Hall of Fame Countdown: King Diamond’s Abigail

King Diamond and crew are currently slaying their way across the U.S. playing Abigail in its entirety, so what better time to break down our 84th entry into the Hall of Fame? (If you missed the February 2012 issue, you can purchase it here.) The vast majority of Decibel readers are undoubtedly well-acquainted with the King’s second post-Mercyful Fate LP, but in case you’ve headbanged yourself into long-term memory loss, a brief synopsis:

The first of many King Diamond concept albums, Abigail tells the tragic story of Jonathan LaFey and Miriam Natias, who move into an inherited mansion despite the fact that a squad of supernatural horsemen EXPLICITLY told them not to. On their first night in their new digs, Jonathan encounters the ghost of Count LaFey, who relays some supremely un-chill news: Miriam is harboring the spirit of a little girl named Abigail, who died stillborn after the Count discovered her mom was cheating on him and chucked her down a staircase.

The ghost warns Jonathan that he must kill Miriam in order to prevent the rebirth of this mummified doom child, but Jonathan is like, “Whatever, bro.” Time goes by and everything seems normal, but then the couple starts experiencing troubling omens: a church bell ringing on its own, a dining table that’s set for three and, the most telling sign of all, Miriam’s out-of-nowhere and rapidly accelerating pregnancy.

Jonathan realizes the ghost was telling the truth and plans to have a priest perform an exorcism on Miriam, but since she’s possessed by a sinister demon baby, she instead suggests that he repeat history and fling her down the stairs. Jonathan plays along and is about to trick Miriam/Abigail into descending into the family crypt, but he gets distracted by a star or some shit and she tosses him down the staircase. Miriam then gives birth to Abigail and subsequently dies, and the ghostly horsemen from the beginning come to the mansion and take Abigail to a hidden chapel in the forest, where they bury her with spikes through her body so she won’t resurrect…that is, until the King decided to revisit the tale 15 years later on Abigail II: The Revenge.

All that awesomeness is backed by stellar music from one of the best King Diamond line-ups ever: Mikkey Dee (Motorhead) on drums, Timi Hansen (Mercyful Fate) on bass, and Michael Denner (Mercyful Fate) and the immortal shred lord Andy LaRocque on guitars. Pair that with the King’s inimitable vocal performances and compelling lyrics, and you have the formula for one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time—one that’s fully deserving of its own tour 28 years after the fact!

Obviously, ranking Abigail from “best to worst” is somewhat of a fruitless endeavor since it’s a concept album and every song totally rules…but let’s do it anyway! It’s what Count LaFey would have wanted.

9. Funeral
This brings up the rear simply by virtue of being an intro rather than a proper song, but what a goddamn intro! The eerie keyboards set the perfect tone for what’s about to unfold, and King’s dramatic narration provides some info that’s important for the overall cohesiveness of the story. Also, I like to picture him sitting at a giant pipe organ wearing a Phantom of the Opera mask during that last arpeggiated part.

8. The Possession
“The Possession” has some pretty awesome guitar leads and King does a great job of playing numerous characters in less than four minutes, but it doesn’t really have a hook and it’s the shortest tune on the album, so it has to be near the bottom. Bonus points for making me think it’s Mötley Crüe every time it starts.

7. Omens
This mid-paced jam doesn’t have the most exciting riffs, but its fluid movement, scorching guitar solos and memorable chorus are more than enough to compensate. The haunted house keyboard breakdown in the middle is particularly awesome, and the lyrics feature the most straightforward section of the entire story: Jonathan and Miriam are being haunted by DEADLYYYYYYYYY OOOOOMENNNNNSSSSS.

6. Black Horsemen
Abigail’s closing track is also its most cinematic in terms of matching music to words—in just under eight minutes, Jonathan and Miriam bite the dust, Abigail is reborn, the Black Horsemen return to carry out the prophecy from “Funeral,” and all of those plot points are paired with epic riffs that shift dynamics based on what’s happening in the story. When Jonathan’s lollygagging leads to his untimely death, LaRocque and Denner are there with mournful acoustic guitar work, and when the horsemen take Abigail to the forest, the band accelerates to an appropriate gallop. Concept Song Writing 101.

5. The 7th Day of July 1777
“The 7th Day of July 1777” rules for three reasons: the epic acoustic intro, which further showcases the guitar chemistry that LaRocque and Denner shared in the ’80s; the classic, claws-gripping-your-brain chorus; and the delightfully expository lyrics, which give us the backstory we need to make sense of the events to come. Let us all make a pact to play this song every year on July 7th…and to stay as far away from staircases as possible.

4. Arrival
As Abigail’s first proper song, “Arrival” has the crucial task of setting the bar for the rest of the album…which it accomplishes in about five fucking seconds. The intro riff is one of the most recognizable of King Diamond’s entire career, and even without an earworm chorus or traditional structure, the song will forever be lodged in the brains of metalheads worldwide. Also, props for sticking a prog section right in the middle of a balls-out thrasher; that part fucks with my head every time I hear it.

3. Abigail
King and Co. saved their best riff for Abigail’s title track—the “Mercyful Fate by way of the Middle East” main theme should be written on parchment and enshrined in a museum. The solos on this song are absolutely bananas, especially the synth solo at the end. Guest musician Roberto Falcao’s subtle keys are integral for maintaining a creepy atmosphere throughout the album, but when he’s finally unleashed on the penultimate track, he turns in a shred-fest that sounds like Rick Wakeman channeling the tortured spirit of the Opera Ghost.

2. A Mansion in Darkness
This song is quintessential King Diamond: propulsive drumming frames obscenely catchy riffs and melodies that are punctuated by virtuosic solos that elicit endless bouts of air guitar-ing…all in the span of four-and-a-half minutes. The riff at 2:09 is a guaranteed neck snapper, and you’ll need the Jaws of Life to get the chorus sections out of your head after just one spin. AND THE HOUSE BEGAAAANNNN TO BREEEEEEATHE.

1. The Family Ghost
Aside from “Welcome Home,” King Diamond doesn’t have a tune that’s as instantly recognizable as “The Family Ghost.” Simply put, this is one of the best opening riffs in metal history, and it leads to four glorious minutes that sum up everything we love about the genre: energetic, dramatic and heavy as hell. Front to back, it doesn’t get much better…despite what Beavis and Butthead have to say.

King Diamond are currently on tour in the United States playing Abigail in its entirety. See the rest of the dates here.