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Flawless overview of an outstanding career - 97%

kluseba, January 6th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2014, 2CD, Metal Blade Records

Should a release like Dreams of Horror really even exist in 2014? That's a quite good question but from my point of view, I would definitely answer with a resounding "yes". Obviously, in modern times, many people prefer downloading music instead of purchasing expensive compilations but there are a few points that make this physical release really interesting.

First of all, the cover artwork is really lovely and includes iconic elements of almost all previous King Diamond records which puts this kind of release above the exchangeable "Icon" series and the likes. The booklet is also very well done as each song is described in a detailed way with a few intimate anecdotes where even older fans might learn a few things and new fans can get an idea of the philosophy behind the band. Even the space behind the discs in the solid digipak is not wasted and comes around with more beautiful artworks and photos. One can see that some passionate artistic effort was put into this release and no digital version can match this detailed effort.

I'm aware of the fact that many fans from the early years are used to their original versions because they have unique memories connected to certain songs and records but if we are honest deep down inside of us, certain old school efforts we might defend by calling them authentic and charming suffer from mediocre productions. I'm not a supporter of pointless re-recordings à la Manowar, lifeless modern productions that one can experience in the power and progressive metal genres these days or the ongoing loudness war which already destroyed a few decent thrash metal release of more recent dates but there is nothing wrong with a professionally remastered compilation that manages to keep the spirit of the original music alive by improving the production flaws or the limited technical possibilities thirty years ago. This is exactly what happened here. The production of the songs on this release is atmospheric, powerful and thick and keeps a perfect balance between the original soul of the different tracks and the inclusion of scientific improvements.

Let's talk about the songs themselves. Obviously, each long-time fan has his or her personal favourite or secret tip that might not be included on such a release. The purpose of this record is though rather to expose the impressive thirty-year long career of King Diamond to potential new fans as the band is now back on the road and about to release its first new record in eight years. This is where this compilation does an excellent job and it becomes obvious that the band members themselves carefully chose the most fitting songs and the appropriate versions of these songs to be part of this release. The band chose the most fitting tracks and not necessarily those considered the very best by a majority of fans or record companies and this is a very important difference between any greatest hits collection and an authentic compilation that feels like a regular release as it's the case here.

When I want to discover the discography of such a band, I want to get in touch with the most famous songs, the most experimental efforts and get an idea of the progression of the band sound. This release includes all of it and covers each studio record of the band to give new fans a best possible overview. The two discs include the shortest and the longest track of the band and features instrumental tracks as much as the most progressive occult heavy metal tracks from the band. Each songs works very well for what it is and I could only discover good to excellent tracks but not one single filler. You want me to mention the best and worst tracks on here? Forget about it, just listen to the entire double-album as it is meant to be. The inclusion of some shorter songs and instrumental tracks is also a welcome idea and adds a great organic flow to this compilation as intense moments are followed by more relaxed breaks. It also helps that both discs have a length of around fifty-five minutes instead of filling them with eighty minutes of music. One really gets the impression to listen to a coherent regular double-album of the band and not just to a compilation that tries to follow the band's greatest hits chronologically or to include as many tracks as possible in a random order. Each track and its order is precisely chosen to elaborate a harmonious and logical progression. This is a very strong element most greatest hits records don't have. I would even say that this is probably the best compilation record I have ever purchased.

At the end of the day, this compilation is the perfect deal for those who know a few King Diamond songs or own just an album or two as it's not always easy to find more records in stores these days and want to discover the band's entire impressive discography. Old school fans should also appreciate this release a little bit because of the nice artwork, the interesting liner notes and the unusual choices for such a compilation that focuses on the overall atmosphere instead of potential sales numbers. I have been listening to this compilation on a regular basis for almost two months now and I can't get enough of it. Thanks to this release, I consider myself a fan of the band now and am looking forward to purchase the original records and to see the band in concert in the future. Yes, a release like Dreams of Horror should definitely still exist in 2014.

When echo chambers and cash registers collide - 20%

autothrall, December 18th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, 2CD, Metal Blade Records

Should a release like Dreams of Horror really even exist in 2014? King Diamond and Mercyful Fate might stand beyond criticism in the eyes of many fans due to their respective legacies and longevity, but in the age of Bandcamp, YouTube, Torrents, etc. when most people can't even be bothered to purchase new original music, how will a compilation of previously recorded material fare? The fact that the tunes here are 'handpicked' by King Diamond doesn't really matter for me, that's been done a hundred times by various bands/musicians and any claims to the contrary are hyperbole. 'This is the first time a band has EVER cared enough achieve this monumental accomplishment!' Get stuffed. The fact that they are considered the 'ultimate versions' of these songs is also irrelevant. No, my friends, the 'ultimate versions' of these songs are the ones that the fanbase experienced as they were being recorded and released since the 80s, that stuck with us and entertained us for decades. Or, really, fans of ANY age who first took an interest in and tracked down the first legendary five records, which still stand head and fucking shoulders above anything this musician has released in his solo act since 1990.

Now, there is some novelty here in that they've managed to score the licenses to include the old material from Roadrunner/Warner. So while there have been comps before, this one is the most 'complete'. Yet it really just seems that KD and Metal Blade have gone out of their way to snake-oil this collection as the 'studio versions of a live set', as if that is supposed to render some legitimacy to purchasing more music we already own and take the individual tracks out of their respective stories. How about if we want to experience a live KD set, we just go to a goddamn live set? In reality, while the mastering on these tunes might sound crystal clear and evenly distributed across various eras of the band, it's just another pocket picking with a collage of prior album covers, high production values on the package, the same old same old from a major metal label which is just not going to dupe anyone except 'gotta catch 'em all' collectors or the who might mistake it for a new collection. So it's your basic set up of several songs taken from each of their studio albums, the career retrospective anthology, with the first disc consisting of their career hot streak from Fatal Portrait (1986) to The Eye (1990), and then the vast majority of the second disc, with a few exceptions from The Spider's Lullabye and a handful more, being almost entirely avoidable. I mean, there are tracks from the horrendous The Graveyard on this thing, which no amount of studio wizardry can transform into quality music, so I find it nigh impossible to consider this the ultimate representation of the King Diamond catalog.

Any and all points I give here will be for the work put in remastering the songs, which retain a lot of their original crystalline clarity, in particular King's falsetto lines and the elegant, wistful leads that characterized the better half of their discography. Clearly they took some time doing this, and were intent not to just reproduce the material 100% off the older printings. I'm not entirely opposed to re-recordings of stuff with modern, evolved sounds just for fun (like a few German thrash legends have done successfully), but this is not one of those cases. That said, I still do not find these to be superior to experiencing the songs in their original format, in among their neighbors which helped relay the narrative of each of King's horror sagas. Sure, you can have favorite KD tunes and put together a playlist for yourself, but removing "The Family Ghost" and "Black Horseman" just isn't going to cut it for me when I want to immerse myself in Abigail. If it's a live show, and they want to pick and choose for the set, that's fine, but I just don't need to plunk down the dough on something which doesn't feel authentic. I'm not sure if this was some sort of contractual thing with the label, but I wish any effort expended towards this had simply been put into new material, because it's been well over a decade since they were turning out material I actually enjoyed (Abigail II, The Puppet Master) and I know on some of that I'm probably even in the minority.

Really cannot recommend this whatsoever unless you absolutely must own every single item with the logo on it, to the extent that you're like a KISS collector maniac, only for one of the other face painted rock stars. Or maybe if you're an audiophile who loathes some of the original recordings, but then you'll be left hanging since there are only snippets of the total backlog included. Granted, there's a little more here value than in your average, soulless big label anthology, in that someone or several persons sat on their duffs and tweaked a few knobs. So I doubt I'll slap a massive zero on it, but as such a huge fan of all that unforgettable music Petersen and LaRocque released through the 80s and earlier 90s, I can only implore the new listener to experience their legacy within the proper perspective. The proper context. You want to support the band? Start at Fatal Portrait. BUY Fatal Portrait. And then the next, and the next. Go to a show. If you can't, try and check out a video of a gig (I don't believe there are many official DVDs you can choose from). I can't wait to hear a new album personally, and I do hope it's a triumph, the best thing they've done in 25 years (specially after King's triple-bypass surgery). But this just isn't going to tide me over, and I find it pretty useless since there is just no chance I'll listen to this over the albums. And if I want a playlist for driving, I can always just press 'Shuffle' on the first six.

Sparkly backwash is still backwash.