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I actually put off listening to this sequel to KD's amazing concept album "Them" for quite some time. Because I loved "Them" so much, I didn't see how he could improve on such a masterful work. But, if anything, "Conspiracy" is even better than its predecessor! Gone is the high school acting by the actress who played Missy on the first album. In its place we have some of the most beautiful, powerful horror metal I've ever heard. As several others have remarked here, the opener "At the Graves" is a spectacular way to kick off the album. A music-box style synth sequence combined with King's emotion laden vocals sets a scene of sorrow, which shortly gives way to a bizarre circus/carousel synth sequence followed by an overpowering assault of riffage and King's trademark screams. The rhythm playing is exquisitely precise and the changes in meter don't have the artificial quality of some prog metal, but rather compliment the vocal cadence perfectly. And lest I forget, the solo section in the middle, divided between Andy and Pete, is top notch.
The second track, "Sleepless Nights", is also well worth a mention for its effortless alternation between chugging electric rhythm sequences and haunting acoustic guitar passages. And you just HAVE to love the opening line of the tune: "I cannot sleep at night. That's what the day is for, anyway..." Sheer poetry! I won't bore the reader with a bunch of track-by-track reportage. Other reviewers have done a splendid job of describing the individual tracks. I would, however, like to point out some standout tracks. "Lies" is a suitably schizophrenic blend of riffs as "King" expresses his bitterness and hatred towards the therapist, Dr. Landau. Some wonderful rhythm work and rock solid soloing give the song a powerful headlong rush that is very effective. And some creepy synth effects toward the end of the tune contribute towards the atmosphere of mental breakdown that pervades the track.
The track that I find absolutely infectious is the big, mostly instrumental finale, "Cremation." As King's main character chooses self-immolation in order to get his revenge beyond the grave, the album wraps up with an all-out instrumental assault with synth lines reminiscent of Mike Oldfield's famous "Tubular Bells" (made famous by the soundtrack to The Exorcist). A brilliant bit of instrumental writing to finish the album and King puts the exclamation point at the end as he promises to haunt the "Godforsaken whore." Really, do yourself a favor, if you haven't heard this record, stop reading all these reviews, go to Spotify, and listen to "Conspiracy." You won't regret it. It is, quite simply, a dark metal master at the top of his game. Enjoy.
Conspiracy bears immediate distinction as the first King Diamond 'sequel' album. It is not the only case of this happening in his career, but whereas Abigail II was separated from its narrative predecessor by a span of 15 years, this arrived just over a year after "Them" had, and there was quite a lot of anticipation from a portion of the band's fans to see what exactly would happen to this central 'King' character when he was all grown up. Personally, while I appreciate the thought he put into them and found the ideas unique at the time in terms of concept albums, I have never found the actual 'stories' in most of the albums all that compelling (with the possible exception of The Eye). 'King' returns to his ancestral home, drafts up a few terms with the malevolent spirits there, and gets to visit with his dead sister while others, corporeal or otherwise, conspire against him and his inheritance. Big whoop.
But then, Conspiracy doesn't exactly need to aspire to Stephen King or Clive Barker levels of fictional quality, because the music written for this thing is so splendidly contagious that it ranks among one of the best in all the King Diamond canon, and a crucial cornerstone in his winning 'streak' that persisted from his Mercyful Fate years through 1990's witching masterpiece. I would argue that this was the technical peak for the band, in terms of the band's arrangements and instrumental proficiency. Not that Andy LaRocque couldn't pull out a more difficult or intense lead somewhere down the roll of years, but this album put such a cap on the level of ability that it's successor, The Eye had no choice but to broach a more atmospheric direction (which I'm thankful it did) if Petersen and friends wanted to experience any sort of growth or evolution whatsoever. Conspiracy is just that precise, intimate, intimidating, unique and well written that it makes a great deal of both the US and European power/speed metal of the mid to late 80s seem positively infantile by comparison. And I don't make such a statement lightly, because that period represented a clear summit for the style.
Just as one might expect from a sequel to the spectral "Them", much of Conspiracy is devoted to building a haunting backdrop for the surgical techniques of the core musicians. You'll hear a lot of funeral organs, schizoid whispers and synthesizer glaze coursing through the album to better compel its central theme. Miraculously, the Danes decided to avoid clotting up the album with brief, narrative ligaments. Only the shock feature "Let It Be Done" is anything less than instrumentally rewarding, and this even has some freakish pianos along with Petersen's deeper spoken word timbre. There is one instrumental "Something Weird", but the phantasmal melodies that Pete Blakk and LaRocque morph into the keyboard orchestration are so rich and wondrous that it becomes one of the most striking pieces on the record, sans vocals or steady percussion. After all, they had a thing for fantastic instrumentals, the melodic acoustics of "Insanity" off The Eye will haunt me forever.
Everywhere else, though, Conspiracy is built on the backs of a staggering array of metallic riffing that could rival anyone else coming out of such a creative European field in 1989. One might struggle to define this album as either speed/thrash or heavy/power metal, for surely it contains enough elements of both to qualify it as a hybrid of these and even a touch of progressive/speed not unlike what younger Stateside masters Toxik and Realm were producing at the time (also in the extended Roadrunner/RC Records family). You'll hear steadied, rampant triplet rhythms, delirious outbreaks into speed and flair akin to what Randy Rhodes and later Zakk Wylde brought to the Ozzy Osbourne solo camp, flashy and effective lead sequences. King Diamond had been implementing the blues-based grooves as far back as Mercyful Fate, and certainly we heard a few through Abigail and "Them". But with Conspiracy, they become these emotionally resonant, triumphant bulwarks that instantly exude testosterone. What man could not ball his fists and bang his head to the adrenaline inductive intro and verse riffing in "Victimized", or the choppier grooves permeating "Lies"? I've not met him.
As usual, Petersen lends credibility and effort to each and every vocal line, BAR NONE, throughout the whole 48 minutes of the experience. Crystalline clarity that few others in the field could emulate, in both his herniating mid range and the falsetto cries that have come to define the man by both his harshest critics and stalwart supporters. It's obvious the guy had a lot of fun carving these disturbed characters, both ghostlike and fleshly through the story, and though one might become lost without the physical assistance of the lyric booklet, they're just as amusing to listen to. The rhythm duo of Mikkey Dee (drums) and Hal Patino (bass) also deserve some credit, creating a flexible foundation for the guitars and vocals to waltz over, but I would say that the unsung hero on this album might just be the elusive Robert Falcao, whose keys have a more prominent role than the other full-lengths he contributed to, even if they are outdistanced by the axe-work.
Of course, Falcao also had his hands tied with some of the engineering and production work, in which he was joined here by the legendary Chris Tsangarides, who everyone knows from albums like Painkiller, Metal on Metal, and The Eternal Idol. Together with the band, they create this amazingly high budget feel to the record which surpasses its predecessors in terms of sheer polish, without becoming stale or plasticized. The level of reverb and general airiness of Conspiracy is a little less brash and saturated than "Them", and while I had no problem with either of those things to begin with, I think what manifests here moved the group in a more accessible direction for their expanding audience, while allowing the effects on the leads and melodies and the myriad vocal tracks to really shine without competing with the bottom end of the bass and rhythm guitars.
Could I possibly summon forth any complaints about this album, I would settle them on the fact that there is one song among the many that I found less than perfect, and that would be the lullabye-fronted "A Visit from the Dead". Don't get me wrong, it matches the aesthetic of its part on the story, and there are a number of great guitar licks in there, but where its neighbors just clobber me with incessant genius, this is the one piece I might gladly skip past if I were in a rush. The cover also seemed a little lazy. I realize there are few figures out there as iconic as Diamond when it comes to flashing his gums and paints for a photo shoot, but he had already done this for The Dark Sides EP and I would not have minded a little cover artwork. But really, this is an insignificant qualm since the shot here is beloved by so many, and it's not like the guy is pretending to be some sex symbol, he looks ghastly, bloodied and his eyes penetrate your soul almost as much as his pitch.
In the end, and forevermore, Conspiracy is easily one of the best of King Diamond's catalog and capitalizes in every way on its predecessor, even surpassing it by a slim margin in terms of song quality. Sleek and graceful, but explosive and muscular where needed, it's the epitome of a horror metal concept album in such a time that very few bands were attempting the feat. The composition level was riding its all time high, the song selection was versatile and loaded with more memorable leads and riffs than one could hope for in six other records of its niche, and it provided further evidence that, despite the shock rocker gimmicks and almost caricature nature of Petersen's vocals, this guy was no laughing matter. If forced to pick favorites among his records, I might slightly favor Abigail and The Eye to this record, since those felt the most effective in matching their stories with unforgettable atmosphere, but this is certainly nipping at their heels, almost close enough to pull an upset and snap the finish line ribbon itself.
I find it interesting that King Diamond decided to follow "Them" with a direct sequel when "Abigail" had an ending that seemed more ripe for a follow-up. Perhaps this was because "Them" was King Diamond's highest selling album (still is, I believe) and had a very successful video for "Welcome Home." However, I cannot understand the rationale behind the cover, which is at the same time scarier (unintentionally) and sillier than his previous album covers, including the one for "Fatal Portrait." It's a shame that the cover art is so bad because there is some great music contained within.
In fact, "Conspiracy" opens with the greatest one-two punch of the King's career (including "Arrival" and "Mansion in the Darkness"). "At the Graves" starts out creepily, and if you do not have the jewel case by your side to see that it is almost nine minutes long, one might think that it is only an intro on first listen. It soon proves to be an illusion, as the speakers explode with heavy guitars and King Diamond's trademark yell. What follows is seven minutes of music which borders on prog-metal with insane time signatures (especially for the time) and oddly-placed tempo changes. However, this isn't your typical Dream Theateresque prog-metal, this is an unholy marriage of prog, speed and neo-classical metal. Guitar duo Andy Larocque and Pete Blakk absolutely tear it up on guitar, both rhythm and lead, and King Diamond sounds genuinely insane. Following up this gem is the single of the album, "Sleepless Nights," which is pure speed metal. King Diamond again gives a performance of a lifetime, switching from low, to high, to higher at will; and that chorus is just so infectious despite the falsetto. However, the real treat is the godly guitar solo section in the middle. Both Black and Larocque shred it up, and between their solos there is a cool dual guitar section.
Sadly, the rest of the album just cannot measure up. There is a significant drop in quality between "Sleepless Nights" and its successor, "Lies." The main problem is the guitar riffs; they're just sort of there. The guitar leads are still phenomenal, but the surrounding riffs are lacking, although the guitarists seem to enjoy employing pinch-harmonics for a surprisingly powerful effect. King Diamond's vocal lines decline in quality as well, most of the choruses are forgettable at best. The one exception is "Wedding Dream" which starts out with an awesome intro; turning the traditional wedding march on its head, making it sound evil and epic at the same time. The guitar solos are really strong as well, but the song as a whole is hurt by the mundane riffs that are heard throughout.
"Conspiracy" is also a bit short, with two of the ten songs being interludes and one being an instrumental. That being said, "Cremation" really showcases Larocque's talent and is a jaw-dropping display of neo-classical skill. The story-line is fairly solid although it is a bit shallow. It is still dark and twisted like most of Diamond's tales. Special mention should go out to the drum-work of Mikkey Dee, who makes his technical work seem effortless. Sadly, he got bored with Diamond pushing him to be more and more technical with his work and soon departed for simpler fare with Dokken.
Had the majority of this album been able to live up to the opening two songs, this album would rank with "Abigail," which is considerable since I consider that album to be one of the best albums in the metal genre. Despite the criticisms, this album still is solid and worthwhile. This is especially true if you can get the remastered version, which gives all of the instruments and the vocals an added punch. Certainly not King's best, but the first two songs make this essential listening.
"Conspiracy" by King Diamond is the follow to "Them" which was much weaker than "Abigail." This album though is an absolute gem that is a fantastic combination of King's high-pitched vocals, Andy La Rocque and Pete Blakk's shred fest, and the amount of rhythm and tempo changes in the songs.
The opener is possibly the best King Diamond song ever and that would be "At the Graves." The creepy opener with the keyboard erupts into a speed riff with King screaming his lungs out. The tempo changes on this song are amazing and is a headbanger throughout as the solos extend in theis number. Near the end of the song the riff goes slowly and chugs along progressively getting faster and was a sweet way to end the song. Another top notch song is "Sleepless Nights" which has a nice speed metal riff to it and kind of a chorous that makes me wanna scream "sleepless nights" right along with him. The vocals are amazing on this album with the amount of differnt voices and tones King uses on these songs.
A couple things I noticed about this album is the increased use of the keyboards and how King's vocals follow more closely to the guitar riff. When the notes go higher or lower, King's voice follows the riff and it sounds easy on the ears considering how he screams so much. This is evident in "The Wedding Dream" and "Victimized." The keyboards add more of an effect to the atmosphere and mood of the album.
Now, Andy La Rocque and Pete Blakk are one hell of a guitar combo. The solos on this album range from straight out fast and thrasy to melodic and smoothe. The solos just extend like is said about "At the Graves" and also in "Victimized" which has a catchy riff and solo at the end. It just blows my mind how great this is. The shredding is magnificent from the beautiful acoustic intro to "A Visit From the Dead" to the mid-paced rocker "Amon belongs to Them" there is a bunch of variety with the riffing and guitars on this shred fest. It makes my neck hurt with all the headbanging this album delivers.
I must say, there is one track that scares me and creeps me out. I have listened to this album a number of times, but I never can get used to "Let it Be Done." It just starts with quick bashing of violins and gives me goosebumps and then follows with sort of a cradle lullaby thing. Kind of like a deadly lullaby. This is what happens with experimentation as this is one the more abstract numbers and really different from other things he has wrote and if this was meant to scare people then it worked because it scares the crap out of me. Defitnitly a neat interlude though.
Overall, this album will rock the hell out of you. So much headbanging along with the scream alongs with King Diamond makes for a fantastic album and a great way to end the decade of the 80's. Get it. Buy it. Like it. Love it.
How is it possible for one man to make so many great albums and have a discography that is close to perfection? Well, the King shows us that it is possible.
It's 1989 and King Diamond has a fairly large task on his hands. He has to follow up his last great release, "Them". Thankfully the album is released and he definately does not dissapoint. "Conspiracy" is traditional King Diamond doing what he does best. The release is a touch different from his previous releases, but doesn't stray from the classic King Diamond formula that we have all come to love.
The first difference that is noticed, especially with the beginning of "At the Graves" is the increased use of keyboards, which in my honest opinion is a great addition to the music and truly enhances the experience that King is trying to put across to the listener. Also, the guitars are turned up more in the mix when compared to "Them" which is also a positive as Andy La Rocque is a magnificent guitarist and extremelly underated. The overall production of the album is much better aswell and all instruments are relatively clear.
The only problem with this album is the storyline. It is not a bad story line, its actually quite a good storyline when we consider how hard it is to create a concept album. However compared to the masterfully crafted "Abigail" and to a similar degree "Them", it doesn't match up. However, it still holds its own and proves to be quite entertaining.
Quite simply the album is a testament to what metal is all about and is a necessary album to own, including the rest of King Diamond's great discography. Also check out "Mercyful Fate", King Diamonds band for some quality metal.
In other words, this album belongs in everyones collection. The atmosphere, the musicianship, the songwriting, the vocals are all part of the equation to which the inevitable answer is to buy this album. Long Live the King!
Yeesh, we have the amazing debut 'Fatal Portrait', the epic masterpiece 'Abigale', the even better 'Them', now 'Conspiracy'! This is a speed metal classic! It doesn't get much better than this. All the tracks are absolutley killer. 'Conspiracy', lyrically, is the sequel to the previous album 'Them' . 'Them' was a masterpiece, but 'Conspiracy' is a tour de' force of metal.
'Conspiracy' is just all-out speed metal at its very best. This has to be King's best album, second only to 'The Puppet Master'. The riffing is just amazing, with harmoic extacy, with pinches second to none. Andy is the man. The hooks are as catchy as hell, these songs will be lurking in your head for weeks. The drumming, still supplied by the excellent Mikkey Dee, is insane. But King steals the show with his falsettos and operatic range.
All the tracks are great, but I am going to go throguh some of the cuts so you get a basic idea of the album. 'At the Graves' is an excellent song, King's best opener yet. 'Sleepless Nights' is an extremley catchy metaller with killer vocals and riffage. 'Lies' has a powerfully, speedy opening passage and you instantly know - this song will never leave your mind. Boosted by kings scary vocal acrobatics, this song is probably the best on the album - which says alot since all the tracks are great. I mean truley, excellent. 'Among Belongs to Them' is a multi-tempo piece, with shrieks, growls, grunts, churning screams and all not mentioned from King, wich makes it an excellent song.
'Victimized' is, along with 'Lies', my favorite song off the album. 'Cremation' has an unbelivably, cool as sac, technical opening riff that will get stuck in your head for eons.
King vocals are in top shape, and he steals the show. Playing multiple characters, that only supports his sheer acrobatics as a metal vocalist. He is amazing, the man is inhuman. Bow before the King. Also, as usual - the riffage and drumming is great. Production is excellent, as is with most King albums, especially on the Roadrunner re-master, which also has a few bonus tracks.
Bottomline, if you don't like King Diamond (WHY?), then I would definetly reccomend this as your first - because it is so unbelievably. You must but this album! King at his best, which means metal at its best. Speed metal excellence.
Atmosphere. Creepy, scary… dripping with atmosphere! “Conspiracy” is a concept album with a completely stupid story line, yet it still to this day maintains its dark and sinister feeling… and that’s what this album is all about. Creating a feeling, and playing on the feelings it creates. The songs penetrate your mind, and as you listen to the album, you can’t help but try and sing along with King Diamond as he shrills out “sleepless nights” or “spirits, rising from their grave”. That voice is truly unique, no matter how he achieves it.
The guitar work is sensational. Absolute virtuoso stuff, with incredible solos and harmonic pinches that match the shrill squeal of the vocals. Just listening to the guitars is well worth having this album.
All the songs are killers. There’s not a dud amongst them. The only problem is the totally dumb lyrics.
“At The Graves” starts with the standard King Diamond creepy intro. The beginning of the song hooks you straight away, as King sings “rise, rise, rise” and then breaks into his trademark falsetto. Great stuff.
“Sleepless Nights” begins with a great classical guitar intro, further showcasing some awesome guitar work. King tells us he “cannot sleep at night, that’s what the day is for anyway.” Then it kicks into a killer faster riff, and the song never looks back. Plenty of changes throughout the song, with a unique song structure that visits and revisits a number of riffs.
“Lies” continues to impress, again with a catchy chorus and some excellent guitars. King’s voice runs through the whole scale of lows and highs in this song, again adding to the overall atmosphere of the song.
“A Visit From The Dead” has yet another catchy chorus, this time mixing things up a bit with a slower bit between the “must be a visit from the dead” vocals. Look out for a killer guitar solo in this song.
“The Wedding Dream” is a paradoxical song. While being a great song to listen to, the lyrics are just plain dumb. The lyrics do detract from the song. With King’s voice, it’s very easy to understand exactly what he’s saying. And what he’s saying, or singing, is pretty stupid. It’s actually kind of amusing in some ways. At the same time, this is a great song, hence the paradox. I can’t help but sing along and get captured by the song. But always, in the back of my mind is the knowledge that these lyrics are really that bad.
“Amon Belongs To Them” for me is the weakest song on the album. It’s still a great song, and ties the story together nicely. Again, more great guitar work, but not as catchy as the other songs on the album.
From here on in, the album really winds down. There’s an instrumental track (“Something Weird”), followed by “Victimized” (again, another catchy chorus), and then two more instrumental tracks to bring the album to a close.
All in all, a great album. Not too many bands these days manage to create such a dark and sinister atmosphere, and King Diamond does it without extremity, blast speed drumming or extreme vocals. Just good old traditional heavy metal drums and guitars, a very hight pitched voice, and some background keyboard / organs.
The sequel to “Them” is an overall better effort, catchy as fuck and not as raw mainly due to the keyboards and “tamed” out drums. Yes, the drumming is a bit more tamed here, but the quality of it is a hell of a lot better. Here’s the review…
At The Graves - This song is perfect! Perfection at its best done by the one and only King. Soft, melodic, yet creepy keyboards open up the track as King sings in sorrow for his dead sister, Missy. Then….it turns into a whole different beast as the heaviness kicks in and King begins screaming “Rise! Rise, my friends! RIIIISSSEE!”, then it’s metal mayhem all the way through. If a song like this does not grab you by the throat on the first listen, then I don’t know what will. This is such a godly tune.
Sleepless Nights - As soon as ‘At The Graves’ ends, this track opens up like a kick to the groin! A great combo of classical guitar and speed metal, this is one of King’s best songs, and probably his most popular. Tempos change constantly, but this song never, at any given point lets the listener down. Everything about this song is done amazingly well.
Lies - The catchiness heard here on this one is just unbelievable! Almost as good as ‘Sleepless Nights’, but a bit more straight forward by not changing tempos constantly. The verses though are definitely better though. “He asked me questions, that kind of fool deserves a lie!”…killer stuff.
A Visit From The Dead - Andy does a damn good job at this classical guitar piece that opens up the track. Enchanting and beautiful, but it soon changes into a wickedly heavy song once the crushing guitar riff begins to fade in from the end of the classical piece. The vox is pretty catchy too.
The Wedding Dream - Wedding song keyboards start off this song, and believe it or not, it’s done very well. Guitars and drums are added along with the wedding melody and it creates a good sounding combo, but unfortunately that is the only highlight here. This is strong and solid number, but not very memorable.
‘Amon’ Belongs To “Them” - Mid-paced and melodic, this tune has some well done riffage through out the song that makes it quite a memorable number. The vocal harmonies heard here are awesome too, King delivers an all out melodic assault on this one. I especially love the growling part too where it goes “Amon belongs to…THEEEEEEEEEEEEMMMMM”, and then catchy riffage continues on.
Something Weird - This is a short guitar instrumental mixed with eerie keyboards. A nice bridge tune that leads us into one of the album’s best songs.
Victimized - What a crazy song! King’s vox is pretty wild in this one and so is the guitar work. If I had to choose one song from King Diamond that was extremely underrated, it would without a doubt be this one. I mean, it’s no ‘At The Graves’ or ‘Sleepless Nights’, but those songs aren’t underrated. The way King screeches “Ahhhhh…..Conspiracy!!” is not something that you just pass up on the first listen, and neither are the keyboards toward the end of the song. The way they mix with Andy’s killer guitar licks is just amazing. As I stated about ‘Twilight Symphony’ in my “Them” review, this needs to be PLAYED LIVE!!
Let It Be Done - A short spoken track that leads us into the last song on the album and of course, all voices are done by King once again. There’s some eerie music in the background as the priests are talking about cremating King while he gasps for help in the coffin. A killer tune in its own, unique way.
Cremation - What an album ending! I usually don’t like when albums end with an instrumental, especially concept albums such as this one but here we have a huge exception. The way the riffs are played here gives you mental image of a fire burning, just as King is supposed to be cremated in the story. You’ll have to hear it to know what I am talking about. I think the keyboards help it out a bit too, to give the listener that image. The last lines are wicked cool too…”Whenever the dark is near, I will return from the grave to haunt you…Godforsaken whore!”.
This remastered version of this album also includes the alternate version of ’At The Graves’, which is really no different from the album version except it is missing the keyboard intro. The vox is only slightly louder, I think. It also has the “live show mix” of ‘Cremation’, which is boring when compared to the album version. Only difference is that the “live show mix” is almost entirely keyboards, which makes it less exciting to hear. So overall, this album kills! I recommend it to anyone new to King Diamond or to anyone who likes hard rock/metal in general.