Hard Features

King Diamond & Black Rose – 20 Years Ago: A Night Of Rehearsal

King Diamond is a man who needs no introduction. His career as a solo artist and with Mercyful Fate is legendary. The music that he has created over the years has never been duplicated. He is truly one of the most unique individuals, both as a person and as a musician, that has ever graced this planet. There will never be another musician quite like King Diamond.

But, there is one thing that King Diamond has in common with everyone else in the music business that a lot of people don’t realize. The band that made him famous, Mercyful Fate, wasn’t where the legend began. Three years prior to Mercyful Fate’s debut release, King Diamond began his career with Black Rose, a Deep Purple/Kansas influenced band that cranked out original music as well as some select cover songs. On September 30th, 1980, a simple band rehearsal was caught on tape. Like the famous ocean liner Titanic, which sat at the bottom of the sea for decades before anyone ever saw it again, this recording remained hidden for twenty years before coming to the surface again.

While some bands dislike admitting to their early work, King Diamond is more than happy to share his pre-Mercyful Fate work with his loyal fans. “That’s because it has so much to do with…with me, of course,” King stated. “It’s the first band that I started singing in and it certainly is a different style. It’s very Deep Purple orientated because of the guitar/organ combination. Of course, that would bring that out in any music I guess. It’s also what I grew up listening to.”

Black Rose featured guitarist Jorn Bitcher, bassist Jesper Weber, drummer Kurt Jurgens, King Diamond on vocals, of course, and on the organ, Ib Enemark. This musicial unit all had the same basic idea, as King points out, “I don’t recall thinking a whole lot on analyzing a lot of things at that time. It was ideas…this sounds good or that sounds bad. Sure, we would like to become some famous band. We did get ahold of a professional manager who started getting us some gigs. But, to think we could actually live off of it, none of us had that on our minds at that time at all. We were mostly playing for fun. when you start getting some gigs though, you start getting that feeling…wow, this is cool (playing live). We started working on how we could make a really good show.”

An interesting fact…the music of Black Rose never made it into the bootleg circles, which is an amazing accomplishment, especially in this day and age where full length studio releases are in circulation before the actual album is released. “I’ve had the only tape all these years,” King explains, “I’ve played it every now and then because I still like to listen to it.” Although this historical collection of songs has finally been unleashed on the listening public, it wasn’t always meant to be. “It was never meant to be released,” King stated, “It was simply a night where we recorded our own songs. We used to play a lot of Deep Purple covers back then and there were other songs we played too. But, when we played live, we always played Purple covers and our own songs. We probably, on the night that this was recorded, had gone through all the Purple songs warming up.” So, when the tape began to roll, what was captured would be, not the Purple covers, but, the Black Rose originals…and, for the record, the ONLY recorded documentation of these songs and the one cover song, Golden Earring’s “Radar Love,” which became part of the Black Rose history thanks to, of all things, enough tape to capture the moment. King’s only regret is that these songs were never recorded “properly” in a studio due to lack of finances. But, that fact, along with the highly successful career that King Diamond has had as a solo artist and with Mercyful Fate, only serves to enhance the importance of the Black Rose recordings.

The idea to release the rehearsal tape was brought on last year when a friend of King Diamond, after hearing the music, suggested to him that it should be released. As King states, he said, “You can’t sit on that, you’ve gotta release that stuff. Other people will find that interesting. That’s part of your career. Because of those things that were said, I started to see it in a different light. You can hear where the roots are. It certainly gives an insight to where it all started and you can hear the voice, especially the falsetto, that’s not totally developed.” King also notes that, it wasn’t only the musical roots that could be heard on this recording. It was also the start of his use of makeup, which was still two/three years before Mercyful Fate would hit the scene.

It became clear that the only way to release this album was in a way that wouldn’t take anything away from it. “We couldn’t do much to it anyway,” King says, “No overdubs, no mistakes could be repaired. We could only master it and we started working on it. But, it started to take the rehearsal feel away and I didn’t like that. The way it sounds now is exactly the way it sounded in that room.”

And that sound, loyal King fans, is something that you’ll only hear on this release. There’s no plans for a Black Rose reunion and there’s no plans for any of these songs to be performed live with Mercyful Fate or during King’s solo tours. The release of Black Rose, plain and simple, is to showcase this work. Nothing more. “That’s the way I look at it,” King states, “It’s almost like a fan service.” And, for the record, this material is all that exists in the Black Rose history, there’s nothing else lying around that could be released, which, again, only serves to heighten the importance of this recording. “That’s it, ” King says, “Nothing else was ever recorded. That’s the only time we ever recorded, even though we played live. And the band before that was a band called Brainstorm and nothing was recorded with them.”

King looks back on this time with fond memories. The music of Black Rose remains special to him and that one moment, when the band was rocking and the tape was rolling, captured something magical, something that will forever have a place in musical history. A one of a kind release from an artist who is one of a kind himself. This is a MUST HAVE release for any true King Diamond or Mercyful Fate fan!

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