w/ Jess and the Ancient Ones
October 11, 2014
Atlanta, GA – Center Stage Theater
King Diamond is one of heavy metals longest lasting legends. From his starting days in 1981 with the legendary Mercyful Fate to 12 albums and a nearly 30 year career as a solo artist, King Diamond has been the ruler of the metal underground. Why King Diamond is so rarely mentioned among the greatest such as Judas Priest or Iron Maiden is beyond me but those who know, well, they just know. Being a King Diamond fan at times is kind of like a secret handshake among an elite and respected society. You never hear anyone really talking about him and there’s no massive press yet when you attend a King Diamond show, everyone is there. It’s almost like it’s just unspoken and expected that if you are a true, faithful fan and connoisseur of metal, you are a King Diamond fan.
After suffering a series of heart attacks in 2010, King Diamond underwent triple bypass surgery and quickly proved that even the most intense and painful of open heart surgeries can’t keep King Diamond down. After a long and painful recovery and rehabilitation, King Diamond announced that he would be touring the US for a much anticipated headlining tour which would open right here in Atlanta. When I heard this news I literally did a happy dance and just to make it all that much sweeter, it was announced that King himself had picked Brainfart favorites Jess and the Ancient Ones as his direct support. That was all it took to push it completely over the top for me as I counted down the days.
Opening night finally arrived. My best friend from NC was in town, I picked out my most appropriate shirt (my Iron Reagan shirt that spoofs Don’t Break the Oath), and we hit the road to the venue. After teaming up with some fellow Fartheads in line, we made our way into the venue and secured our seats for Jess and the Ancient Ones. The band took the stage amidst a flood of blue lights and hauntingly took their places as the eerie intro tape played. Guitarist Thomas Fiend then kicked into the opening riff for “Prayer For Death And Fire” and I just felt myself jump out of my seat like a kid suffering from metal spasticness only to be pushed completely over the edge as they launched into the ethereal psychedelic surf jam “Astral Sabbat.” “Sulfer Giants” was absolutely outstanding and “The Devil in G Minor” left me with the hairs on my arm standing at full attention.
Jess and the Ancient ones performed a really moving, ambient, and passionate 45 minute set that seemed to baffle the audience yet win over some new fans in the process. Jess and the Ancient Ones put on a no frills performance that showcased the diversity and creativity of this amazing band. Lead vocalist Jess swayed to and fro as she felt every note played and projected the vocals with a pristine, soulful and powerful voice. Song after the song the band just wowed me and then brought things to a close with the 11 minute epic “Come Crimson Death”, the band took a bow and exited the stage without saying a word. No cheesy banter, no egotistical showboating, no nothing. Jess and the Ancient Ones let the music do the talking and after this performance, they went from being a band I really liked to becoming one of my all-time favorite bands.
Jess and the Ancient Ones Setlist
Prayer for Death and Fire, Astral Sabbat, Sulfur Giants, Casteneda, Devil (In G Minor), More Than Living, Come Crimson Death
After braving a men’s room line that could rival any Rush or Dream Theater show, I made my way back to our seats just in time for houselights to drop and to be nearly deafened by the roar of the crowd. The stage curtain was drawn back to expose what looked like the most gnarly, creepy Satanic temple you have ever seen and as the intro to “The Candle” filled the room, the crowd once again erupted with a huge roar as the band slammed into one of my all-time favorite Fatal Portrait songs. Right out of the gates King Diamond and his now legendary falsetto was unleashed hitting every note flawlessly as his band ripped the faces off of everyone in the crowd like Ed Gein. Anyone who sees metal shows here in Atlanta knows that the crowds aren’t usually the most responsive but as King Diamond and company laid waste to face by going right into “Sleepless Nights”, everyone just lost their shit, pumped their fists, and screamed every lyric back to the stage.
“Do you want to meet my Grandma?” King asked as the place once again roared as the band kicked into “Welcome Home” from Them. Grandma was wheeled out onto the stage as King serenaded to her in one of the creepiest exchanges I have ever seen/heard. After the song King Diamond praised Atlanta for being “fucking awesome” and commanded us to stay with him and join in song after song. King is such an amazing master of performance and it’s nothing short of magically mesmerizing to watch this master at work.
Watching King Diamond’s band as a whole is such an amazing experience and they proved to be without a doubt one of the greatest metal bands around. In the past they just seemed to be great to me but on this night, they were unfuckingbelievable. King Diamond delivered such a solid, precise performance while not losing any kind of fluid feel or passion. Drummer Matt Thompson is without a doubt one of metal’s greatest drummers and why he isn’t more known in the metal world is something that is beyond me. We really need to work on that.
The guitar team of Andy LaRoque and Mike Wead have solidified themselves as one of my all-time favorite guitar teams as they ripped notes out of the fucking air and at times seemed to telepathically communicate with each other playing so precisely without stepping on each other. I also have to give props to King’s lovely wife Livia Zita for doing an amazing job on backing vocals. What I loved so much about this is that in a time where bands are using pre-recorded tracks to duplicate doubled vocals, King Diamond chooses to recreate it live and I consider that way more effective and magical that coping out and using tracks.
King Diamond’s setlist pulled from some his most iconic releases such as “Abagail”, “Fatal Portrait”, and “Them” but “Conspiracy” was the most popular draw boasting five songs including “At the Graves” which I considered to be the absolutely highlight of the night as I nearly threw my fucking back out thrashing around like a spastic child air guitaring and headbanging. No King Diamond show would be complete without a nod to his legendary past band Mercyful Fate and he did so with a one/two punch of “Evil” and the everlasting classic “Come to the Sabbath.” I really loved hearing these songs and it reminded me just what a catalyst Mercyful Fate was for the greatness of King Diamond that we were seeing this very night.
After an obscure choice of set closer (“Eye of the Witch”), King and Co. returned with the instrumental “Cremation” in which King commanded the crowd to chant “Burn Her!” as he placed Grandma into a coffin setting her a blaze to a roaring crowd. King addressed the audience thanking everyone for remembering and coming out which drew a huge ovation as the band kicked into “The Family Ghost.” King Diamond and Co. drew the show to a close with an absolutely amazing delivery of “Black Horsemen” which left everyone just losing their minds.
At 15 songs long, the marathon setlist just didn’t seem like it should’ve been over at that point. At a lot of shows, I’m usually checked out by the 10th songs but with this show, I could’ve easily seen another hour of this awesomeness. King Diamond has returned with a new found fire, passion, and drive that has him and his band performing better than they have to date. If opening night here in Atlanta is any indication of the future, I can rest assured that King Diamond is nowhere near packing it in and calling it a day. Matter of fact, maybe he’s re-negotiated his contract with the dark one because as it’s looking now, he’s going to be here a while and has plenty of fire left in him… pun intended of course.
King Diamond Setlist
The Candle, Sleepless Nights, Welcome Home, Never Ending Hill, Let It Be Done, The Puppet Master, At the Graves, Tea / Digging Graves / A Visit from the Dead, Evil, Come to the Sabbath, , Shapes of Black, Eye of the Witch
Encore: Cremation, The Family Ghost, Black Horsemen