Plenty of metal musicians wear elaborate costumes and pay homage to the Devil, but none of them seem to do it with the same power as King Diamond. The falsetto-voiced metal icon has forever occupied a unique corridor in the genre’s hallowed halls, making music that’s simultaneously over-the-top in its spookiness and deadly serious in its talent and songwriting. As such, King Diamond has come to embody something which makes metal meaningful — a dedication to theater so fierce that it becomes totally earnest.
In honor of King Diamond’s 65th birthday, we decided to count down 10 of the main reasons we’ll always hold the singer in our blackened hearts. Here’s what arose from the shadows within us…
His corpsepaint design
When we ranked the greatest corpsepaint designs of all time, there was never a doubt that King Diamond would be our #1. That’s in part because his face paint was so vital to the development of designs worn by bands like Mayhem, 1349, and Immortal. But it’s also just because his bat-wing curlicues and dripping crosses make him look like a satanic phantom out of our nightmares. That so many trve black metal kvltists whined about his inclusion in our comments sections only assures us that we made the right choice
He never went gritty
The late ‘90s saw every metal band in the world trying to become edgy, rap-savvy nu-metal bros. Not King Diamond, though — in 2000, he released House of God, as eerie and blasphemous an album has he’d ever recorded. This lack of parachute pants, ball-chain necklaces, and bad industrial revamps of his old songs immediately sets His Satanic Majesty apart from so many of his peers.
He has a song about tea
Most “evil” metal bands have only three or four song topics they like to write about — spiked tanks, nuclear war, Satan bursting forth from the earth and unleashing fiery hell onto mankind, and Elizabeth Bathory. But on 1988’s classic Them, King Diamond has a song about his grandma…and teatime! Sure, there’s blood running out of the teapot and ghosts haunting the family in question, but there’s also a chorus about how it’s time for tea. It takes real stones to go two sugars deep on a metal track.
His nuanced, intelligent Satanism
The reason many outsiders consider heavy metal’s satanism to be either stupid or violent is that a lot of musicians during the genre’s heyday didn’t know how to approach it, or just used it for shock value. But King Diamond’s LaVeyan satanism has always been very well thought-out, and he speaks about it well. All throughout the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, King was happy to come on talk shows and calmly discuss how satanism was actually a doctrine of freedom and self-knowledge. What a class act.
He posted a memorial for a four-year-old fan
In early 2020, a four-year-old King Diamond fan named Larissa passed away. In response, the lord of satanic metal took to his Facebook and posted a touching memorial for her. “This beautiful young King Diamond fan left us unexpectedly, at the age of four,” wrote King. “She was as true of a fan as you could ever have.” Some bands will do anything to keep from looking vulnerable — and that’s why they’re not as cool as King Diamond.
There’d be no Metallica without him
It’s widely recorded that Mercyful Fate were high among the bands who inspired Metallica. This was partly because King and drummer Lars Ulrich were fellow Danes, but it was also because Diamond saw something in this rabid young band looking to make mold-breaking music. While Diamond’s uber-theatrical approach may be fundamentally different from Metallica’s stripped-down power, their united love for pure entertainment makes them birds of an ebony feather.
He’s the god of heavy metal Halloween
It’s surprising how few satanic bands celebrate Halloween, seeing the night as a goofy depiction of their real-life evil. But since his early albums with Mercyful Fate, King Diamond has always kept a candle lit in his jack o’lantern heart, consistently loving on the celebration of all things dark and bizarre. The dude even wrote what might be the ultimate All Hallows metal song with “Halloween” off of 1986’s A Fatal Portrait. Meet the true pumpkin king.
He has a rad married sex life
In 2016, King had triple bypass surgery, and in his recovery made a concerted effort to live healthier. The result? Awesome sex! In a public statement, Diamond said that now that he was living better, he could hit high notes he couldn’t before — and then added, “As for my sex life, that’s just great now. And I am not saying that because my wife is sitting next to me!” Whether or not King leaves the make-up on was never clarified, but we’d like to think he does.
He still puts on a full theatrical stage show
All these years since his first appearance on the scene, King Diamond still brings a stacked stage show to his live performances. A King Diamond show is like the Halloween party you’ve always wanted — a haunted house, a black mass, a crusty old grandma, a ghost with a baby. While so many other bands try to prove their legitimacy by letting the music speak for them, his Majesty still knows that wowing a crowd is the ultimate reward.
Man, does anyone else sound like King Diamond? That exact falsetto might be unattainable by any other metal singer. And while it’s certainly surprised many an extreme metal fan looking to get into “the most evil band around,” it’s also endeared countless listeners who love the idea of a vocalist who sings like some insane ghost floating through the desolate halls of an ancient castle. Let’s end this list on a high note!
Words by Chris Krovatin