King Diamond

Fatal Portrait

King Diamond - Fatal Portrait ©1986 Roadrunner
1. The Candle
2. The Jonah
3. The Portrait
4. Dressed In White
5. Charon
6. Lurking In The Dark
7. Halloween
8. Voices From The Past
9. Haunted
10. No Presents For Christmas
11. The Lake

Following the sudden death of Mercyful Fate, former members King Diamond, guitarist Michael Denner and bassist Timi Hansen joined with drummer Mikkey Dee and Swedish guitar god Andy La Rocque to form a new band called King Diamond. La Rocque eventually became a major songwriting contributor and is the only original member of the band today besides King himself, but interestingly enough he was not the first choice. Floyd Constantine, the man originally given the honors, was dismissed before any recordings were made due to his lack of discipline.

Fatal Portrait is a transition album, keeping some elements of the Mercyful Fate sound while adding new components that would ultimately define King Diamond's own. His conceptual lyrics are first used here, encompassing the first four tracks and "Haunted" in to a mini audio horror film. This experiment worked so well that most of the following albums would all be completely conceptual. Diamond's operatic vocals were used much more than before, adding a theatrical element to the unfolding story.

The opening trio of "The Candle," "The Jonah," and "The Portrait," all written by King Diamond, are the best representation of where the future would take the band. Each is extremely dark with eerie melodies, over the top vocals, and unconventional song structures that forgo the traditional "verse-chorus-verse" arrangement. "Charon" and "Halloween," co-written by Diamond and Denner, combine a Mercyful Fate atmosphere with hard rock resulting in instantly catchy metal anthems. CD bonus track "The Lake" is hauntingly beautiful with a perfect chorus, and "No Presents For Christmas," originally released as a single in the winter of '85, combines metal and humor in a way that lets both shine through.

For a Mercyful Fate fan like me, this is the best of the King Diamond albums because it has the most in common with the awesome Melissa and Don't Break The Oath. Some devotees of King Diamond would disagree, seeing Fatal Portrait as more of a jumping off point. Whatever the nitpicking differences, this is a great album of '80's dark metal that is well worth the purchase if you missed it the first time around.

Review by Scott Wilcox

Review date: 09/1999

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King Diamond - Abigail ©1987 Roadrunner
1. Funeral
2. Arrival
3. A Mansion In Darkness
4. The Family Ghost
5. The 7th Day Of July 1777
6. Omens
7. The Possession
8. Abigail
9. Black Horsemen
10. Shrine
11. A Mansion In Darkness (Rough Mix)
12. The Family Ghost (Rough Mix)
13. The Possession (Rough Mix)

The same lineup that produced '86's Fatal Portrait returned in '87 with what is arguably the definitive King Diamond album, Abigail. On this album, the split is complete. No longer is the King Diamond band just the leftovers from Mercyful Fate; they have their own identity and sound. Like most of the following releases, Abigail is a concept album, relating a gothic horror tale of a demon child that returns nearly 70 years after her death to possess the new mistress of the family estate.

Musically Abigail demonstrates the new direction of the band, matching the drama of the story with a theatrical sound and the King's operatic vocals (which are fully formed here; falsetto haters stay away!). King wrote the majority of the album, and his songs are less concerned with the traditional verse-chorus-verse arrangement than with creating an epic sound that increases the atmosphere of the tale. His vocal acrobatics not only amaze but help to portray all of the different characters in the story. Guitar wizard Andy La Rocque contributes two songs, "A Mansion In Darkness" and "The 7th Day of July 1777." These are more instantly catchy than King's more arty style and showcase La Rocque's skills to perfection. Michael Denner throws in some of the old Mercyful Fate feeling with "The Possession," giving just the right amount of demonic presence to the package. The remastered version contains B-side "Shrine" as well as three rough mixes of songs on the album with different vocal tracks which differ only slightly from the final versions.

Abigail is an enjoyable album, but I have a general problem with King Diamond. In most cases, it is the story that engages me and not so much the music. It is my feeling that in his efforts to create a creative storyline, King sometimes writes "good" songs instead of "great" ones. Certainly a song like "Abigail" is a classic, but others like "Omens" and "The Family Ghost" just miss the mark, and are only valuable to the album because of their lyrics. For this reason, I'm glad La Rocque is around to provide a few extra gems per album, as his contributions usually raise the musical quality immensely.

Despite what many believe, Mercyful Fate and King Diamond are two totally separate entities and fans of one may not enjoy the other as much. If you are curious, I suggest picking this up. If you like Abigail, you will love the rest of King's work; if not, you might as well save your money for something else.

Review by Scott Wilcox

Review date: 09/1999

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House Of God

King Diamond - House Of God ©2000 Metal Blade
1. Upon The Cross
2. The Trees Have Eyes
3. Follow The Wolf
4. House Of God
5. Black Devil
6. The Pact
7. Goodbye
8. Just A Shadow
9. Help!!!
10. Passage To Hell
11. Catacomb
12. This Place Is Terrible

In music, it is a truism that long-lived bands will sooner or later run out of ideas and sour, and despite fan protests, King Diamond is no exception. His latest, House of God is a halfhearted, passionless, by-the-numbers release that briefly hints at past glory, but ultimately reveals to the listener the totality of their fall. Of course the album's best moments should undoubtedly satisfy most long-time devotees. Time however, will not be so kind on this release, in my opinion.

The man known as King Diamond, as we have come to expect, sings a medley of techniques, from growls and "evil" baritones to his piercing, high falsettos. His voice is surprisingly strong for his age, and although his inflections and histrionics are random to a fault, few people expect him to learn new tricks this late in the game. For sure, the musical spotlight is on his voice and lyrics, the "accompanying" thrash guitars sometimes harmonizing with his vocals and often in sync with the rhythm of his verses. The guitar lines themselves are varied and crafted with "diamond-like" precision, but unfortunately lack the spontaneity and vigor of past King Diamond and Mercyful Fate releases.

House of God is intended to be a concept album, a telling of the iconoclastic theory (championed by Laurence Gardner among others) that Jesus survived the crucifixion and went on to father a noble dynasty with Mary Magdalene. The lyrics themselves are a fictionalized account of a person who stumbled upon and uncovered the "truth"; perhaps King Diamond was inspired by a certain Gabriel Knight 3 computer game? At any rate, aside from a few quality numbers, such as the title track and "Black Devil", this boring album goes in one ear and out the other. Not recommended.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 09/2000

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King Diamond And Black Rose: 20 Years Ago - A Night Of Rehearsal

King Diamond - King Diamond And Black Rose: 20 Years Ago - A Night Of Rehearsal ©2001 Metal Blade
1. Locked Up In The Snow
2. Holy Mountain Lights
3. Crazy Tonight
4. Virgin
5. Kill For Fun
6. The End
7. Road Life
8. Soul Overture
9. Doctor Cranium
10. Disgrace
11. I Need Blood
12. Radar Love

This is the type of attic treasures that are sure to please any fan of King Diamond. The story behind this CD is pretty straightforward. King Diamond's original band back in Denmark was called Black Rose, which was a five piece band playing a style of music highly influenced by some of the 70s prog rock bands like Kansas and Deep Purple (both of which are the most obvious influences on this recording). This particular recording comes from a practice session from September of 1980. Although it was recorded direct to two-track, it is of rather amazing quality and captures the band very nicely. Metal Blade has now put this practice tape to disc and King Diamond has written some interesting liner notes about Black Rose as well as the songs on this disc. The result is a great bit of history of one of metal's more prominent singers. The songs Black Rose played weren't too far off from where their influences finished and King Diamond's vocals were already seeking out his infamous falsetto. Fortunately for my ears, his vocals are buried in the mix. The keyboards are straight out of Deep Purple while the guitarist contributes a lot of great licks throughout. The songs are energetic and rollicking, suggesting this band could have had a bit of a future had they stuck it out. The recording also keeps between songs chat intact and if you can understand Danish, you might be amused. Regardless, this is one excellent historical document and should be required listening for any King Diamond fan.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2001

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