photo & text by nacrowe
in the elite pantheon of all-time SUPER HUMAN METAL singers, there really are only three names: RONNIE JAMES DIO, ROB HALFORD and KING DIAMOND. no disrespect to OZZY OSBOURNE (i adore him), but his appeal is not necessarily based solely on his voice but rather his unique PERSONALITY, PERSONA and WORLDVIEW that positions as a sort of EVERYMAN. his power is in his ability to have his audience project themselves onto him and thus it makes sense that generations of musicians have his example and started a band. counter that with DIO, HALFORD and KING DIAMOND and there is absolutely no hope of us mere mortals matching or even approaching their SINGULAR vocal gifts. to me they are almost FANTISTICAL and UNAPPROACHABLE comic book characters in that regard.
with KING DIAMOND in particular, on what is considered his magnum opus ABIGAIL (ROADRUNNER, 1987), that CARTOONISH persona takes on a QUASI-LITERARY form with his concept record centered around the extended narrative of the ghost of a stillborn baby in a HAUNTED mansion during VICTORIAN-ERA ENGLAND. high concept indeed. i wont get into the actual story itself, but standout tracks include "THE FAMILY GHOST," "ARRIVAL," "THE 7TH DAY OF JULY 1777," "FUNERAL," "THE POSSESSION" and of course the EPIC title track "ABIGAIL." sonically these songs are buttressed by PUMMELING double-bass drum assault by MIKKEY DEE (later of MOTORHEAD) a dual lead guitar assault led by ANDY LAROCQUE and MICHAEL DENNER that acts as a fitting counterpoint to the ICONIC FOUR OCTAVE COUNTERTENOR FALSETTO screams of KING DIAMOND. equally important are the GALLOPING rhythm guitar parts that propel and roll the momentum of the album forward without becoming stagnant. it makes total sense that the SYNCOPATED twin lead and rhythm guitar work associated with KING DIAMOND records, and especially his previous NWOBHM-adjacent band MERCYFUL FATE, have influenced THRASH royalty like SLAYER and METALLICA and most of the extreme METAL that followed thereafter.
speaking of which i was fortunate enough to see KING DIAMOND take out ABIGAIL on the road a few years back in PITTSBURGH when the opened for SLAYER on their extended farewell tour. the GARISH and often SATANIC imagery and set pieces were completely over the top but in keeping with a CREEPY victorian aesthetic (i.e. candelabras, creaky grand staircase, stained glass windows) that was pure KING DIAMOND. and i have to say, witnessing his voice in person is another matter entirely. it absolutely cut through the mix and was a sight to behold. youd think that those PIERCING HIGH FALSETTOS would grow tiresome throughout a set but they didnt, which is a largely a testament to his band and the original compositions themselves. whats INCREDIBLE is that i went to the show at the behest of my dad, whod seen them with my brother a few months earlier while i was still at a teaching gig abroad. for him, a baby boomer raised on BRITISH INVASION and CLASSIC ROCK, to find enjoyment in the musicality of someone as extreme as KING DIAMOND is the highest compliment i can think of. the POWER of his voice and the INTENTION of the music far outreached the schtick of it all.
not that i dont love the satanic imagery. who doesnt? ABIGAIL in my opinion is required listening for any METAL head interested in any of the myriad of subgenres, from NWOBHM, DEATH METAL, BLACK METAL and THRASH to METALCORE, GRINDCORE, DOOM, PROGRESSIVE, SLUDGE, POST METAL and beyond.