Sunday, September 6, 2009

King Diamond - The Spider's Lullabye (1995)

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.