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Fatal Portrait (1986)

In early 1985, following the tour for Don't Break the Oath, Mercyful Fate split up. The prime reason seemed to be creative differences between King and Hank Shermann. Along with Michael Denner and Timi Hansen, King Diamond embarked upon a solo career that would carry on the same musical tradition, with some new elements, and also saw the Satanic black metal of Mercyful Fate replaced with a horror concept. King Diamond's debut album, Fatal Portrait, was written entirely by King and Michael Denner, with no input from new guitarist, Andy LaRocque.

This was the second King Diamond album that I obtained, just weeks after acquiring The Eye. It was a cold night in November, and I experienced this masterpiece, for the first time, with only a few candles illuminating the room. There was just enough light for me to follow along with the lyrics. It took several months before I gave this album even a moment's rest.

Several of the musical influences utilized by Mercyful Fate are still present on this album, particularly the complex song structures, inspired by early Black Sabbath, along with the speed metal that was typical of the era. “The Candle”, “Dressed in White” and “Haunted” all possess these highly complex structures. However, more straight-forward songs such as “Halloween”, “Lurking in the Dark” and “Charon” are a bit of a departure from the old days.

Fatal Portrait is unique, within the King Diamond catalogue, as it is not a full concept album. The story is only present in about half the songs, indicating that this may have been somewhat of an experiment. Of course, the works that followed this were full concept albums.

"The Candle" begins with sounds befitting a horror score. The keyboard intro goes well with the Hellish vocals that lead into a haunting organ piece. It very well may serve to raise the hair on the back of your neck. As the guitars and drums come in, it is apparent that this is the legacy of Mercyful Fate. King's vocals create an eerie effect before actually singing. Throughout the album, his mostly utilizes falsetto, and it really suits the music. The song is mid-paced, maintaining the atmosphere of horror. As with Mercyful Fate, the riffs are very epic, and listening to this gives one the feeling of going on some sort of journey back in time. The solo is beyond words.

"The Jonah" features another horrific intro and a demonic voice, continuing the same wicked mood as the previous song. Again, King uses his vocals as an instrument, in place of keyboards, to add an eerie melody. This song is mid-paced as well, and just as epic as its predecessor. The riffs are very memorable and the atmosphere is dark and haunting. After a few minutes, the pace picks up, accompanied by wicked solos. These brilliant riffs would not have been out of place on Don't Break the Oath.

"The Portrait" begins with a brief keyboard passage, for effect, before kicking in with a bit of a faster pace than the previous songs. Another hellish solo rears its head, rising from the flames. As the story progresses, this song carries a feeling of urgency and creates some tension. It is impossible for me to understand why many people consider this as the weakest King Diamond album. This is my personal favorite and, regarding the old albums, I'd say that "Them" is the true weak link (mostly due to the production). The vocal melodies here are just as important as the guitars and King does an excellent job here.

"Dressed In White" is next and continues with a similar pace as before, not quite fast but not as slow as the first two. The rhythm of the song is, somewhat, reminiscent of Iron Maiden. That is absolutely not a bad thing. The solos are incredible and the vocals are without fault.

The next song, "Charon", is a bit more raw than the previous ones, featuring a thrashy riff, early one. Again, due to the brilliant guitars and vocal melodies, this song maintains the same epic feeling that is present on the rest of the album, despite being relatively short. This song also features a riff that sounds very similar to the main riff in "Abigail", around the two minute mark. The solo, near the end, is godly. That seems to be a recurring theme with this band.

"Lurking in the Dark" has been a staple of my radio show, throughout the last seven years. It begins with a thrashy riff and inhuman howling, followed by a killer solo. King's high-pitched vocals are really the highlight of this song. The chorus is nothing short of amazing. One of the faster songs on the album, though not really that fast, this song also features some double bass, for a bit. It's also not short on great solos. This is great music for driving in the middle of the night, on a deserted road, with cold winds blowing in the open window.

"Halloween" is another great track. The riffs and the feeling in the vocals are incredible. It sounds as if this song, in particular, was quite enjoyable for them to record. There's an extra bit of passion that shows in King's vocals, on this one. Just listening to this makes me want to sit down, for several hours, as my eyes feast upon classic horror movies, such as the original Halloween, as well as anything with Bela Lugosi.

"Voices From the Past" is a short instrumental piece that serves to take the modd down a few notches, creating a darker atmosphere than the previous songs. The guitar on this one is played by King, himself, as Andy was just unable to master the riffs that were written. This song is eerie and leads, perfectly, into the next song.

"Haunted" returns to the storyline and concludes this horrific tale. It maintains the dark feeling and even features some acoustic sections. The solo work is very deep and adds yet another dimension to this classic album.

"The Lake" is one of my favorite King Diamond songs, ever. The galloping pace and the piercing vocals accompany some of the most memorable riffs on the album. The melodies are absolutely haunting and will remain in the dark recesses of your mind, long after the album has ended. Not featured on the original release, for some reason, this song possesses the same epic feeling as the rest. I can't fathom why this one was kept on the shelf. Even the way the song ends serves as a very appropriate way to conclude an album.

Fatal Portrait does well to carry on the spirit of Mercyful Fate, while giving birth to something new as well. This album is the bridge between Don't Break the Oath and Abigail. In my view, it's tied with the latter as the best King Diamond album ever recorded...far from being the 'weak' album that many seem to label it as. If you don't own this classic, throw yourself off a cliff. Hopefully, the jagged rocks, beneath, will knock some sense into you.

(31 Oct. 2008)


While Fatal Portrait felt, in some ways, to be connected with Don't Break the Oath, the final traces of Mercyful Fate seem to have faded with that L.P. Released in October 1987, the iconic Abigail is often considered to be the definitive King Diamond record. Unlike the previous full-length, the band's second outing is a full concept album, and features minimal input from guitarist Michael Denner, while Andy LaRocque gets a few credits for the first time. For various reasons, Abigail feels like the real starting point for King Diamond's 'solo' career.

The music is very dynamic and goes well with the story being told. The songwriting is brilliant, as is the arrangement. Each idea flows into the next, flawlessly, as does each song, one after the other. Every riff, solo and vocal line is exactly as it should be. King's falsetto style was never again used to such perfection. For some, this can be a dealbreaker and you either love or hate his vocals. For me, his voice is best at a high volume, enough to shatter your skull. He does a great job adding drama to the proceedings, and many of the vocal lines are as powerful and memorable as the riffs themselves. Unlike later albums, such as the awful "Them", each composition is strong enough to stand on its own, rather than only working as part of a greater whole as is often the case with concept albums.

The production is very clear and powerful, suiting this style of music. It definitely lacks the slight murkiness that was present on Fatal Portrait, sounding as if the band had quite a budget to work with. My personal preference tends to lean more toward the debut but, that said, there's really nothing wrong with Abigail. King Diamond's first two records definitely deserve to be considered classics and are highly recommended.
(21 Oct. 2016)


Released in June 1988, "Them" is the third full-length from King Diamond and the first since the departure of guitarist Michael Denner. Though often praised by critics, this is actually the weakest record from King Diamond's classic era. From the songwriting to the theme to the production itself, various elements combine to make this a rather mediocre and forgettable L.P.

"Them" really sticks out like a sore thumb, when compared to the likes of Abigail, Conspiracy and even The Eye. The production is very weak and flat, lacking the power and dynamics of the aforementioned records. Strangely, this sort of sound was used once again, years later, on The Spider's Lullabye. The change in studios was not the only detriment.

As with its predecessor, "Them" is a concept album, but one that really misses its mark. I'm not generally a fan of concept albums in the first place, but Abigail was much better in terms of the story and the songwriting. On that record, each song is still strong enough to stand on its own, musically. However, "Them" seems to contain a lot of filler, only there to serve the dull storyline. As well, King's vocals seem to have jumped the shark a bit, with the range of voices going too over-the-top, especially considering that he is screaming about a mentally-ill grandmother and cups of tea. It's just impossible to take any of this seriously.

Regarding the music itself, the best song on here is "The Accusation Chair". This is the only one on here that I feel could easily stand on its own, apart from the album as a whole. "Welcome Home" and "Mother's Getting Weaker" have their moments, though the chorus (and title) of the latter is just unbearably lame. The rest is just incredibly dull and pointless. The riffs feel interchangeable and there's hardly any real focus. Most of the material on here just serves as a generic backdrop to the idiotic story and plethora of voices. This feels like something that was just thrown together in a hurry.

"Them" has long been overrated by those with a less discerning taste. This represents a real drop in quality from Abigail. When exploring the classic albums from King Diamond, be sure to skip over this one and move on to Conspiracy. There's not much of value here.
(28 Oct. 2016)


King Diamond's fourth full-length, Conspiracy, was released through Roadrunner Records in August 1989. This L.P. features the same lineup as its predecessor and was recorded at the same studio, but is vastly superior. The feeling from Fatal Portrait and Abigail is definitely gone forever, but this is a very solid album.

Conspiracy continues the story from "Them" and, though the first part seemed quite weak, turns out to be a much more interesting concept this time around. Unlike the previous album, none of the tracks here feel like filler that only exist to prop up the lyrics. While some songs are certainly stronger than others, each one is able to stand on its own. The album is filled with very epic riffs and memorable vocal lines, especially the opening track "At the Graves". The much more robust production really suits the material, as well. The guitars sound much more dynamic, as opposed to the flat sound of "Them". In a sense, the guitars are more geared toward the large-budget stadium rock sound, reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne's No Rest for the Wicked. It's heavier, but not in the same way as an album like Abigail, which had a sharper and more metallic guitar tone.

Musically, the compositions here are miles ahead of those found on "Them". The aforementioned "At the Graves" is just a massive beast, perhaps a little too long, but still a monumental track and a good one from which to build the rest of the album. Songs like "Sleepless Nights", "Amon Belongs to Them" and "Victimized" are bursting with the same sort of energetic riffs that will easily hold your interest. As well, King's voice is still in good form here and provides a lot of memorable moments. "A Visit from the Dead" may be the most melodic and complex track on here, along with "Something Weird". It begins with a quiet section that then gives way to some very Abigail-esque riffs. These combine with King's haunting falsetto screams to create a rather dire feeling. "Let It Be Done" and "Cremation" also do well to maintain the horror vibe.

While it cannot compare to the first two records, Conspiracy unquestionably deserves to be considered part of King Diamond's classic period. It's a very solid album that does well to correct the mistakes made on the previous release. After the very first listen, it's quite likely that many of these riffs and vocal lines will remain in your head for a while. Though none of the tracks can really match up to the intense and epic opener, there's not a bad song on here. This is definitely recommended.
(19 Nov. 2016)


The fifth King Diamond L.P. was recorded in Sweet Silence Studio (of Ride the Lightning fame) and released in October 1990. As with Conspiracy, this album pales in comparison to Fatal Portrait or Abigail; however, The Eye was my first King Diamond album, so it holds a fair amount of sentimental value.

It was a cold October night when a girlfriend of mine came by to interrupt my homework. In her bag, she had a handful of CDs, some of which I was either already familiar with and others that seemed entirely uninteresting. One album stood out, however, that being The Eye. For whatever reason, though I loved the old Mercyful Fate material, I'd not bothered to seek out any of King Diamond's 'solo' albums. Upon hearing the opening riffs and vocals of "Eye of the Witch", I was hooked.

The best songs on this record feature very memorable riffs, quite similar to Conspiracy. Nevertheless, with the abundance of keyboards and clean guitars that are utilized throughout the album, The Eye comes off as a but softer than its predecessor. Tracks like "The Trial (Chambre Ardente)" and "Two Little Girls" are fairly weak and are yet another example of how concept albums tend to let the story dictate the flow of things, rather than the music itself. Placing these, essentially, 'throwaway tracks' so close to the beginning of the L.P. really kills the momentum before it even had a chance to build. Some of the other songs don't seem fully strong enough to stand on their own, like "Into the Convent" and "Father Picard". In fact, this is probably true of every track aside from the opener and "Behind These Walls". That said, despite a few speed bumps, the album works really well as a whole. The Eye still possesses a strong '80s metal feel, due to the style of riffs and the solos. King's voice is also in good condition on this recording, with some quite infectious vocal lines, such as those found in the aforementioned "Behind These Walls" and "The Curse". Special mention should be made of the brief instrumental track, "Insanity". It does so well to create a really sombre atmosphere and its placement on the album works very well.

The Eye marks the end of King Diamond's classic period. The strongest songs on here are probably "Eye of the Witch", "Behind These Walls" and "1642 Imprisonment". Truth be told, The Eye is an album that is much more effective when listened to in its entirety. Though it might be difficult to properly assess this record, due to the nostalgia factor, it would be fair to say that it's a solid release and definitely worth checking out.
(28 Nov. 2016)


In some ways, The Spider's Lullabye marks the beginning of the second era of King Diamond. It was the first album that the band had released in several years, and it featured a new vocal approach (among the various styles employed, here) that would come to dominate later albums. Yet it also signifies the end of the first era, as this music was already written years earlier, set to be released in 1991. Due to the poor promotion received by The Eye, sales weren't so good and things came to a halt. Finally, in late 1994, the band began recording their first album for Metal Blade Records. The Spider's Lullabye was released in June 1995.

Already a big fan of King Diamond, I was somewhat excited by the prospect of hearing this album. The first song I was exposed to was the title track, and it did nothing for me. As a matter of fact, I'd written this one off, entirely, based on that one song. It wasn't until several years later that I gave it another chance and listened to it, in its entirety. My overall opinion changed, though I was still rather skeptical. I recognized that there were a couple of really good songs on here, though still neglected the rest. Gradually, the album grew on me. There are still some elements that I could do without, but I eventually came to appreciate this album for what it was. I wouldn't rank it up there with Fatal Portrait or Abigail, by any means, but it still contains some strong material and should not be ignored.

It all begins with "From the Other Side", which is one of the best songs on here. The guitar tone is rather similar to "Them", in a way, being a little less powerful than the last two records. Keyboards are utilized in a minimalist manner, giving some strange 70s feeling. It's just enough to accentuate the music and add to the atmosphere, without taking away from anything. Vocals are in the typical King Diamond falsetto, along with the more mid-ranged style he used in Mercyful Fate. This is a hell of a song to open the album, and it's filled with memorable riffs and vocal melodies.

The next song is "Killer". At this point, one may notice that this release breaks the tradition of the last several albums, in that it isn't a full concept album. Only the last four tracks are tied together. This is similar to how Fatal Portrait wasn't completely dominated by one theme. As the beginning of the second era, this is quite fitting. At any rate, this song starts out with a riff that wouldn't have been out of place on the aforementioned "Them". After a few seconds, this changes and it progresses with, somewhat, weaker riffs. The vocal lines are still memorable, but this song is nowhere near as strong as the first. It's not bad, but nothing exceptional.

"The Poltergeist" is my favorite song on here. It begins with a keyboard melody, that creates an eerie vibe. The first verse adds to this feeling, greatly. This song is concise, catchy and very memorable. Most importantly, it has a lot of atmosphere. I find that the lyrics are stronger since this isn't simply a single chapter in a longer story. Midway through, there's a great effect that is done with the guitar, which imitates an old, creaky door slowly opening. This is, definitely, the one that will remain with you the longest, after the first listen.

The riffs and even vocal lines from "Dreams" sound quite a bit like they could have easily fit into the last few albums. It's not hard to tell that this music was written years earlier, as the songs on here are so far removed from what would be heard on The Graveyard. This is another catchy song, that's neither fast nor slow, really. It has its memorable moments, though it may be overshadowed by the previous song (or the one that follows, for that matter).

"Moonlight" starts with some killer, epic riffs but does feature some kind of weak, uptempo feeling to the bridge. However, this isn't really worth complaining about. The solo is very fitting and the keyboards imitate the sound of an organ, so the atmosphere is there. Again, the riffs really do maintain ties with the two or three albums that preceded this one.

Side B begins with "Six Feet Under", which I've read was a cut chapter from Conspiracy, so I wonder if the music dates back to that album as well. Judging by the sound, it would seem to be a possibility. This one features faster and, somewhat, more intense riffs that some of the other songs. Of course, King's vocal lines are hauntingly memorable. Everything about this is spot on, as this is one of the stronger songs on here.

"The Spider's Lullabye" starts with the keyboard and a creepy vocal approach. This works well to establish an eerie atmosphere. This is also the first song where King unleashed his newer vocal style, which is what always turned me off about this. Now, oddly enough, it doesn't other me at all though I still recognize it as inferior and wish he'd stick with the sound he was best known for. All in all, this is another catchy song and the complaints are quite insignificant. There's even some decent Doom riffs, reminiscent of Candlemass.

Next up is "Eastmann's Cure", which begins with some typical NWOBHM guitar riffs and, relatively, fast-paced drums. By this point, I'm thinking that this album really does belong to the first era much more than the second, as this record is dripping with the same feeling that is prevalent on the classic albums. It shows some signs of deterioration, due to being recorded a few years after being written, but it still shares far too many characteristics with albums such as Conspiracy and The Eye, rather than The Graveyard, which was released just one year later. There is a softer part that doesn't quite fit as well as they may have wanted it to, but it's negligible.

"Room 17" opens with a morbid sounding harpsichord, which adds even more to the epic nature of this song. It's the longest one on here, clocking in at over eight minutes. Some of the keyboard utilization is similar to earlier songs, bearing the same 70s feel. With an album that possesses a few flaws, one might expect things to drag on at this point, but that isn't the case. Things seem to get even more consistent, actually. While the production on this album lacks some of the power of the last couple, it still maintains a nice sharp sound to it. This works well with some of the vocals that King utilizes, almost reminding one of something from Don't Break the Oath, at one point. The organ and harpsichord sounds really add a morbid feeling of horror. This feeling continues on the next song, "To the Morgue", which is just as strong as the last several songs. A unique effect is used during the chorus, while the way everything just slows down and comes to a conclusion works, perfectly.

"We must all go to the morgue"

The Spider's Lullabye is an, often, misunderstood album. I think it's great that they actually recorded the material that was written in 89/90, rather than trashing it and writing something new. My general impression is that this album is a bit weaker than the previous ones, though it's not bad at all. There aren't really weak songs, just some weak riffs and a few minor things that could have been better. This is no Fatal Portrait or Abigail, but it's certainly worth your time if you're a die-hard King Diamond fan.
(6 Sept. 2009)

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