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XIV-Gateways to Geekery

March 1, 2012

Link to original assignment.

For my first ds106 assignment of the section, I’ll be writing a blog post modeled after one of the The Onion’s “Gateways to Geekery” articles, the purpose of which is to give you an in-depth introduction to someone else’s geeky obsession as if you might actually want to undertake it on your own. I had never read one of them before, but surprisingly, the first one I looked at as a model detailed the author’s obsession with NWOBHM (the New Wave of British Heavy Metal), and I had planned to use a metal band from the 80s (though not a British one). I chose to do this assignment because firstly, everyone likes to talk about their geeky passions, and secondly, I love to watch hipsters die inside when I explain my fiery, passionate, competely irony-devoid love of metal. Since I’m not sure what a hipster is actually, I tend to define it as anyone I don’t like. Anyway, on to the assignment.

THE PROCESS

I’m going to….write. Starting now!

GATEWAYS TO GEEKERY

Geek obsession: King Diamond.

Who is King Diamond? Well, he’s a 56-year old Danish man who now lives in Dallas, TX and just had bypass surgery. He looks like this:

So yeah. I guess I should mention that he’s the singer, main songwriter, and namesake of my all-time favorite band. This may seem strange for a lot of reasons. One, their (you would think I would should say “his”, but I’ll explain that later) seminal and best album came out in the year of my birth. Two, I will never impress a chick by telling her that I’m a King Diamond fan, unless she lives in a house that smells like incense with cats who are the living embodiments of ancient Egyptian gods. Actually I don’t ramble on about the geekier parts of me to girls I’ve just met, a skill that a lot of guys could stand to learn. But I am rambling on to you, so I guess I should just hit you with some fucking music:

Welcome Home

A Mansion in Darkness

Sleepless Nights

Since nobody probably listened to all that, I guess I should just provide a description of their music. The problem with that is that seeing descriptions of music in the written form makes me want to vomit. For example, if I was a dumbass music journalist, I could write something like this(imagine this being said in the dumbest voice possible):

 “King’s piercing vocals fly forth from the swirling malestrom provided by the adept guitarwork of LaRocque and Denner, while Mikkey Dee’s skillful skin-pounding provides a backing to the glorious cacophony that is almost reminiscent of Neil Peart. One can’t forgot Timi Hansen, expertly plucking the 4-string beast to lay down the thunder that metal fans love.”

 Why did I do that. Why did I purposely write something that would make me want to cry? In order to get a good grade. What have I become?

 Anyway, as I said before, King Diamond (real name Kim Petersen) was born in Denmark in the 50s. He actually started his music career as a guitarist in the 70s, but ended up being a vocalist in a Danish prog rock band called Black Rose. That’s when he started to experiment with his shock-rock style , wearing makeup and exploding bombs onstage. After he left Black Rose, he played guitar again in a punk band called Brats. In the late 70s, him and two two other guys from Brats formed a heavy metal band called Mercyful Fate. This is actually another one of my all-time favorite bands, and they are hugely important in the early development of underground metal. But like a lot of great bands from that era, there was only a short moment of brilliance (two albums’ worth) before things fell apart. The band broke up because lead guitarist Hank Shermann wanted to start playing funk music. Here’s some Mercyful Fate songs for the hell of it:

Doomed by the Living Dead

Into the Coven

A Dangerous Meeting

King didn’t want to do that, so he embarked on a solo project. Now, Mercyful Fate’s music, even though they sang about deflowering nuns and Satan dominating the Earth, was very heavily influenced by 70s rock (you could almost describe them as an evil Thin Lizzy). But by the time the band broke up, it was the mid-80s, the heyday of metal. So King’s solo project went decidedly in that direction. 

Where to start: Abigail, 1987

Abigail was the 2nd full-length King Diamond album, and the first one that was a full concept album. King had this idea of telling a horror story through a concept album. This was a Pink Floyd’s The Wall-style concept album, in the sense that it told a linear story about a couple moving into a mansion that was possessed by demons. It’s universally considered the band’s best album. But even though King Diamond seems like a complete solo act, it’s really not, because guitarist Andy LaRocque writes about 30% of the music. I would actually say he writes the best songs, especially on the more recent albums. You can pretty much find the whole album on YouTube these days.

Them, 1988

Conspiracy, 1989

These albums are sequels telling the story of a….well another house that is possessed by demons, I’m sorry to say. Honestly, I wouldn’t focus too much on the stories (though they do provide a good and creepy backdrop for the music) but rather on the songs themselves.  This was pretty much the golden age of King Diamond. In 1990 they released an album called “The Eye”, which I love, but I think you should probably already be a hardcore fan when you listen to it. It’s just not quite as magical as these three, and it sounds a little bit rushed even though it has moments of brilliance. Also, brilliant drummer Mikkey Dee left after 1989, and was replaced by Snowy Shaw, who was also excellent, but for whatever reason they decided he should play an electronic drum kit(???). It sounds like a drum machine and really takes away from the music I think.  After The Eye, Mercyful Fate got back together, so King Diamond was on hold until 1995…

Where not to start:

Unlike a lot of old metal bands, some of the albums King Diamond released in the 90s and 2000s are actually pretty good. Some are not. The good ones are: Voodoo(1998), Abigail II: The Revenge (2002) and The Puppet Master(2003). However…pretty much all the other stuff is just…not that good. The Graveyard and House of God have good moments, but ultimately fall flat. The Spider’s Lullabye is just weird and not very good (King even admits this). Gimme Your Soul…Please has a really dumb title, and really isn’t my cup of tea despite the fact that it actually won a Grammy for “Best Metal Performance”, but how relevant are the Grammys anyway?

Well, it took me all afternoon to write this for some reason, so, I hope it gets read. It feels good to get the geekery off your chest every once in a while.

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3 Comments
  1. Wow, I learned a lot here. I’m glad you took the time to write this. As for “Gimme Your Soul … Please” I think that’s an awesome title. I don’t give much credence to the Grammy’s either.

    I’ve not ventured much into the murky waters of Heavy Metal. The tone and passion in your “Gateway to Geekery” are so compelling that I’m tempted to seek out some King Diamond.

    • You know as long as it was, I still feel like I left things out. It’s definitely not for everybody though, it’s quite cheesy and over-the-top, but if I at least got one person interested, I’m happy.

  2. I also spelled “maelstrom” wrong and spelling it “Malestrom” makes it seem like somewhere a lot of guys would hang out in Shinjuku on Friday night.

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