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Released way back in 1987, King Diamond's 'Abigail' is a concept album based around numerology and possession by spirits, no less, played in the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) style. It comes across like a creepier, darker version of Iron Maiden, complete with rousing dynamic heavy metal riffs and some excellent melodic solos. Each song continues the album's narrative, which is a Hammer Horror style ghost-tale set in the 18th century complete with multiple characters each with their own lines. Both story and dialogue are voiced by vocalist King Diamond via a mix of rasped/growled narration and insanely high pitched, Bruce-Dickinson-with-hits-nuts-in-a-vice falsetto vocals, which soar above the music on each track. These are more extreme even that Rob Halford's efforts with Judas Priest, and likely won't appeal to everybody, but their execution is unquestionably excellent throughout and nobody can suggest that King Diamond isnt a hugely talented singer.
The album has a dark and unsettling atmosphere to it and the band would go on to have a huge influence on a large number of more extreme metal bands, both musically (eg Dissection) and vocally (eg Anaal Nathrakh). There's plenty of musical variation throughout the albums duration, with each song sounding entirely memorable after just one listen, and here and there the band incorporate folky semi-acoustic sections, eerie backing synths and passages of spanish guitar, as well as mixing middle-eastern-sounding guitar scales and metal on one track to create a style wholly reminiscient of modern day Israeli black/thrash metal group Melechesh.
There's really nothing I can think of to criticise on this album, as everything comes together perfectly to create a true heavy metal classic. Casual listeners might complain that the vocals sound rather silly, and in truth they do, but they are so brilliantly performed and so incredibly difficult not to sing along to that the band gets away with it where few others would.
The eerie artwork is great too, and the remastered version comes with four bonus songs in the form of one new track and demo versions of three of the album's songs, all of which are well worth a listen.
A classic heavy metal album and a must for fans of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate and Dissection.
1. Funeral 01:30
2. Arrival 05:27
3. A Mansion In Darkness 04:34
4. The Family Ghost 04:06
5. The 7th Day Of July 1777 04:50
6. Omens 03:57
7. The Possession 03:26
8. Abigail 04:51
9. Black Horsemen 07:39
10. Shrine 04:23
11. A Mansion in Darkness (rough mix) 04:35
12. The Family Ghost (rough mix) 04:09
13. The Possession (rough mix) 03:28
Total playing time 56:55
Danish band King Diamonds Abigail is a staple of horror movie heavy metal, and is the most impressive of the former Mercyful Fate frontmans solo releases (aided in no small part by lead guitarist Andy LaRocque and the other musicians accompanying the Kings torturous multi-octave wails). These nine very cool songs tell the gothic ghost story of a house under a horrific curse, narrated in part by the ghost of Count LaFey, who threw his pregnant wife down the stairs to kill her bastard daughter Abigail. But the stillborn corpse intends to wreak its revenge on the houses occupiers forevermore, and the album begins, as King Diamond himself helpfully screeches in the opening song, in the summer of 1845.
The concept is entertaining and the music strangely fitting, in a hairy eighties heavy rock kind of way. One of metals most intriguing frontmen, the music always takes second place to King Diamonds extreme vocals and shock rock stage act (I can reveal that his inevitably disappointing real name is Kim Petersen), but these early albums manage to strike something of a balance. Abigail is by far the finest and less ridiculous of these, and many of the songs still form a vital part of the bands live set to this day. Only its successor Them is a worthy rival in terms of album concept and lyrics, concerning itself entirely with a boys fear of his insane grandma.
The story is told in an appropriately gothic manner, beginning in the present day of 1845 and proceeding in the albums second half to delve into the terrible events of 1777 before returning to the present for the necessary tragic ending.
Andy LaRocques guitars are exceptional on this album, and would never sound as good again. Most tracks are led by a distinctive and memorable lead riff, while the albums more tender or sinister moments explore equally skilful acoustic territory. Arrival is perhaps the highlight of the album as the powerful opener (after the relatively short introduction track), while the epic finale Black Horsemen is the albums technical peak. King Kim Diamonds distinctive vocals may take some time to get used to, and may indeed be either the most incredible or most preposterous high screams youve ever heard, as he unashamedly strives to outdo Halford, Dio, Dickinson and the rest of the screeching frontmen that made the eighties so cool (I guess. I cant remember much about that decade aside from Postman Pat).
With albums so heavily involved in a concept, there always comes the danger of filler material that the writer finds it necessary to include for the good of the story at a cost to the listeners entertainment (Pink Floyds The Wall is probably the most famous example of this, ending up a whole disc too long). Abigail avoids this, as every song holds its own; aside from Funeral, basically an introductory set-up to the story told by Diamond in an unsettling, distorted rasp, the album could be enjoyed whether the listener gives two hoots about the concept or not. They should though, as the over-the-top horror show theatrics sound a lot more entertaining when grounded in a plot like this, even if it is pretty predictable and unoriginal.
King Diamond went on to release the unnecessary sequel Abigail II almost twenty years later, but like all of the bands releases since they hit the 90s, it holds very little of interest. The self-appointed Kings first three albums are his finest, the logical extension of the genre-defining stuff he did with Mercyful Fate in the early 80s before they wimped out, and should be easily enjoyed by fans of like-minded bands. Abigail fuses the sound of Judas Priest with the manic stage presence of Alice Cooper or Arthur Brown, but ends up the least accessible of the lot.
3. A Mansion in Darkness
4. The Family Ghost
5. The 7th Day of July 1777
7. The Possession
9. Black Horsemen
Disc #1 Tracklisting
3 Mansion In Darkness
4 Family Ghost
5 7th Day Of July 1777
9 Black Horsemen
11 Mansion In Darkness
12 Family Ghost