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Tucson Weekly Who Do That Ol' Voodoo?

King Diamond releases his dark vision in the blood-stained pueblo.

By Jon Roig

APRIL 27, 1998:  ALL HAIL SATAN. King Diamond has just taken the stage, and his piercing falsetto cuts through the artificial fog like a beacon of darkness. The old woman rolls out in her wheelchair. The bitch...she just had to summon Them, and for that she must pay the ultimate price. It's high theater, a spectacle devoted to the Dark Lord Himself.

This is not Spinal Tap. This is what Kim Bendix Petersen, black metal's most prolific and accomplished artist, does for a living. As King Diamond, the frontman for both Merciful Fate and his self-titled solo project, he has written and composed countless songs and album-length theatrical horror stories unmatched in their sweeping vision and epic scope. He has performed in front of thousands of screaming fans, and earned a well-deserved reputation as the most evil performer to emerge from the infamous Scandinavian Satanic metal scene.

The beautiful people they are not. Black metal is currently the hardest and heaviest music on earth. Drawing inspiration from equal parts Nordic lore, medieval imagery, and high-octane thrash, bands like Emperor, Tiamat, and Borknagar have emerged from the nether-regions of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway to make wannabes like Marilyn Manson look even paler in comparison. These guys are 100 percent serious about Satan. Well, sort of.

Much like the folk-theater of professional wrestling, if you have to ask if King Diamond is serious about what he does, then you're missing the point. King Diamond wrote "Nuns Have No Fun," which includes lyrical piledrivers like "Upon a cross a nun will be hanged, she will be raped by an evil man/Knock spikes through her hands, things she won't understand, but these are just the dark brush strokes of a larger picture."

"I can be bad sometimes," King Diamond muses in his soft Danish accent. "I don't like to be messed with, and if it's serious enough I will get revenge. Otherwise, I never lie, except for little white lies. I like to play practical jokes. There are people who think I sleep in a coffin packed with soil from Denmark and stuff like that...but they don't really get who I am and what I'm doing."

Undoubtedly, both Christians and metalheads have mistaken the ringing in their ears for Lucifer's call, but a more open-minded examination of King Diamond's use of dark imagery and blood-red storytelling reveals an artist who does not believe in the traditional Christian vision of God and Satan. He's much more interested in the influence of spirits on everyday life and in the hidden world that exists in the shadows of the hearts of men. "The lyrics I do have many different aspects to them, but I have a certain thing in mind aside from doing a story," King Diamond says.

Voodoo, his latest offering, may be set in an aging mansion in the dank bayous of 1930s Baton Rouge, but it contains an eternal message about the different ways in which people choose to perceive the world.

"It deals a lot with how people can't come to terms with the things that scare them," he continues. "The family that moves into this house, they know that voodoo is taking place close by, but they have no intention of finding out if it really should frighten them or if it's harmless. They'd rather take the easy way out, so they get rid of the voodoo burial ground without thinking about the consequences for other people. They're not really bad guys, because they act out of good intent. But the voodoo cult, they need that burial ground because in voodoo one of the beliefs is that you still have to feed your dead, otherwise they're going to come after you big time. It scares the shit out of them--suddenly someone is messing with their religious background--and they're even nice about it, at first. They use small spells and curses to try to scare the family away, but that doesn't work at all. So then they decide to go the heaviest way they can, because the voodoo cult believes this must absolutely be stopped."

On stage, King Diamond brings it all to life with illusions, actors, puppets, and buckets of blood. When you go to the Rialto Theater on April 26, you'll witness a witch burning, watch spiders overtake and devour innocent victims, and thrill as The King digs himself out of his own grave. And that's only the beginning.

If this Tucson-only show seems like a bit of an anachronism in today's faded and jaded music scene, chalk it up to a nationally anemic appetite. The rest of the world can't get enough heavy metal--on the Brazilian leg of the Monsters of Rock Tour, Merciful Fate played to crowds of 49,000, and the Voodoo Tour has already sold out a 3,000-seat opera house in Mexico City. Despite a general lack of media attention, King Diamond's popularity thrives by word of mouth...but you can say you heard it here.

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