Friday, June 15, 2012

King Diamond: Abigail (1987)

Motion for Reconsideration
25th Anniversary

In addition to being my twins' first birthday, this is the 25th anniversary of King Diamond's Abigail. It's not just a favorite of mine, but one of the most beloved metal albums of all time. As evidence, you need only look at the Metal Archives review average: 13 reviews with an average score of 96%. Browsing around and looking at the usual suspects, I could find only one other album with at least a dozen reviews and an equal score (Sad Wings of Destiny).

I should have named my twins Jonathan and Abigail.

Timi Hansen, Michael Denner, and the incomparable King Diamond had all been involved in two of the greatest metal albums of all time. After the break-up of the great Mercyful Fate, they formed the band King Diamond. 1986 Debut Fatal Portrait didn't make a drastic departure from their old band's style, and only partially qualifies as a concept album. But Abigail represents the moment that King Diamond (the band) truly came into its own.

Even absent the brilliant combination of Denner and Shermann, everything about it works. To be fair, the chilling/exhilarating, loping riff style is still quite similar to MF, but KD became a more narrative, more polished, and hookier version of its predecessor.

While many albums are rated on the "killer" to "filler" ratio, that same standard can't be applied to a concept album. Instead, the quality of the central songs must be considered first and foremost. In particular, "The 7th Day of July 1777" and the title track are both among the best heavy metal has to offer, while a handful of others on here are fantastic as well. There is simply no questioning the "hits" of the album and how those hooks can stew in your brain, coming out months after the last time you heard the song in the form of an unprovoked, "Abigail, I know you're in control of her brain. Abigail, oh-ooh-oh-oh."

The other aspect to consider with a concept album is the flow. After a short intro, the stellar "Arrival" instantly draws you in. Where the tracks do lag in quality, they make up in how they fit into the whole: Keeping the pace, keeping things dynamic, and completing the story. The story, of course, is what defines a concept album. And the story of Abigail is compelling, to say the least. An evil stillborn child's ghost . . . well, you already know it. If you don't, you need to. But this record stands high above others in its greatness with or without the story.

The Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars

There is good reason Abigail is so beloved. It has some of the best songwriting and performances of any metal record, ever, by everyone involved. And a creepy horror story to go along with it.

Buy Abigail

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