dB HoF NO. 84
Release date: 1987
Eighty-plus albums into this endeavor, no band has seen two of their albums inducted into the Decibel Hall of Fame. This may be as close as we get to doing that, since three-fifths of the lineup that played on King Diamond’s Abigail were members of Danish quintet Mercyful Fate, whose debut, Melissa, was inducted in issue #78. In fact, as you’ll learn more in-depth in this very feature, King Diamond (the band) was originally intended as a way for Mercyful Fate to get out of a bad recording contract.
However, fate would steer things in another direction. Guitarist Hank Shermann decided he was through with Mercyful Fate’s occult leanings and drummer Kim Ruzz became estranged from his bandmates, leaving vocalist King Diamond, guitarist Michael Denner and bassist Timi Hansen to carry on. They took the name King Diamond, found a young Swedish drummer by the name of Mikkey Dee and, in the middle of recording their debut, Fatal Portrait, enlisted a second guitarist (also Swedish) named Andy LaRocque.
We’re not here to celebrate that 1986 release, however. It’s the follow-up, 1987’s Abigail, where all the pieces came together. This is the album that solidified Diamond’s legend as not only one of the great metal vocalists of all time, but a great horror storyteller (and songwriter) with a flair for the dramatic. This was the first of King Diamond’s epic concept albums, and its success most certainly paved the way for the subsequent 10—including Abigail II—that followed.
Diamond had stirred up a hive of controversy in MF with his blatantly satanic lyrics (and frankness about his own satanic beliefs), but with this new band, he turned the focus away from Beelzebub and toward horror stories, where he could simply play the role of narrator, and wasn’t constantly saddled with having to address the whole Satan issue. This was, after all, the mid-’80s, when Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, Frank Zappa and others were brought in front of members of Congress (in Tipper Gore’s PMRC hearings) to explain the meaning of their “controversial” lyrics.
Because much of Mercyful Fate’s core writing lineup was still intact—augmented by the two talented Swedes—King Diamond were able to carry over that fan base, and they did so with a sound that was similar, but also quite unique. There were Diamond’s vocals, of course, but the music Denner, Diamond and LaRocque created eschewed their former band’s ’70s influences for more modern, progressive stylings. In Abigail we hear the beginnings of power metal, but its impact and influence has been broad across many subgenres. It’s an album that, shockingly, brought one of the most underground and (for the time) kvlt voices closer to mainstream acceptance—it was the first Roadrunner album to crack the Billboard 200—a creepy horror story set to an incredible soundtrack.
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