King Diamond - Official Website


Them

Denmark Country of Origin: Denmark

1. Out From The Asylum
3. The Invisible Guests
4. Tea
5. Mother's Getting Weaker
6. Bye, Bye, Missy
7. A Broken Spell
8. The Accusation Chair
9. "Them"
10. Twilight Symphony
11. Coming Home
12. Phone Call


Review by Mandeep Arora on May 5, 2024.

After unleashing the evil of Abigail and setting the metal world on fire, the boys at King Diamond had the most daunting task at hand: come up with a follow-up album. And a good one at that. Whether they felt the pressure or not is anyone's guess, but Them, or "Them" if you are the fastidious type, easily has some of the band's best and most recognisable work. With what is arguably their most iconic album cover this side of Abigail, fans must have been left enamoured at the sight of its moody purple hues and a surprising feel-good vibe, only to be horrified at seeing no Michael Denner in the lineup, well-known enough by now and one of the purveyors of the classic Mercyful Fate and King Diamond sound. Lesser conspicuous, but equally important, was the absence of Timi Hansen.

Shouldn't have worried, the fans, as Pete Blakk replacing Denner more than complements the well-established-by-now Andy LaRocque and lends this album its own identity, even though the overall sound is reassuringly familiar. The venerable formula of dual guitar harmonies and abundance of melodious solos is intact, and works very well too. By the fourth song Tea, you are made well aware of the album’s progressive traits, as the songs, for the most part, stroll between fast and medium paced riffs, resort to multiple time signatures, then burst into melodious solos and sometimes even come peppered with acoustic guitar passages for added atmosphere and character. Some songs are outright nefarious both sonically and lyrically, and properly chilling too - The Invisible Guests, Tea, Bye, Bye Missy and The Accusation Chair are the main outliers here.

The story unfolds beautifully and nearly every moment feels spine-chilling, the album getting considerably darker towards the second half. King Diamond's abilities as a storyteller shine the brightest here, so much so that numerous moments on the album almost convince you this has Abigail’s number - like the unreal progression on The Invisible Guests' intro, a fantastic harmony of rhythm, leads and percussion. Or the mind-blowing second half of Bye, Bye Missy where the story gets unhinged and all hell breaks loose, the ensuing chaos for which is beautifully captured. Or the very ominous-sounding opening riff of The Accusation Chair, following which is an equally ominous and wicked song. Or the conspiratorial whispers by "them" on the title track, a sweet little number that's as scary as it's beautiful... When King’s character peeps through the keyhole to witness grandma's crazy antics, you feel a chill running down your spine. When he commits to confront grandma after gaining clarity outside the mansion, you feel the rage flowing through your veins... I think this is the best story on any King Diamond album and the distinction here is that every character seems well-defined. Considering the constraints of packing so many character traits in not very long songs, it appears all the more impressive. If King Diamond’s goal was to make Grandma the baddest, scariest bitch with an intimidation factor more than the Japanese Yakuza or “them” as the ultimate evil and enigmatic entities, then he more than succeeds.

It's an ambitious setup, however, and while conceptually sound, it highlights a slight disconnect with the actual music. Certain sections seem imbalanced and disjointed at times, almost as if the music is playing second fiddle to the story - “Them" seems to focus more on the storytelling aspect and that’s achieved at the expense of some of the songs sounding a bit overkill and excessive. As was the case with Fatal Portrait, King plays a shade more number of characters than Abigail and that means singing in multiple voices - for Grandma, Missy, himself and "them". He sounds distinct for sure and brings the characters alive with his inveterate falsettos, sounding resolute in the most important sections, but also seems to tower over everything else, including guitar leads which take center stage and drown out the rhythm section and drums in the first place. There are moments when you want him to stop his judicial use of falsettos as they start hurting the listening experience a bit - it gets kind of loud and grating, particularly on this album, in spite of a mix that’s flimsy and weak.

The mix is another of the primary offenders. When Mickey Dee welcomes you on, erm, Welcome Home with his drum solo, you expect to be shaken by the intensity of its brute force, only to find that the drums sound horribly tinny and weak. It's not so much the subdued overall sound but the way the drums have been programmed in the mix. Not that any of it stops Dee from making his presence felt and he's always there in the background, punishing the drums in a fit of haughty contempt to match LaRocque and Blakk's insane demands and keeping up with them all throughout. Unfortunately, poor Hal Patino remains obscured most of the time and his basslines are barely audible to make an impact on the listener, making for a rather weak bottom end. But again, it’s got more to do with the mix than with the man’s capabilities.

I think "Them's" biggest undoing is that it immediately follows Abigail, which set a standard so high it automatically became the measuring yardstick for any future albums by the band. "Them" isn't as harmonious a concoction of music and conceptual storytelling as Abigail and struggles in certain areas where the latter is simply seamless and effortless. However, if you can manage to look past these shortcomings, you'll find “Them” to be a thoroughly wonderful and soulful album that continued King Diamond’s streak of excellent records through the eighties. You can't help but be drawn to it, almost blind to its quirks. While Abigail is the better, more rounded, more involving album in my opinion, “Them’s” top-notch and unparalleled storytelling will appeal above all else to some, and if it does, you aren't in the wrong.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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