Released just a year after the monumental Abigail, King Diamond’s third full-length “Them” went even further to stake his claim as a distinct entity. Guitarist Michael Denner and bassist Timi Hansen were phased out of the band in favor of Pete Blakk and Hal Patino, effectively severing all ties to Mercyful Fate. Another full album story was crafted to ensure that its predecessor’s grandiosity wasn’t going to be a one-time affair. Thankfully the results were successful and “Them” is still the King’s highest charting effort to date.
Despite the first to what would come to be multiple lineup changes, the musicianship on “Them” is as stellar as ever. King Diamond’s signature vocals may be the biggest attention grabber, but the instruments play equally important roles. Mikkey Dee’s galloping drums remain the stuff of legend, most notably on “Welcome Home,” and Andy LaRocque’s manic leads add plenty of spice to “The Invisible Guests” among others. The songwriting also seems more contained than its predecessors, offering the same twists and turns as before but within a steady four to five-minute range.
The album’s plot is another haunted house/ghost story like Abigail before it, but it carves out its own narrative and tone. While Abigail’s story detailed a young couple dealing with the terrors of an unfamiliar ancestral estate, “Them” has a subverted approach. The protagonist, also named King, is facing sinister forces awakened in a place of comfort by the return of a long lost relative. The fact that he and his sister are children and their mother is incapacitated the entire time only emphasizes the vulnerability. It’s not high literature, and I’m obviously reading too much into it, but the premise is a lot creepier than I think most give it credit for.
But if “Them” is noteworthy for one thing, it’s for being where King Diamond really started getting…memetic. The King’s work has been cheesy since Mercyful Fate’s earliest days, but he really seemed to start playing it up here. The awkwardness over the entirety of “Welcome Home” and the cry of “OH, I HATE THAT BITCH!” at the end of “A Broken Spell” are unlike anything he’d done before to say the least. It’s charming enough to not be a deal breaker but it would sure be nice to have a King Diamond discussion that didn’t devolve into a series of Clerks II yelling…
While “Them” is basically an extension of Abigail, its adherence to that album’s core elements arguably ensured King Diamond’s vitality as a distinct project. Featuring another full story demonstrated that Abigail wouldn’t be a fluke or gimmick, and as much as the increased camp is a point of personal contention, it may have helped give the brand a distinct identity. It may be the least essential of the King’s first five albums, but it’s a good one to grab for some festive Halloween metal fun.
“The Invisible Guests”
“Bye Bye Missy”
“The Accusation Chair”