I got my first King Diamond album round about the year 1992 or 1993, I think. An aunt got it for me from a CD club she belonged to. Those still existed in those bygone, halcyon days.
It was called The Eye, and, over a quarter of a century later, I am still listening to it. It is a darkly operatic piece of classical heavy metal rock, replete with haunting, Gothic keyboards, masterful guitar musicianship, breakneck drumming, and the King's own legendary vocals, which alternate between ghostly, supernatural, piercing wails, before falling unexpectedly into guttural and demonic intonations. In between, at times, I think the King sounds like a somewhat typical heavy metal snot rocker.
King (his real name is Kim Bendix Pederson), is a veteran Danish heavy metal rocker, personal friend of Metallica's Lars Ulrich, and the former singer of Mercyful Fate, a band whose output seems only slightly different from his long running and more famous solo career. (Well, maybe not really different at all, come to ponder on it.)
King is known for his high, haunting falsetto, (or soprano, or whatever), and his theatrical flair. He wears Kiss-style heavy metal face paint, costumes, and has always had this distinctive look. Ironically, he actually seems more frightening without the make-up than with it. King has been rocking past the Gates of Hell since the mid-Eighties, holding forth the darkness on albums such as Abigail, Fatal Portrait, Conspiracy, Them...albums so classic that to even refer to them as classic seems redundant. A heavy metal heavy already knows, when it comes to the King, and so.
His music is a classically-themed, audio horror metal amusement park dark ride. That's a lot of descriptive words, but, very true. Keyboards back the murderously complex riffs; which, in turn, ape the most haunting and Mephistophelian symphonic touches, mixing them with often breakneck metal and hard, Sabbath-style riffing that is like blues and rock colliding with the soundtrack of some old vampire film from 1972. King's vocals soar to the warped, weird, operatic heights, before sinking to guttural, hellish, gurgling lows and a demonic rasp on songs like Eye of the Witch, Behind These Walls, The Family Ghost, and countless others.
His albums are all concepts, metal mashups of occult themes and story lines that might have been borrowed and twisted and reworked from horror comics, old supernatural thrillers, reruns of Dark Shadows, and the King's own inimitable sense of the blackest, darkest aspects of supernatural lore.
Did I mention he's also claimed as a literal member of the Church of Satan? (Another musical, or in his case, more anti-musical, fixation of mine, Boyd Rice, who has recorded noise and experimental music under the moniker of Non for decades, is also a member; was, in point of fact a close, personal friend of Satanic mentor, Dr. Anton Szandor LaVey. I don't know if King Diamond and LaVey were ever as chummy as LaVey and Rice, or if the two just enjoyed the occasional round of golf after a long hard night of countering the forces of the Invisible War.)
The Curse of the Eye
"It's the Eye of the Witch, yeah!"
I'm not sure how much I can get away with as far as quoting lyrics in the interest of FAIR USE. I do know that I find the concept of explainging a rock mucic album, even a concept album, a boring concept. But, King Diamond's The Eye is so near and dear to me that it's virtually seared into my consciousness after a quarter of a century, so, we can make some exceptions here.
The album starts off with s lurking, heavier-than-hell guitar riff, a sort of submerged menace. The narrator is drinking wine on Midsummer's Night, watching gathering storm clouds, and peering into the strange amulet--The Eye, upon which the title and concept of the album revolve. He stares into the Eye, "going back in time." He croons that thunder brings the rain, that the "special night" has come again, and that he's "losing track of time."
The music rocks out during the chorus, picking up speed, and next we are taken to mid Seventeenth century France, where a woman named Jeanne Dibasson is accused by the voices of the Inquisition of bestiality, or sex with Devils. Or THE DEVIL, perhaps. We get wicked mockery of self-righteous religious zealots, the protestations of Jeanne, and then King's voice breaking the drama with a chorus describing torture in the dungeon.
Next, we get the song "Burn," which, as you might have guessed, involves the execution of the accused witch Jeanne. This is a moderately fast, catchy hard rock thrasher, and generations of aspiring bedroom Satanists must have been aroused by a chorus that assures them they can burn in the night, as they are the "Devil's child."
We next have "Two Little Girls," a haunting keyboard interlude sung softly and eerily by King, describing two peasant children playing in the ashes of the extra-crispy, putative broomstick jockey, and finding her necklace--The Eye!
"Now let me have it!" King mimics the voice of a child here, but it almost reminds one a little of Gollum. The song chorus, invoking a sense of lost innocence, of children who "couldn't see," beyond the "ground they played on"; or perhaps, in other words, were doomed to the oppression and hideous sights of their environment, is among the most haunting things I think King has ever produced.
The second half of the album is, however, the most interesting, as it is a heavy metal retelling of the story of the Louvier Nuns.
Behind These Walls
"Madeline is running away from herself, afraid of the shame, she's crying out for help, to be clean again..."
Indeed, a French nun in 1642 was instructed that, yes indeed, she had quite a lot to be shameful for. The first song on the second half, "Into the Convent," is about just that: Madeline checks herself into a convent, like girls today go into rehab. But, to hide the shame of what, exactly? We are not made aware.
The next song, "Father Picard," introduces us to a priest almost out of Sade's Justine: Father Picard, a debauched, degenerate rake hell who hides his wanton, carnal blasphemy under a guise of piety--a "mask of sanity," as it were. He wants that Madeline should be undressed at Communion, to drink his "sweet, holy wine."
My favorite out of these latter songs on the album is "Behind These Walls," as it has the most appealing melody and rousing tempo. It begins with a fairly interesting, baroque harpsichord piece, and features my favorite line, "The Bible in her hand, reminds her of the wine, the sour-tasting Blood of Christ." I suppose if the priest pegs you to participate in a Black Mass, you might well feel a little cynical about religion.
"Behind..." is followed by "The Meetings," which describe the Luciferian shindigs as black candles, baby sacrifices and "evil company." (Which, we should think, would rather go without saying.) The Christian cross is described as being above the "Altar of God," while monstrous blasphemies transpire beneath.
We next have a classical guitar instrumental, a sort of easy-listening thing that might be more appropriate on a subliminal weight loss record. You could easily visualize a screensaver of someone paddling a boat on a lake at sunset, the rays glistening off the sparkling water. Perplexingly, this very sane and rather beautiful piece is called "Insanity."
"1642: Imprisonment" finishes the story off with telling us how the convent blodd orgies ar brought to an end by Ncholas de la Reynie and the forces of the Inquisition, who come sweeping in to put an end to the devilish doings and the orgiastic rites; and, presumably, to crisp a little witch-ass. Madeline, for her part, is imprisoned and, presumably, dies. The Unhappy End. But, wait.
The final song, 'The Curse," brings the frame narrative of the album full-circle, as we are informed by, presumably, King that the 'Curse of the Eye, it will take you back in time." And, also, that he's drinking wine again.
Oh yeah, blame it on the wine.
All of this is set to the finest mixture of heavy metal and hard rock blues meets symphonic, classical and Gothic melodies and arragements, bashing and thrashing smartly against the piercing, operatic banshee wails and occasional guttural gurgles of the King. Also, well, we hate to inform the credulous that the story of The Eye is true: there really WAS a Madeline, a Father Picard, and the devil really did use to molest young nuns in their sleep mostly in the form of a rooster or black cat with a human-sized penis. Would you believe it?
The Louvier Nuns
Madeline Bavent was a dressmaker, along with some other girls, when she was seduced by a priest named Bontemps, in the year 1641 or thereabouts. As a result, she entered the convent olf the Franciscan Tertiaries in Normandy, which was presided over by Fathers Pierre David, Thomas Boulle, and Mathurin Picard, an unholy trio given over to the blasphemous doctrines of the "Illuminati," which, according to the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. was a heretical sect that believed that, as long as any act was commenced while in a state of deep spiritual contemplation, it was immaterial if said action was one of piety, or rank and odious blasphemy.
To that end, the Louvier Nuns, according, at least, to the testimony given the Inquisitorial judges, were admonished to come to communion in the nude, submit to being fondled by the Holy Fathers; and, of course, fornicating with the living Devil at a Black Mass meeting wherein the Horned Offender of Offenders disguised himself as Father Boulle, or maybe Picard; but, whatever the disguise, the perfidious Son of Perdition was the actual entity staring out from behind the black void of the soulless, leprous eyes of the pious fraud.
To quote from a contemporary text written by demoniacal nun Madeline Bavent herself, in her Confessions, which quote was extracted in turn from The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (Robbins, 1959, p. 320):
"The most holy, virtuous, and faithful nuns were held to be those who stripped themselves naked, and danced before him in that state, appeared naked in choir, and sauntered naked through the gardens. Nor was that all. He habituated us to fondle one another with lustful embraces, and, what I dare not whisper, to give ourselves up to the most foul and sinful [Lesbian] infamies...I have wtnessed a mock act of circumcision performed on a huge phallus, which seemed made of a paste, which afterwards some nuns seized upon to gratify ther fancies."
The diabolical orgies included murder and human sacrifice, accounts and confessions (extracted, of course, through torture) detailing that the Holy Fathers crucified nude men upside down, while enjoying the orgiastic rites with their coven of debauched and possessed nuns.
A similar case, of course, was that of the "Loudun Nuns," who, according to the confessions of Sister Jeanne de Anges, were tormented by demons such as Barquiel and Asmodeus; Sister Jeanne's hunchbacked form was herself molested in the night by Father Urbain Grandier, who had made a pact with Satan himself--and who, of course, was condemned for his infamy and burned alive, after a long, slow, grueling and utterly inhuman session of torture.
Grandier, notably, went to the stake protesting his innocence. He was carried to the burning place in a litter, as his crushed legs no longer would serve him. He was further denied the mercy of being strangled before the fire was lit, and so, quite literally, was burned fully conscious and alive.
That had all transpired a decade earlier, but, of course there was no change in the social belief in witchcraft, heresy, possession or pacts with the Devil. The Loudun Nuns inspired Aldous Huxley's famous book, The Devil's of Loudun, which, in its turn, inspired Ken Russell's even more famous 1969 film The Devils, a grueling historical horror film starring the late Oliver Reed. (Another, similar case from the same era is the case of the Aix-en-Provence Nuns, and the doomed Father Gaufridi, who, like Urbain Grandier, was tortured and burned alive.
Apparently, Madeline along with the other nuns of her order, danced wth Satanic glee, went to a bloody, bestial, blasphemous communion nude, aided in the slow, inverted crucifixion of sacrificial victims, and...who knows? Maybe they rode literal broomsticks to meet the Devil at the Brocken, on Walpurgisnacht, across the Herz Mountains into Germany.
Madeline describes being raped, incubus-like by a giant black cat with a giant human penis attached.
"On no fewer than two occasions, I found that damned incubus of a cat on my bed in the most indecent postures it is possible to imagine, exhibiting a huge penis, just like a man's. I was terrified and tried to fly, but in an instant it leaped toward me, dragged me forcibly to the bed, then violently ravished me. causing me to experience the most peculiar sensation."
As if being raped by kitty cat was not enough, Madeline describes how, at eleven o' clock at night, she fell into a trance-like swoon, where she was lead to present herself to the three fornicating, fiendish fathers, a bevy of nude nuns (Madeline claimed Father Boulle liked fondling and mutual masturbation as much as the next priest), and that Father Picard would use menstrual blood, the limbs of dead people, or the blood of slain, sacrifical infants to create his "love philters," or potions and charms, and bury them at consecrated spots.
She describes the creation of a set of false female organs using the consecrated host. Supposedly she became pregnant by Father Picard, but, as to whetehr or not this baby was aborted by a convenient La Voison, or simply stolen by the demons in the middle of the night, to take back to Hell and substitute the "changeling" instead, who can say?
Getting fondled in the confessional was bizarre enough, but, now, the true, hideous face of Satanic mockery had ensnared the tender souls of the novitiates, and Madeline found herself engaging in the Bachanals herself. Shame!
Her hellish pathway, though, was about to become more sore-besot with the thistles and thorns of pious mortification. And her flesh, as they say, would never be the same.
The Exorcism of Madeline Bavent
Poor Madeline. If she was not being fondled by perverted priests or raped by demonic kittens, she was being accused of signing pacts with Lucifuge Rofocale and being in league with "Dagon," her personal demon. Fourteen other nuns, of the fifty-two in the order, went into hysterics, all claiming diabolical possession by demons with names like Potiphar and Grongade. If these repressed women were anything like the Loudun nuns of ten years earlier, we can assume the possessed's bag of tricks included such staples as grunting, growling, squealing, moaning and crawling through the mud; rending of garments, spitting and cursing and flinging foul imprecations (if not literal feces and offal) at holy objects, etc. A Capuchin Father named Esprit de Bosroger bought all of it, hook, line and Satanic sinker, and related that the nuns
"...suffered the most frightful convulsions, night and day, during four years, and for three or more hours daily have been subjected to exorcisms during a term of two years, although they have been subsisting in these paroxysms of constantly recurring frenzy, contortions, animal howlings, clamours, and outcries. And besides all these excessive torments, they have experienced the peculiar motion of their own personal demon, their special tormentor-three or four times a day."
Some folks have all the fun, I suppose. The young nuns put on a performance worthy of the best of Linda Blair, which drew in the crowds to see the crazy bitches go crazier while their invading spirits were controlling them. Less credulous authorities suspected imposture, and pointed to the fact that, only after the death of Father Picard, did such blasphemous accusations and demonic activity manifest. In the preceding years, no one had confessed, or for that matter, even suspected a single thing.
Picard's body was dug up and excommunicated, bringing to mind the scene at the beginning of Stuart Gordon's 1990's remake of The Pit and the Pendulum, where the heretic's rotten cadaver is posthumously hung and flogged. Thrown on a rubbish heap and discovered by his brother, a lawsuit followed to redeem his name. It dragged on for four years.
Madeline was confined in a dungeon beneath the Ursuline Convent at Rouen. It was here that she was fed meagerly on bread and water, and attempted to commit suicide by various means--including bribing a boy to bring her arsenic, and stopping up her menstrual cycle. She had been tortured by the Grand Penitentiary of Evreux, who had been searching for "devils' marks," upon her person--those nipples needed, you know, to suckle the infernal familiar. Whether or not he found any, we shall, most likely, never know.
Madeline died four years after her imprisonment, in 1647. She was forty years old.
It was alleged by some that a heretic, before being burned alive, confessed that he had presented false evidence against Madeline, at the behest of the Grand Penitentiary, bribed for six sous to manufacture stories of blasphemous scrolls being read and other infamies. It didn't save his hide in the end, as he was sent to the stake anyway.
Father Boulle was condemned to have his head shaved, a rope put about his neck, to hold a lighted taper, and to be drawn by litter to the market place, and there burned alive. This was only after excruciating torture, to ferret out his accomplices; in other words it was Urbain Grandier all over again. (Interestingly, two other priests accused with Boulle were exohnerated, the evidence against them found to be lacking.)
In a final note. The Parlement of Rouen found that the exhumation of Father Picard was, in fact, illegal; although, they still condemned him as being in league with the Devil.
Out of such amusing anecdotes, heavy metal classics are given fiery, infernal birth.