King Diamond – Abigail
Released February 24th, 1987 on Roadrunner Records
Man, Mercyful Fate. For an up-and-coming metalhead like I was in 1996-1997, there was nothing quite like discovering them. My first exposure was either through Metallica’s Garage Inc. (where the band covered five Mercyful Fate songs) or through an old Metal Blade compilation we used to blast while playing euchre. Either way, they were a quick favourite of mine, and why not? They had great riffs, their imagery was over-the-top, and those vocals! Kim Bendix Peterson, with his operatic range, seemed to summon up long-dead ghosts every time he opened his mouth. I was a little defeated when I learned that the band had only recorded two albums before breaking up, but re-energized when I found out that the vocalist – the mighty King Diamond – had gone solo and taken the guitarist and bassist from Mercyful Fate with him.
The band’s first album – 1986’s Fatal Portrait – sold well, but Abigail is their first bona fide classic. For one thing, it’s the band’s first concept album, a trope they would continue through the rest of their releases. While some of their later stories would get a bit esoteric, Abigail is a classic ghost story, about a couple in the mid-Nineteenth Century who inherit a haunted house and are slowly destroyed by it over the course of the album. Miriam, the woman who’d moved in, is pregnant with the spirit of the old owner’s stillborn child, Abigail, and the possessed child will wreak untold havoc. After a series of bad omens, ominous foreboding, and ghostly encounters, all hell breaks loose. It is, in short, metal as fuck.
Said metalness is borne out by the music the narration is carried on. The band takes the basic sound of Mercyful Fate and expands on it. Heavy guitar riffs are rendered heavier by space, reverb, and better production. The drums punch through the mix in precisely the right fashion, and newcomer Andy LaRocque’s guitar work glows in the dark, like uranium fireflies in the darkest part of the forest. The focus is, naturally, on King Diamond’s soaring voice, and despite what my Cannibal Corpse-loving guitar teacher once thought, there’s really no finer vehicle for ghostly destruction than his soured-opera-gone-Satanic delivery. The fact that such a chilling, disturbing story can be paired with such a great package of post-thrash metal is exactly why King Diamond has continued to endure over three decades.