The Puppet Master is the 11th full-length studio album by multi-national heavy metal act King Diamond. The album was released in October 2003 through Metal Blade Records in the US and Massacre Records in Europe. The limited digipack edition comes with a bonus DVD, where King Diamond tells the story of The Puppet Master.
The music on the album is unmistakably the sound of King Diamond. Traditional heavy metal with power/ neo-classical metal elements and occasional thrash metal elements. King Diamond´s trademark high pitched and distinct singing style and a horror themed lyrical concept are also some of the usual ingredients that make up almost every album by the band.
As the title of the album suggests, the lyrics are about a Puppet Master. Through magic he puts the souls of humans into his puppets to make them more believable and thereby enhancing his reputation as a Puppet Master. The teller of the story is one of the victims who fall prey to the Puppet Master´s wife, who abducts him. His body is then torn apart and his soul installed into a puppet. Down in the Puppet Master´s basement he discovers that his old love who disappeared in the beginning of the story, is also a puppet. Their love blossoms even under these bizarre circumstances. They are then trained to act in the Puppet Master´s theater but ultimately Victoria, as the female puppet is called, is send away and the story ends with the storyteller being alone and tormented. So basically it´s a horror/ puppet love story.
The music is generally very well composed, but it´s seldom I´m really impressed. I think there are too many mid-paced riffs that are not memorable enough. I much prefer the faster-paced tracks like Magic and Living Dead. The guitar solos by guitarists Andy LaRoque and Mike Wead are one of the highlights of the album IMO. Fantastic shredding solos with lots of sense for melody. When those solos appear I almost forget that the songs aren´t always that intriguing. King Diamond´s singing style is of the kind that people either find really exciting or completely turns people off. While his vocals are good on this album it´s not one of his most adventurous performances IMO. He varies his vocal style a lot on the album, but it´s like I´ve heard it all before. A bit too much routine. The addition of female singer Livia Zita, who pops up a couple of times during the album´s playing time, is great for the variation and of course her vocal lines are integrated to the lyrical concept.
The musicianship is overall excellent, but I´m not too impressed by drummer Matt Thomson. It´s not that he isn´t skilled because he certainly is, it´s his style I´m not too fond of. It´s like he takes energy out of the music instead of putting energy into the music.
The lifeless production doesn´t help on that impression I´m afraid. For the life of me I can´t understand how King Diamond with all their experience chose a production like this. It´s been a problem for a couple of albums now and quite frankly I´m getting tired of this. The production is professional but I don´t think it brings out the best in the music like it´s supposed to.
Even though I have several complaints about The Puppet Master, it´s still overall a very good album. Even when King Diamond make albums that are sub par to their best releases, they still make albums that are above average and that´s actually pretty impressive. A 3.5 star rating is warranted.