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Well, after having not released anything for five years after 1990's masterpiece "The Eye", King Diamond finally returned in 1995, releasing "The Spider's Lullaby". This product was unlike it's predecessors in several ways: for one, the most obvious change is probably the fact that the storyline no longer follows the entire album. Rather, only the second half of the album follows a storyline, with the first half being made up of individual stories, with topics ranging from ghosts, to demonic children, to murderers, and so on. When one listens to the album, however, he (or she) beings to notice some more changes...
One thing that marked the early King Diamond era (first five albums), was that the music was very over-the-top and theatrical. You could practically see King Diamond's exaggerated facial expressions as he convicted people of witchcraft, tried to convince young men to kill their wives, tried to make conversation with unresponsive grandmothers, and so much more throughout the original albums. Here, his vocal approach is noticeably tamer and less over-the-top, with the music itself being distanced from speed/power metal for the most part, in favor of a more stripped-down, in your face style which makes a greater use of heavy guitar riffs than ever before. That said, the music isn't terribly different. It still sounds like King Diamond, but this album would be the first sign of the direction they would take with the next few albums (mainly "The Graveyard").
There are a handful of great songs on this album. For one, "Moonlight" is undoubtedly one of the most powerful and emotional King Diamond songs ever recorded. Topped off by a mysterious (but amazing and very emotional) story, this song makes use of a chugging main guitar riff, over top of an atmospheric keyboard melody, and contains some of the best lead work on the entire album. In addition, King Diamond's vocal performance on this song in particular is easily among his best. Another great song is "Eastmann's Cure", which is a speedy melodic number which re-kindles the fires of the band's earlier work with an Iron Maiden-esque melodic lead serving as it's main riff. Finally, the album closes with a bang in the doom metal-inspired "To the Morgue". The opening riff to this song is one of the best riffs offered by the entire album (Candlemass, anyone?), and I would dare say that the entire song ranks among the best on the whole album (after "Moonlight"). On top of that, if you're one of those pussies who is petrified of spiders, and cannot stand to see them do not fucking read the lyrics to this song. That's all I'm gonna say about that.
Sadly, not every song is so lucky. After a competent and catchy opener with "From the Other Side", the album begins to drop down in quality considerably, with two somewhat forgettable tracks leading into the annoying "Dreams". The main riff to this song is cheesy, and the verse is just downright stupid. It's not a terrible song, but it's hardly what I've come to expect from King. In addition, the album's title track happens to be the first of King's Tim Burton (or Danny Elfman)-inspired numbers, and is easily one of the most boring and uninteresting tracks offered on the album. I don't mind his more keyboard/harpischord-based songs, but he goes a bit over the edge with his voice on this one, especially in a song which doesn't really have a decent or memorable guitar riff to go on. There are no bad songs, but it is clear that they are not all of the same tier.
In summary, this album still shows some clinging elements of King's classic style, but also features the first evidence of the change the band would undergo for the next few albums. It is a good album, but it is neither his best, nor the best of this "era". However, it does show an interesting turning point in his career, as well as a handful of great songs. I would suggest this album more for people trying to complete their King Diamond collection, than to people looking to get into the band (go check out "Abigail", cretin!).
Five consecutive years of home run horror-themed concept albums, and then five years of relative silence. This would be King Diamond's legacy going into the former half of the dreaded 90s, and in a different world, The Spider's Lullabye might have original come out in 1991 and continued the streak. Or at least tried to. That said, the band's sudden absence was not without an understandable reason: Kim Bendix Petersen had reunited with Mercyful Fate for some touring and studio time, which rewarded us with the albums In the Shadows and Time, both of which were surprisingly good, so who could complain? Eventually, Diamond got around to putting together another 'solo' effort, with Andy LaRocque returning and then an entirely new rhythm section consisting of Herb Simonsen (guitars), Chris Estes (bass) and Darrin Anthony (drums).
The Spider's Lullabye is perhaps the last of the 'essential' King Diamond records, or if not essential, then the last of the 'good' King Diamond albums for several years to come. It's got a few issues, especially with the rather lame story (even by the usual Diamond standards, which were not high), and a few duds waiting in the wing...err, webs, but there's enough money riffing here to save it from the flaming pits. Hell, I'm not even sure I could call this album a 'disappointment'. Just about anything might seem lackluster after that 1986-90 period, especially when it ended with The Eye, an unsung masterpiece. As happy as I was that Mercyful Fate had reformed and written some quality material for the first time in a decade, in 1995 I was simply content that Kim was not planning on abandoning his solo material indefinitely, and The Spider's Lullabye is just compensation for the five-year gap even if it was only the calm before the shitstorm abortion The Graveyard, which might have forced me into a deep bout with alcoholism had I not been so busy with the rest of life.
This album is not quite as involved or busy as Conspiracy, nor is it as eloquent and beautiful as The Eye, but it's definitely a manifestation of similar atmosphere to what they were doing in 1990. In particular, the use of the organs as an important backing element to tracks like "The Poltergeist" felt very familiar, and of course the due diligence Diamond gives each of the verse and chorus sequence certainly feels like a natural followup. There is a great deal of versatility in the riffing, from the Sabbath swagger of "To the Morgue" to the rampant melodic speed metal of "Eastmann's Cure" (one of the best songs here), and a distinct lack of narrative interludes or intros to drive the tale. Or tales, rather, since The Spider's Lullabye is only 40% concept album, the final four songs (title track, "Eastmann's Cure", "Room 17" and "To the Morgue") telling the saga of Harry Eastmann, an arachnophobic hermit who ends up in the 'wrong hands', if you will, playing out almost like a Lucio Fulci giallo. The other tunes all feature their own nods to various horror cliches, with "Six Feet Under" providing a sort of 'alternate' ending to Them/Conspiracy.
King sounds really airy here with his falsetto, though when he's singing about things like, well, spiders, it's a little difficult to take seriously. Not that anyone ever did in the 80s, but at least his shrill wailing was a decent match for ghost stories or witch trials. The riffs are still quite strong in general,driving and creative within the hybrid foundation of speed, heavy, power and thrash metal the band had manifest in the prior decade. Tunes like the fattened "Room 17" literally swell with atmosphere like a corpse bloated with spider hatchlings, but there were only a few in particular which I found as immortal as, say, an "Eye of the Witch" or "Burn". The second song, "Killer" slowly builds through chugging and mid-range sneers to this brilliant, cyclic swagger which almost seems like it would fit right at home on a 'pirate metal' record. "Eastmann's Cure", which I had mentioned was one of the highlights of the album, has a lot of unforgettable, driving melodic elements and a gleaming, spectral chorus to it; while I love the atmosphere during the speed metal rush that develops in "The Poltergeist".
The rest of the tracks are all acceptable, and more than fit the mood of their lyrical themes. This is not an album I can't pull off the shelf and listen through in its entirety, but a number of the compositions have a hard time engraving themselves into my mind. The rhythm section here, while competent enough to do the job, simply doesn't seem as interesting as the old lineup with Patino, Dee and so forth. Thus, the music relies so heavily on Diamond and LaRocque and there's just not coming up with the same level of consistent hooks as they once did. That said, while The Spider's Lullabye was the first of their records that didn't seem to mark a poignant evolution (forward or sideways) in the King Diamond sound, it's still a success, especially in the middle of such a dead period for traditional metal aesthetics, when bands were selling themselves down river to alternative rock, groove metal and so forth. The production is pretty straightforward, with some potency to the rhythm guitars that works in the framework of general heaviness, though I do rue the understated majesty of the prior album.
To sum it up: The Spider's Lullabye might seem a rung or so down the ladder from its predecessors, but when compared to its own, miserable followup The Graveyard it could be considered a work of genius. If you enjoyed any of the classics leading up to it, or Mercyful Fate's In the Shadows, then this is worth the pocket change.
“The Spider’s Lullabye” is my very first exposure to “the King” and his work with any ensemble, and I was impressed right off the bat. “The Spider’s Lullabye” surprised me with it’s melodic accessibility, as well as the unmistakable voice of KING DIAMOND (as mentioned, this was my very first exposure, and his vocal style is quite novel, and likely something that I’ll be coming back to often). I initially found the musicianship phenomenal, while thinking that the vocals were silly and somewhat amateur. After a couple of listens to this and other KING DIAMOND albums, however, I’ve come to understand the really important element of this rather unique metal outfit, which I’m sure most readers are already aware of: while not a particularly adept singer, KING DIAMOND weaves some seriously eerie horror tales and goes to great lengths to achieve a terrific atmosphere in his music. This realization made it much easier to accept the variety of falsetto-shrieking, deep throaty chanting, and rough edged singing/speaking that King spews out over all of his albums.
“The Spider's Lullabye” doesn't involve quite as much vocal schizophrenia, but instead goes overboard instrumentally. Musically, this album is superb, and blends Heavy Metal with many horror/suspense elements near flawlessly. I'm not familiar at all with the guitar work of Andy LaRoque, but I'd compare a fair number of guitar riffs and solos here with those I've heard from Power Metal, and they perhaps even stray into the territory of neo-classicism. The riffing on “Eastmann's Cure” is awesome, and the work on “To The Morgue” and “From The Other Side” is also outstanding. Because of this, I have difficulty choosing my favorite song on this album. “The Poltergeist” is also worth mentioning. It's usually hailed as the best song on the album, and for good reason. While lacking some of the drive found on the other tracks on the album “The Poltergeist” is brimming with atmosphere, including stellar organ lines that fuel the dark and malevolent mood that dominates this song.
Despite my general personal distaste for metal that borders on the satanic and occult (and this album doesn't dabble in either of these much), “The Spider's Lullabye” was thoroughly enjoyable for me, and I'll keep it in my collection without hesitation. This album provides a creepy, head banging, and enjoyable ride straight from start to finish. I might tentatively label the title track as the weakest on the album, but it's only a short stoop from the quality that is otherwise consistent. I don't know the rest of KING DIAMOND'S catalogue at this point, but as an outsider to his music, I found “The Spider's Lullabye” very accessible.
Looking forward to reviewing several other King Diamond albums soon, after this one. Here's hoping they're just as good of an experience!
Originally written for www.metal-observer.com
In some ways, The Spider's Lullabye marks the beginning of the second era of King Diamond. It was the first album that the band had released in several years, and it featured a new vocal approach (among the various styles employed, here) that would come to dominate later albums. Yet it also signifies the end of the first era, as this music was already written years earlier, set to be released in 1991. Due to the poor promotion received by The Eye, sales weren't so good and things came to a halt. Finally, in late 1994, the band began recording their first album for Metal Blade Records. The Spider's Lullabye was released in June 1995.
Already a big fan of King Diamond, I was somewhat excited by the prospect of hearing this album. The first song I was exposed to was the title track, and it did nothing for me. As a matter of fact, I'd written this one off, entirely, based on that one song. It wasn't until several years later that I gave it another chance and listened to it, in its entirety. My overall opinion changed, though I was still rather skeptical. I recognized that there were a couple of really good songs on here, though still neglected the rest. Gradually, the album grew on me. There are still some elements that I could do without, but I eventually came to appreciate this album for what it was. I wouldn't rank it up there with Fatal Portrait or Abigail, by any means, but it still contains some strong material and should not be ignored.
It all begins with "From the Other Side", which is one of the best songs on here. The guitar tone is rather similar to "Them", in a way, being a little less powerful than the last two records. Keyboards are utilized in a minimalist manner, giving some strange 70s feeling. It's just enough to accentuate the music and add to the atmosphere, without taking away from anything. Vocals are in the typical King Diamond falsetto, along with the more mid-ranged style he used in Mercyful Fate. This is a hell of a song to open the album, and it's filled with memorable riffs and vocal melodies.
The next song is "Killer". At this point, one may notice that this release breaks the tradition of the last several albums, in that it isn't a full concept album. Only the last four tracks are tied together. This is similar to how Fatal Portrait wasn't completely dominated by one theme. As the beginning of the second era, this is quite fitting. At any rate, this song starts out with a riff that wouldn't have been out of place on the aforementioned "Them". After a few seconds, this changes and it progresses with, somewhat, weaker riffs. The vocal lines are still memorable, but this song is nowhere near as strong as the first. It's not bad, but nothing exceptional.
"The Poltergeist" is my favorite song on here. It begins with a keyboard melody, that creates an eerie vibe. The first verse adds to this feeling, greatly. This song is concise, catchy and very memorable. Most importantly, it has a lot of atmosphere. I find that the lyrics are stronger since this isn't simply a single chapter in a longer story. Midway through, there's a great effect that is done with the guitar, which imitates an old, creaky door slowly opening. This is, definitely, the one that will remain with you the longest, after the first listen.
The riffs and even vocal lines from "Dreams" sound quite a bit like they could have easily fit into the last few albums. It's not hard to tell that this music was written years earlier, as the songs on here are so far removed from what would be heard on The Graveyard. This is another catchy song, that's neither fast nor slow, really. It has its memorable moments, though it may be overshadowed by the previous song (or the one that follows, for that matter).
"Moonlight" starts with some killer, epic riffs but does feature some kind of weak, uptempo feeling to the bridge. However, this isn't really worth complaining about. The solo is very fitting and the keyboards imitate the sound of an organ, so the atmosphere is there. Again, the riffs really do maintain ties with the two or three albums that preceded this one.
Side B begins with "Six Feet Under", which I've read was a cut chapter from Conspiracy, so I wonder if the music dates back to that album as well. Judging by the sound, it would seem to be a possibility. This one features faster and, somewhat, more intense riffs that some of the other songs. Of course, King's vocal lines are hauntingly memorable. Everything about this is spot on, as this is one of the stronger songs on here.
"The Spider's Lullabye" starts with the keyboard and a creepy vocal approach. This works well to establish an eerie atmosphere. This is also the first song where King unleashed his newer vocal style, which is what always turned me off about this. Now, oddly enough, it doesn't other me at all though I still recognize it as inferior and wish he'd stick with the sound he was best known for. All in all, this is another catchy song and the complaints are quite insignificant. There's even some decent Doom riffs, reminiscent of Candlemass.
Next up is "Eastmann's Cure", which begins with some typical NWOBHM guitar riffs and, relatively, fast-paced drums. By this point, I'm thinking that this album really does belong to the first era much more than the second, as this record is dripping with the same feeling that is prevalent on the classic albums. It shows some signs of deterioration, due to being recorded a few years after being written, but it still shares far too many characteristics with albums such as Conspiracy and The Eye, rather than The Graveyard, which was released just one year later. There is a softer part that doesn't quite fit as well as they may have wanted it to, but it's negligible.
"Room 17" opens with a morbid sounding harpsichord, which adds even more to the epic nature of this song. It's the longest one on here, clocking in at over eight minutes. Some of the keyboard utilization is similar to earlier songs, bearing the same 70s feel. With an album that possesses a few flaws, one might expect things to drag on at this point, but that isn't the case. Things seem to get even more consistent, actually. While the production on this album lacks some of the power of the last couple, it still maintains a nice sharp sound to it. This works well with some of the vocals that King utilizes, almost reminding one of something from Don't Break the Oath, at one point. The organ and harpsichord sounds really add a morbid feeling of horror. This feeling continues on the next song, "To the Morgue", which is just as strong as the last several songs. A unique effect is used during the chorus, while the way everything just slows down and comes to a conclusion works, perfectly.
"We must all go to the morgue"
The Spider's Lullabye is an, often, misunderstood album. I think it's great that they actually recorded the material that was written in 89/90, rather than trashing it and writing something new. My general impression is that this album is a bit weaker than the previous ones, though it's not bad at all. There aren't really weak songs, just some weak riffs and a few minor things that could have been better. This is no Fatal Portrait or Abigail, but it's certainly worth your time if you're a die-hard King Diamond fan.
This is the most melodic release from King Diamond, but is not the main reason why it is hardly ever talked about. It's lack of recognition is mainly due it not being a full concept album and the fact that the story itself is pretty straight forward and uncomplicated as opposed to his previous releases like Abigail and "Them". Still, I think the songs here are beautifully done well and the keyboards are utterly fantastic.
From The Other Side - Now this song starts out pretty average and straight forward up until the chorus hits you....then you have no choice but to keep your ears glued to the speaker. If not for the solo, I'd have to say that the amazingly melodic and catchy chorus is the main highlight here. I find this song to be very similar to The Lake, just because of its wonderful chorus and the fact that it stays nailed to your skull.
Killer - "I am a killer...gonna get what I deserve"....man, King's vocal harmony on that line is godly. It's just about as fantastic as the chorus from the previous song. Yes, that's the kind of vocal harmony that forces the listener to stay focused on the music and just simply be amazed.
The Poltergeist - This song just plain out rules you in everyway. From the spooky, Uriah Heep-ish keyboard intro to the very last distorted guitar note, this is indeed one of King's best songs he's ever done. And this song has the highlight of the entire album, which is during the lead break. What sounds like a squeaky door opening is actually the sound of the guitar, which fools you for a few seconds into thinking it's actually the sound of a squeaky door until it leads into the solo. Man, that is some killer stuff right there! Not something that occurs very often in music.
Dreams - Probably the weakest track on the album, even though it's still a great one. Compare to all the other catchy as fuck tunes on here, it's pretty average, and what makes it even worse is that it's sandwiched between The Polergeist and this one....
Moonlight - Another one of King's best song. No wonder why this got heavy radio airplay back then, even in '95 when metal was no longer big. His vocals on this one are constantly in falsetto form through out the entire song, though incredibly melodic and not quite as intense as in other songs, kind of similar to Lurking In The Dark from Fatal Portrait. I simply can not get enough of this one.
Six Feet Under - Yet, another catchy chorus that stays stuck on you. There really isn't much to say about this one, except that it's great speed metal with a killer chorus. Probably the most aggressive song on the album. The song is about a guy being buried alive inside a glass coffin by his own family while looking up at them, how cool and wicked is that??
The Spider's Lullaby - Now we're getting into the story of poor ol' Harry who is terrified of spiders. This is a very doom-ish tune in the vein of 70s Sabbath, mixed with eerie keyboard work and the insane laughs and vocals of the King. King really goes over the top in trying to sound insane with this one. Actually, the coolest part of the song is the acoustic guitar work that sounds like a spider. I know, what exactly does a spider sound like?? I don't know, but I do know that the guitar definatly sounds like one. You'll have to hear for yourself.
Eastmann's Cure - Another cool speed metal song like Six Feet Under, though a little more melodic and very soft in some places. It switches back and forth a lot...heavy/soft/heavy/soft...etc. As you can tell by the title, this is where Harry goes to Dr. Eastman for cure of his spider phobia, but he'll regret it in the next song.
Room 17 - This song is much longer than it should be, over 8 minutes. I guess you can say it's pretty catchy at first but it's a little too long. If you really wanna enjoy the song, listen closly to the lyrics. Harry is put into a staight-jacket and taken to room 17 where Dr. Eastmann's assistant puts all kinds of live spiders all over poor ol' Harry. Something awful ends up happening to him, and I won't tell you what, but the title of the last song should tell ya...
To The Morgue - Another doomy song, much like the title track, with King chanting "To the morgue, take him to the morgue" in a low, operatic tone. Once again, you'll be able to hear the "spider guitar" work, except this time it's with an electric and not an acoustic. Overall, this is indeed one of King's best songs and a perfect album closer to a bone chilling tale....for those of you who are afraid of spiders.
After a five year absence, in which King Diamond was working on Mercyful Fate again, he returned with The Spider's Lullabye. As potent as ever TSL has one big difference from most other King Diamond records, it's not a concept album. Like Fatal Portrait only (about) half of the songs are a concept. This time, while not his most original story, King tells of a man deathly afraid of spiders. He goes to a sanitarium to be cured but the neglagent doctors end up killing him. The other songs are just kick ass Diamond. Again the line-up shifts. Replacing the incredible Peter Blakk is the great Herb Simonson, replacing Hal Patino is Chris Estes, and filling in for Snowy Shaw (and a drum machine) is the boring Darrin Anthony. Simonson is a great guitarist though not up to Blakk's level, Estes is fine, but Anthony is just boring I still can't figure out why King kept him around for two albums. Another thing with The Spider's Lullbabye is that it's more straight forward and not as musically complex as Abigail, Them, or Conspiracy. But that doesn't hurt the music one bit. The opening track From the Other Side is classic Diamond. The next two tracks, the best on here are Killer and The Poltergeist. Very catchy and featuring great solos by Simonson and the ever-present Andy LaRocque. Another great song is the last non-concept song Six Feet Under. The best of the concept songs is probably the very eeire To the Morgue. While definatly not King's best release it's definatly not bad and deserves more recognition.