era, carrying over fan base and the business dealings. Despite being a single, ‘No Presents for Christmas’ would be released on many a ‘Diamond release. A fan favorite, the track would appear on the remastered debut album ‘Fatal Portrait,’ the EP ‘The Dark Sides,’ live albums ‘In Concert 1987: Abigail,’ and ‘Deadly Lullabyes,’ as well as the compilations ‘A Dangerous Meeting,’ and ‘The Best of King Diamond.’ Not exactly a lightweight!

As “Snow Presents” ushered in the King Diamond era with a conviction most bands would kill their Grandma to possess, it would also serve as the debut of guitarist legendary Diamond axe shred slinger Andy LaRocque. How do you top a legendary guitar duo of Michael Denner and Hank Sherman in Mercyful Fate? Quite easily, apparently. The debut album ‘Fatal Portrait’ (iTunes) would be the only King Diamond album that featured zero writing credits for Mr. LaRocque.

A limited edition ‘No Presents for Christmas’ 12″ Picture Disc was released for Record Store Day in 2012, as a reissue of the original single that started it all. The song itself features musical interludes from ‘Jingle Bells,’ ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,’ ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,’ and ‘White Christmas,’ while giving a shout out to Donald Duck, with Tom and Jerry drinking sherry. So, this Christmas crank some King Diamond and have a drink with Tom and Jerry because remember, “they don’t give a damn!”

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