King Diamond

Abigail

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Widely recognized as King Diamond's solo masterpiece, Abigail is also unquestionably one of heavy metal's greatest concept albums. A passion for dark-themed theatrics had always qualified the work of the man formerly known as Kim Bendix Petersen before this release, and yet his band's debut from two years prior had merely hinted at the conceptual ambitions yet to come. So turn out the houselights, draw the curtains, and listen closely as King Diamond's synthetically altered voice introduces us to the witch Abigail La'Fey (in an obvious tribute to Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan) through -- fittingly enough -- her "Funeral." Moments later, proper musical opener "Arrival" introduces the familiar post-metal, semi-thrashing style over which Diamond will narrate his spine-tingling tale of horror, a tale which, in the process, conjures such career-topping compositions as the stunning "A Mansion in Darkness," the surprisingly clever "The Family Ghost," and the quite beautiful acoustics, orchestrations, and sound effects introducing "The 7th Day of July 1777." Ensuing highlights such as "The Possession," the title track, and the epic finale of "Black Horsemen" maintain the pattern of carefully structured lyrics, as they spell out in frightening detail Abigail's terrifying act of possession and demonic rebirth through the hapless leading couple's newborn child. By the time it's all screamed and done, it's safe to say Rosemary's Baby was no more gruesome! Also of note, musically speaking, ace future Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee matches incredible versatility and envious power for a command performance here, and one can noticeably hear guitarist Andy LaRocque nudging Diamond's erstwhile Mercyful Fate cohort Michael Denner out of the dual lead guitar equation with his inspired leads (he would soon assume an unchallenged position at the feet of the King's throne). As for the master of dark ceremonies himself, King Diamond, too, takes a quantum leap by subjecting his trademark falsettos to layer upon layer of multi-tracked harmonies, transforming what was previously an acquired taste for some into an overpowering and irresistible self-contained chorus sent straight from the pits of hell. Thanks to all of this, the combined quality of the words and music to be found on Abigail make it an exercise in goth metal storytelling that remains quite simply nonpareil -- among the living, at least. [Later reissued on compact disc with the bonus track "Shrine," Abigail was also paired with its predecessor, Fatal Portrait, for Roadrunner's Two from the Vault series.]

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