20 Years Ago: A Night Of Rehearsal

King Diamond & Black Rose

Metal Blade Records, 2001


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Before King Diamond made his mark on the world of heavy metal, both with Mercyful Fate and as a solo artist, he was leaving a scar on the face of Denmark with the group Black Rose. While many people might not know of Diamond's pre-Mercyful Fate work, Diamond seems to recall his days with this band fondly - borne out by his liner notes to 20 Years Ago: A Night Of Rehearsal, a previously-unreleased session of Black Rose literally practicing together.

If you pick up this disc expecting to hear some early form of Mercyful Fate, you are going to be in for a shock. What you're instead presented with is a band whose inspiration comes heavily from Deep Purple (especially in the instrumentation). Also, Diamond does not often use the falsetto he has become synonymous for, instead allowing his still-developing vocals to carve their own unique path across the songs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

No lyrics to the songs are provided in the liner notes, so I'm at a bit of a loss when it comes to taking songs like "Virgin," "Kill For Fun" and "Doctor Cranium" and comparing them to Diamond's later musical output. What can be said about Black Rose is that they did show their skill more often than you might expect, and this rehearsal recording, despite some technical weaknesses (like not having Diamond mixed up high enough), is surprisingly clear. Why Black Rose never got more notice outside of Denmark can be debated; maybe the rest of the world wasn't ready for the violent stage show which predated some of W.A.S.P.'s antics. But they just might have had a good chance at being on the cutting edge of the second wave of heavy metal coming across the sea to America.

So what makes this disc so special? Possibly it's the rawness of the setting and the human aspect of recording - even including the false starts and band conversation (albeit in Danish; Diamond translates in the liner notes). Possibly it's the bare energy of a band who knows they have what it takes to get somewhere. Possibly it's the near-note perfect cover of Golden Earring's "Radar Love" that closes out the disc. Whatever the case, this is a disc well worth your time.

Even today, just over 20 years after this rehearsal was recorded for posterity, the music sounds incredibly fresh. Maybe it's because almost all of the civilized world has not had time to get adjusted to what Black Rose was doing, or maybe it's because the songwriting was strong, even back then. But 20 Years Ago: A Night Of Rehearsal is the kind of disc that gives the listener an interesting glance into Diamond's musical past, with only a few hints at what path he would take in just a few short years.

Rating: B

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.