Metal's crimson King

The mellow Satanism of King Diamond

While The Graveyard is probably not something Dad will want to throw in the CD player after a family viewing of Bambi, the nature of Diamond's Satanism would surprise the metroplex Bible Belters who probably make up the bulk of his suburban neighbors.

"Yeah, I constantly get that horns-on-the-head stuff from people who have no idea what Satanism is about," Diamond says earnestly. "The underlying premise of Anton LaVey's Church of Satan in San Francisco, of which I am a member and have been for years, is simply that we should accept freedom of religion. Every person is different and unique, and you should pick whatever works for you. If you want to choose aspects of 15 different religions, or stick with this one or that one, as long as you are satisfied, it doesn't really matter what anybody else thinks or whether you think like they do. You don't have to convert anybody, and if you are a true Satanist you recognize people as different individuals with different needs, and you respect that."

Diamond takes a demonic sip of iced tea, then carries on. It's obvious he's tired of being represented as some head-spinning, split-pea soup-spewing acolyte of Beelzebub. "What I believe has nothing to do with the traditional Christian view of Satanism, like hell and demons. I have three cats in my house, and anyone who would harm an animal in a ritual sense--who would do the things traditionally associated with [devil worshippers]--isn't remotely close to a Satanist. Those people are completely insane; they need to be put away. Those people do not get those ideas from LaVey or The Satanic Bible, because [the philosophy] is totally contrary to that type of thing."

Still, the tunes in the King Diamond-Mercyful Fate catalogue aren't exactly of the teenager-in-love, boy-meets-girl variety. There's some pretty malefic stuff going on, ranging from Tales From the Crypt starter kits about spiders and witches to "our Father who art in hell" stanzas.

Diamond smiles. "My songs definitely describe the darkest side of the human mind," he admits, "but the monsters are in my mind. I have definite occult interests and occult experiences, but I should point out that every song I write starts off as a story--just like Stephen King or Dean Koontz."

Diamond scoffs at the notion that a motive in his music is to try to entice listeners into Evil Acts, as Judas Priest-style lawsuits (where parents sue metal bands for lyrical coercion after their progeny commit unspeakable deeds) would have us believe; rather, Diamond sees his work as a kind of test.

"What I write is more like a provocation," Diamond explains. "Can you listen to this without a reactionary response? It's not as disturbing depending on who you are, but I must say people in America are a bit curious in their faith. People are praying to lose weight! Well, that's not a question of faith. Maybe if they pray hard, they'll sweat enough to lose a little!"

He shakes his head in amazement. "What's scary over here is to watch some of these preachers on television. People will spend their last dime on some preacher sitting there with 15 rings on each finger, begging for more money. Now that's evil."

The restaurant is clearing out, and all that's left on Diamond's plate is a pile of bones; he has a long evening of rehearsal ahead. Both King Diamond and Mercyful Fate will shortly head to Brazil for a Monsters of Rock festival where they will play before 49,000 people and no doubt blow headliner Iron Maiden off the stage. Shortly after that, both bands will head to Europe for an autumn tour together, a prospect that daunts the King not in the least.

"There's some strain, but it's OK if you're in good shape," Diamond says. "I'm not a party animal on the road, because I know if I start drinking, it'll affect my voice. And if the next day I don't sound like I want to, I know it's my fault and I can't accept that. People pay good money to see you, and it's just not right to say, 'I sound like shit, but I had a great time, so fuck you.' I respect my fans too much.

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