The first time King Diamond performed on American soil was in 1984 while fronting Mercyful Fate; their first stop was in Portland, Oregon. Whether you know that fascinating trivia tidbit or not, if you're a part of Portland's metal community, you were either at King Diamond on Tuesday night, or deeply lamenting the fact that you weren’t. You could look in any direction in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and see members from any and every underground metal band in this city: Soul Grinder, Dark Castle, Cliterati, Shrine of the Serpent, Time Rift, Danava... I’ll stop, but I could keep going.
It was pleasing to see so many musicians in the community out in full force, but the most important local band in the building was Idle Hands. These hometown boys are on King Diamond’s tour package with Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. They’ve been playing fancy, ornate theaters like the Schnitz all over the country alongside the King—and rightfully so. You’ve got to be doing something right when your debut full-length (Mana) lands on Decibel Magazine’s Top 40 Albums Of 2019 list, and you’ve only been a band for less than two years.
Idle Hands confidently mounted the stage and warmed up the crowd with their dark, goth rock meets heavy metal. Imagine Iron Maiden sulking in a dank alley wearing a single, dangling earring and a Sisters of Mercy shirt while having a little cry, and that’s what Idle Hands sounds like. When they ripped into their recent single “Give Me to the Night,” they sounded and looked like stone-cold pros. During their set, it was also quite charming to hear friends and family yelling members of the band’s names to them between songs like they don’t know who they are. Thanks, grandma, but a lot of people know who these boys are by now.
Uncle Acid took the stage after Idle Hands, but I gotta be honest, Uncle Acid are kind of like Communism to me; if you’re listening to their recordings you could have a good time and get into their groovy, creep rock vibe, but when you’re actually living it, sadly it ain’t that great. I decided to cruise the halls looking for more Portland bands: Witch Vomit, Grave Dust, Hedless Pez, Petrification, Drouth…
King Diamond has played in Portland since his initial touchdown in 1984, but the way he was received when he was rolled out on a gurney by some hooded marauder, you’d think he was being resurrected right there on stage. The King repaid Portland’s raucous welcome with likely one of the most refined, theatrical, and dramatic performances by a heavy metal band the Schnitz has ever hosted.
The sense for performance and drama that King Diamond brings is something one typically can’t expect from a heavy metal band in the live setting. Sometimes there’s cool costumes and high energy to accompany the assault of a good metal show, but not storylines and flamboyant enactments of the song’s lyrics.
King Diamond is the king for a reason, and I hope he comes back to Portland again.