By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — One of the great voices in modern metal returns to San Francisco the day after Thanksgiving when King Diamond brings his band to the Warfield with support from Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Idle Hands.
One of the most influential metal vocalists to emerge after the 1970s when he first came to fame fronting Danish band Mercyful Fate, King Diamond would rise to even greater success with the horrifying concept albums he delivered with his eponymous band.
With a voice that ranged from a guttural growl to a soaring falsetto and his sinister, corpse-painted visage, Diamond and Mercyful Fate were pioneers of early black metal thanks to the anthems heard on the band’s seminal early ’80s albums Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath. Though the band split up by 1985 due to musical differences, it’s limited output and ferocious live shows (particularly their first U.S. tour supporting Motörhead in 1984) exerted a major influence on Metallica (who recorded a medley of Fate’s best tunes on their Garage Inc. covers album), Slayer and a host of extreme metal bands that would follow in their wake.
Diamond would form his eponymous band that initially included Fate guitarist Michael Denner and bassist Timi Hansen, releasing its debut album Fatal Portrait in 1986. After that effort, the group went on to explore a more storytelling approach with the acclaimed horror concept efforts Abigail, “Them” and Conspiracy. Always a menacing figure live with his upside-down bone cross mic stand (made from an actual human femur and tibia), King Diamond upped the theatrics by introducing more elaborate stage craft, including costumed actors and illusionist tricks to flesh out his dark, gothic visions when performing.
Mercyful Fate would reunite in 1993, but Diamond managed to record and tour with both groups through the decade until Fate once again went on hiatus in 1999. The singer and his group put put out more successful concept albums with Abigail II and The Puppet Master during the 2000s, but scaled back it’s touring efforts.
Diamond had a major health scare in 2010 when he underwent triple-bypass surgery after suffering multiple heart attacks. The singer eventually made his first post-operation return to the stage in 2011, performing a medley of Mercyful Fate hits with longtime admirers Metallica and old Fate bandmates Hank Shermann, Michael Denner, and Timi Hansen during Metallica’s 30th anniversary shows at The Fillmore.
In 2014, Diamond and his band embarked on their first full tour of the U.S. in a decade to ecstatic audiences before joining Slayer the following summer as part of the last ever Rockstar Mayhem Festival in 2015. The next year, Diamond toured performing his the classic Abigail album in its entirety along with other solo hits and Mercyful Fate tracks, playing metal festivals on both sides of the Atlantic and reestablishing the group as a live juggernaut.
Since then, the band has been hard at work on its forthcoming new album that was confirmed with an announcement over the summer. Set for release in 2020, The Institute will present King Diamond’s latest dark tale of madness and misery set in a mental hospital and marks the band’s first new effort in 13 years. Though the singer is slated to be involved in a series of announced Mercyful Fate reunion shows at European festivals next summer (a major event sadly underscored by the recent death of former bassist Timi Hansen to cancer), it looks like most of Diamond’s attention will be taken up with promoting the album next year.
The band’s current tour of the U.S. features a performance full of classic King Diamond songs and a preview of a new tune from the album to go along with a brand new stage set and fresh scripted theatrics from the metal master of the macabre. The tour also includes stellar support from two notable bands when it comes to the Warfield on Nov. 29.
In the space of a decade since first coming together, British psychedelic doomsayers Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats have risen from a fledgling project to become one of the more celebrated modern metal exports from the U.K. Founded by principle songwriter Kevin “K.R.” Starrs, the shadowy group from Cambridge initially garnered notice in 2009 with a few catchy, fuzz-drench songs, posted on the band’s MySpace page.
Entreaties from fans for an album led to an an extremely limited-edition CD-R entitled simply Volume 1 that showcased tuneful proto-metal dirges that matched memorable Beatles-esque vocal melodies to pulverizing riffs. A second self-released album – 2011’s sonic homage to classic Hammer Films horror Blood Lust – further refined Starrs’s songwriting and scored Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats a deal with Rise Above Records.
For its ambitious 2013 follow-up effort Mind Control, Starr drew inspiration from ’60s exploitation flicks and the murderous machinations of hippy cult leader Charles Manson to craft a diabolically listenable concept album. The band made its stateside debut that year when it played the Maryland Death Fest, later returning to the U.S. for a fall tour that marked the first time most metal fans in the U.S. got a chance to see the group.
The band continued with the concept-album route on its next recording, 2015’s The Night Creeper, which told the tale of a serial killer styled after Jack the Ripper. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats hit a new high with their most recent collection, last year’s more sophisticated Wasteland. Tracked at the same Los Angeles studio where the Beach Boys recorded Pet Sounds, the album expanded the band’s instrumental palette with extensive use of keyboards and a much more dynamic range of moods. Tuneful opening act Idle Hands hails from Portland, OR, and adds elements of ’80s post-punk bands like Killing Joke and Sisters of Mercy as well as the pre-Electric era sounds of the Cult to their hard-rock template.
King Diamond with Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Idle Hands
Friday, Nov. 29, 7 p.m. $45-$75