KING DIAMOND - THE SPIDER’S LULLABY DELUXE EDITION
“The Spider’s Lullaby” is one of “those” albums. On first release in 1995 (yup, twenty years ago) it was the first original King Diamond release in five years, the first on Metal Blade Records, it wasn’t a full concept album (only four of the ten songs are linked as a single story) and only KD himself and Andy LaRocque on guitars and keys carried-over from the previous line-up. Add to that a small shuffle in the direction of less complexity/more-metal/less-theatre on some of the tracks, and no spoken narrative parts, and it was all a bit stressful for some fans.
Still, time passes, even if you’re not trapped in a glass coffin, and now in 2015 we get a re-mastered Deluxe Edition with the original ten tracks plus four bonus demo versions.
Before we get to the music I’m going to touch-on the sound. I can’t find my original copy of the album; I suspect some bastard (probably a drummer) has nicked it, but I’m pretty sure the re-master sounds a fair bit louder. This is, of course, pretty common in the era of the “Loudness Wars”, and it’s not always for the good of the sound. I grabbed a couple of downloads of tracks from the original album from You Tube (yes, I know what YT does to audio) and the re-masters have less dynamic range and sound a little more edgy, which is a shame, and ties-in with my highly dodgy memory of the original album. Still, the guitars and keyboards are up-front and strong, which is always good! (I wonder if the Andy LaRocque who re-mastered the album is related to the Andy LaRocque who played guitar and keys on it?)
So – how does The Spider’s Lullaby stand-up as a collection of songs twenty years later? Rather well as it happens. With a couple of decades of additional history written, we now know that King Diamond didn’t just abandon the concept album and didn’t slide into an easy-listening dotage, so we can stop worrying and just listen to it. I’ll also just throw-in here that I think that Andy LaRocque is one of the most underrated metal musicians out there - his playing is so “in-the-pocket” that it’s easy to overlook just how perfect it is on track after track.
Ok, it’s been well documented that the first half-dozen songs on the album are individual and unconnected stories, though seriously, you have to listen fairly hard to tell. The styles vary from pretty-much straight ahead riff-metal (From The Other Side) to classic King Diamond theatre (The Poltergeist) but they all sound as though they belong together. High points for me are:
From The Other Side – rightly or wrongly, the opening riff puts me in mind of Dio; straight ahead ass-kicking heavy metal like it’s meant to be, drizzled with perfectly seasoned lead-guitar work from Andy LaRocque; and you even get a story about a bloke looking down at his own body.
The Poltgergeist – a story about a ghost that turns-out to be harmless – what? Classic King theatre.
Six Feet Under – riff driven, perfectly fitted lead – hang-on, just re-read the comments for “From The Other Side” above, but with a story about being buried alive. This one is back-reference to the story from the Them/Conspiracy albums.
..and the linked tracks..
The Spider’s Lullaby – Cheese-eerie intro to the twenty-odd minute story of Harry Eastmann – a man with a crushing fear of spiders. Brilliant!
Eastmann’s Cure – King Maiden/Iron Diamond. Yeah! Oh, and Harry decides to get help with his spider thing - that’s clearly going to end well!
Room 17 – gentle keys and strings intro – should have read the script Harry.
To The Morgue – Doom!
There’s nothing wrong with the other songs, Killer (it’s about a killer), Dreams (about a dream), and Moonlight (Children of the Damned) just don’t stick in my mind so strongly; and there’s the odd and great thing about a collection like this one. Google the album title and you’ll find lots of reviews written over the years. Many of them will disagree with me (and with each-other) about the stand-out tracks; I’ve seen Moonlight offered as one of the finest King Diamond tracks ever, but for me it’s just not that memorable. The Spider’s Lullaby is an ALBUM – it has a musical (if not a narrative) ebb and a flow to it that you’ll never get from a shuffled playlist. The tracks that don’t make my “highlight” list space the music, and for me it works. I found that I put The Spider’s Lullaby on repeat play, and it’s been cycling through for days now. Hell, I’ve even started to hum along with some of it.
The Bonus tracks
In addition to the re-mastered original album you get a second disk with demo versions of Moonlight, From The Other Side, The Spider’s Lullaby and Dreams. Apparently everything except the guitar solos was played by King Diamond himself, and the tracks give an alternative presentation of the songs as arrangements rather than productions. Everything is (as you’d expect) far less grand, and it’s fascinating to hear how well the actual musical ideas fit together without all the bombast. I’d quite like to hear the whole album like this. Please.
Oh, apparently you can’t review a King Diamond album without mentioning “Helium vocals”.
- From The Other Side
- The Poltergeist
- Six Feet Under
- The Spider’s Lullaby
- Eastmann’s Cure
- Room 17
- To The Morgue