On the 7th day of July 1777, Abigail LaFey was first born dead. Meanwhile, on the 16th day of June in 1956, legendary shock rocker and innovator Kim Bendix Petersen, who you know better as King Diamond, was born very much alive, with a spirit and imagination that would later serve as the basis for his groundbreaking contributions to heavy metal.
Prior to King Diamond's entry into the world of hard rock and heavy metal, artists such as KISS and Alice Cooper were shocking audiences around the world with corpsepaint and horror-themed theatrics. Taking a cue from his predecessors, Diamond experimented with dark and dramatical stage shows as far back as his time in Black Rose, a band he had joined almost a full decade prior to the formation of Mercyful Fate and from which Diamond recycled music for Mercyful Fate's debut album. What separated Diamond from his early role models was not just his bone-chilling and seemingly impossible falsetto vocals, but his blatant incorporation of Satanism and horror fantasy, making King Diamond an innovator in his own right.
Mercyful Fate's debut album, Melissa, is widely regarded as a seminal metal album. While the coupling of the galloping riffage and macabre imagery were integral towards setting the tone for the then-embryonic genre, the genuine conviction behind Diamond's rampant themes of occultism was the most essential ingredient. At the time, Venom were also heavily employing Satanic content in their lyrics, but Diamond injected an approach that was more authentic as he practiced Satanism and followed the culture's philosophies, something that was uncommon for musical artists at the time.
Diamond carried his persona over to his eponymous solo project, for which he began writing more about his own fantasies and encounters with the paranormal. He wrote epic concept albums with story-telling abilities that could rival the morbid musings of H.P. Lovecraft. Diamond also used his solo project to integrate more symphonic melodies to his music, sometimes even teetering on the lines between speed and power metal.
Today, we are celebrating the legend on his 61st birthday by reflecting on his early years. Below, you can watch a video of King Diamond performing Mercyful Fate's "Evil" live in 1986, only three years after the release of Melissa. Check it out.