One of the most identifiable figures in heavy metal is King Diamond, especially when the leaves start to turn, die and fall paving the way for the season of the witch. In 1987, there wasn't as many metal bands around, and even less that could scare the crap out of 16 year old boys. Having already issued the unsurpassed hymn for the eve of Samhain - "Halloween" - a year earlier on the "Fatal Portrait" album (an album that genuinely unnerved your author with songs like "The Candle" and "Charon") - his first full length release after splitting with Mercyful Fate (at the time), King Diamond would then pioneer the way for conceptual album releases with "Abigail." Now celebrating its 30th Anniversary, the album has unquestionably left a considerable and influential mark on the heavy metal scene, and is rightfully revered as King's finest work (along with 1998's "Them"). It certainly terrified your author into permanent fandom - ranking easily within the personal Top 10 metal albums of all time.
Appropriately, the album was issued just days before Halloween, "Abigail" is one of those albums that you recall exactly where you were and what you were doing the day you either heard the album's single "The Family Ghost," or bought the seminal album. As an impressionable teen, "Abigail" made for quite the discussion while venturing out for a long, dark moonlit night full of trick or treating. I wouldn't go as far as saying it was a privilege growing up in the midst of the 80's metal scene, but it did have its advantages.
The albums iconic story is set in 1845 and tells the story of Miriam Natias and Jonathan La'Fey who just arrive to take possession of an old mansion that Jonathan inherited. On the night of their arrival, they received an eerie warning from seven horseman that the couple shouldn't move in. In the first evening, Jonathan is visited by his deceased relative Count La'Fey, who tells him that Miriam carries the spirit of a child named Abigail. The child was the illegitimate offspring of the Count's unfaithful wife, whom he murdered by throwing her down the stairs causing Abigail to be stillborn. He cremated the Countess and placed Abigail in a sarcophagus. The Count instructs Jonathan to kill Miriam to prevent Abigail's rebirth. After experiencing haunted happenings in the mansion, Jonathan accuses Abigail of possessing Miriam, which she admits through Miriam. In a moment of control, Miriam tells Jonathan to push her down the stairs. Jonathan leads Miriam to the stairs by telling Abigail she should be reborn where she died, but when distracted, Abigail (through Miriam) pushes Jonathan down the stairs. Miriam gives birth to Abigail and dies in the process. The seven horseman arrive only to witness Abigail devouring her original preserved body in the crypt and take her away to a hidden chapel to bury her by driving seven spikes into her body.
The lineup on "Abigail" was by far King's strongest - featuring co-writer/guitarist/producer Andy LaRocque, guitarist/producer Michael Denner, drummer/producer Mikkey Dee and bassist Timi Hansen. King's style of metal is one of the most identifiable and unique in music, not only through his exceptional storytelling, but first class songwriting. Always buried in wonderful melody, the haunting dungeon-esque guitars have always been copied, but never duplicated. Even before you hear King's voice, LaRocque and Denner's guitar tone announces exactly which band you are listening to.
"Omens," "The Posession" and "Abigail" are the best back-to-back-to-back tracks that ever appeared on a King Diamond release. So amply balanced between oubliette guitar and diapason, the opening riffs for these three songs still compel the hair stand up on the back of the neck, conjuring every reason why heavy metal is so beloved. King's vocal articulation has such an uncanny ability to summon the characters he sings about, lodging the perfect images in your mind - like photographs. You don't just listen to "Abgail," you live it.
The production team of King, LaRoque, Denner, Dee and engineer Roberto Falcao were unmatched at the time of this release. No other album released to that point had quite the same sound (and feel) - a dark dungeon-esque, but precision mix to accentuate the macabre story and towering incomparable vocal style of King Diamond.
"Abigail" is a masterpiece of music and storytelling. It holds up just as much today as it did 30 years ago representing one of King's best, as well as one of the best releases of all time. The wonderful thing about a "hindsight review" is that it injects a contemporary look, which when combined with experiences derived from the time of its original release, gives you a sense of the staying power and lasting effect that albums have for decades.
Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: October 21, 1987
3. A Mansion in Darkness
4. The Family Ghost
5. The 7th Day of July 1777
7. The Possession
9. Black Horsemen
Check out the music video for "The Family Ghost" here: