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My love of King Diamond goes back to the early Mercyful Fate days and I have been a massive King fanboy since I first heard his shrieking falsettos and evil lyrics in 1983. I've run a King Diamond fan site since 1997 and was even a guest in King's home in April of 1999. I do seem to prefer King Diamond's solo material just a bit over the Mercyful Fate material so I think it seems proper for me to now revisit the early days of his solo band and review the albums that so many have enjoyed for decades. I begin with the first full length album Fatal Portrait. Released on February 17, 1986 we see King leaning in a more epic heavy metal direction with a shift in the lyrics from the overtly Satanic to more of a horror story telling direction.
Right from the beginning of this album you can tell that this is a new and fresh King Diamond. Mercyful Fate was a heavy metal band that drew influences from a more earlier generation like Deep Purple or Uriah Heep. With this new band we see King helping to create and define heavy metal as a distinct genre. You can even hear the beginnings of power metal and even symphonic metal with King being one of the first to incorporate keyboards (especially harpsichord) into heavy metal music to create more atmosphere. "The Candle" starts things off with it's eerie intro with it's evil spoken voices and pipe organ sounds. From there it bursts into the riffs and double bass galloping that would have been called power metal if released in the 90s. Although King would go on to create complete concept albums, this album is only a partial concept album and this is the first of five songs that make up a story. Kings uses mostly falsettos on this album and it is here that I think King truly perfected his style.
King brought bassist Timi Hansen and guitarist Michael Denner from Mercyful Fate and with the addition of guitarist Andy La Rocque and drummer Mikkey Dee we see that King will always surround himself with top notch musicians. We all knew Michael Denner's abilities as a melodic soloist but with Andy La Rocque we see a virtuoso in every respect. The two guitarists contrast with each other to create a variety of solos that create another aspect to the music. Drummer Mikkey Dee is one of the best drummers to ever pick up the sticks and with Timi Hansen rounding out the rhythm section what we wind up with what is probably the best line up in heavy metal.
The songs on this album are epic in every way with massive riffs and godly solos that seem to go on forever. Along with "The Candle" we have four more in the "Portrait" story, "The Jonah", "The Portrait", "Dressed in White" and, with a few songs not being part of the story in between, the last song on the album "Haunted". These are the best songs on the album with no shortage of catchy hooks and melodies. Of the songs not part of this story we have "Charon" which is probably the song on here most like something Mercyful Fate would have written. We also have, of course, King's homage to the holiday that is most fitting to King and his image, "Halloween". This is a mid paced rocker that is also a bit reminiscent of Mercyful Fate and is a fitting song for King to memorialize the ghoulish holiday.
This is the beginning of a band that would define heavy metal for generations. Love him or hate him, King Diamond's influence cannot be debated. With this album we see the creation of epic heavy metal. King Diamond made heavy metal music that could not be lumped into the just mindless noise that the parents of my generation thought it was. Instead he made it an art form and he was, and still is, a master of his art. This album is essential for any metal head. If you don't own this album, what the fuck are you waiting for?
After departing from the legendary Mercyful Fate, front man King Diamond decided to start a new project that would soon become legendary themselves. This album is different from the rest of the 80s King Diamond material, mainly because it is mostly simple straightforward songs. This being a radical departure from the almost progressive "Don't Break the Oath" and later King Diamond albums. On the bad side of things The King's voice seems a bit restricted and less theatrical than it could be. But simplicity isn't all bad, The King supplies some great hits and hard riffs that make this album very enjoyable.
First off, The King's voice is a bit off on this record, as if he wasn't using his vocals to its full potential and theatrical capabilities. Its not all bad though, he does give some great notes and vocal lines on, "Halloween" and "The Jonah". In the middle of "The Candle" The King does some random falsetto breaks that are really weak, which is probably the lowest point of his vocals on this album. On the flip side, "The Portrait" and "Halloween" have some decent theatrical performances that foreshadow future albums by The King. The variety in his voice isn't quite there either, staying mostly in the high to mid-high section, but it is still enjoyable overall. The lyrics are overall decent, with an okay half concept story line. Lyrics other than the story like, "Lurking in the Dark" are pretty cool and have a great feel to them. "Charon" is actually mentioned in the Mercyful Fate song, "Satan's Fall" using the same imagery of Charon taking you across the river Styx that give the lyrics a recycled feeling. Then there is "Halloween" which is a holiday classic for the whole family with some cheesy lyrics and if you have the reissue you get another special holiday treat, "No Presents for Christmas" which is even cheesier and is a great holiday tune for the whole family.
Bass is supplied by none other than Timi Hansen in which he does a great job on some of these tracks. "The Candle" and "The Portrait" have some great bass lines that show Hansen's bass style that peak out into the mid section and break through the mix. "Haunted" is another with a great lead bass line in it than makes the groove really shine. The end of "Halloween" has, what sounds like, a slap bass section that is very loud and brings the song to a great conclusion. In the end Hansen has a great style and tone that really gets a chance to show off on this record.
Michael Denner and Andy LaRocque provide guitars on this record and do a solid job. Supplying great riffs like that on "Halloween", and the most laid back King Diamond riff ever, on "The Jonah". Songs like "Charon", "Dressed in White" and "Halloween" the music is very simple and straightforward than normal King Diamond standards. The songs are still enjoyable but it can be predictable at times .This album does have a few complex songs on the first half of this album like "The Candle" and "The Jonah" that are easily the best on the album. Other than riffs the guys provide some great solos on "Dressed in White" and "The Candle" that really fit well in the song structure. Main songwriter, King Diamond himself shows his guitar skills on "Voices from the Past" which is an short song that seems like The King just wanted to show that he can play guitar too and decided to make a short moody track. Some acoustic guitar is shown on "Haunted" that seems kind of out of place and is only there for a few bars, as if it was an after thought to put it in. Overall the guitar work is low in intensity but provides some solid riffs and some interesting solos while still being accessible.
Drum master Mikkey Dee really doesn't do anything that special on this record. He provides some decent solid beats that keep the song moving but he really doesn't do anything to stand out from any other drummer. I guess Dee didn't have any room or ideas for awesome fills and beats that he would do on later on for the simple direction of this album . Though a rather disappointing performance from Dee, his tone is really great. His snare is nice and loud and a great snap and his kick drum is very audible with his double bass work.
In conclusion, this album should be heard by any King Diamond or Mercyful Fate fan. This record is full of great riffs, great bass and solid drums. But sadly The King's voice isn't up to par and the song structures are mostly simple and somewhat predictable. Don't expect the over the top King Diamond trademark but instead be ready for a simpler and more accessible experience.
Kim Petersen (aka King Diamond) must be one of the hardest working men in all of the metal realm, or at least he was from the late 70s through the beginning of the 21st century. When his alma mater Mercyful Fate first broke up, our favorite falsetto rigorously pursued his dreams into a new solo project, and the initial body of work encompassing the first five albums from 1986-1990 is essential listening for anyone that can get past the obvious hurdle of all that damned screaming. Yes, five consecutive years, five consecutive efforts that ranged from flawless (i.e. Abigail, The Eye) to just being damned awesome, all beginning with this debut Fatal Portrait, a wondrous indoctrination into King's classy horror themes and night bathed landscapes of gleaming melody.
Petersen was followed into this new project by Michael Denner and Timi Hansen, so the trio already had an extremely solid foundation to work with, made complete with the addition of budding newcomers Andy la Rocque and Mikkey Dee. The tricky bit was writing material that could distinguish itself from the legend of Mercyful Fate, and I feel like this mission was accomplished early with the debut. Sure, you can hear a little of the groove and swagger of the Danish mainstays, but the unified concept (for half the record) and haunted house vibes were new, and I feel like the actual guitar lines had a lot more memorable, and I daresay accessible material to offer the fan of traditional power/speed metal. In fact, I'll go as far to say that I actually prefer King Diamond to Mercyful Fate overall: the former is responsible for a far more impressive, consistent body of work than the latter (excepting a few albums like The Graveyard or The Puppet Master), and while I certainly worship Don't Break the Oath for the masterpiece it is, few things can touch Kim's 1986-1990 creative spurt. Was the man possessed?
As I hinted at, five of the tracks here represent a conceptual horror story, that of a dysfunctional mother who locks her young daughter in her attic, only to be haunted by her ghost through a painting of said offspring above the fireplace. You can probably guess what happens after this, but it's really not all that essential, because you'll be too enthralled with the music to really care about the underlying messages of King's 'narrator' character. The man rises and plummets his enchanting, high pitched screams through the epic opener "The Candle", which is initiated by some amazing atmospheric pipe organs and then cast intro cruise mode with a sorrowful, but badass melodic intercourse. This is followed by the doomed taint of "The Jonah", which one might envision as some delicious, bastard mesh of Mercyful Fate and early Candlemass. "The Portrait" rips along with glistening leads and cautionary, climaxing verses over which Petersen's voice crests majestically, and "Dressed in White" persists with surprisingly warm tones and some of the best, flowing melodic mute rhythms outside of Iron Maiden. The Fatal Portrait sequence is closed by "Haunted", which arrives at the end of the album, with some unsurprisingly great riffs and solid bass work from Hansen.
Outside of the story itself, there are four tracks (not counting the bonus of "The Lake", which I covered in my review of The Dark Sides compilation EP). "Charon" offers perhaps the most easily accessible, killer verse rhythm on the album, minute melodic fills riding the cycles, a fine and fitting tribute to the grim ferryman. "Lurking in the Dark" cultivates into a crystalline vocal arch that I find unforgettable, despite this being my least favorite track on the album, and "Halloween" is tongue in cheek hilarity glazing another slew of great guitar rhythms and thick bass. It's all too perfect that the King offer up a tribute to his (and everyone's, really) favorite holiday, because he so embodies the cliches and spirit of the season), but for the record, he also hits up Christmas (the remastered CD also includes a bonus of "No Presents for Christmas"). The one other track here is "Voices from the Past", a brief instrumental with surging, shuffling guitars that start and stop to various, spooky ringing pianos and other creepiness.
I don't know that I'd consider this one of Diamond's utmost masterworks, but only relative to the followup Abigail or the impressive, underrated witch-burning epic The Eye. If you were to compare it to anything post-1990, though, Fatal Portrait is godlike, and a cause to celebrate the fact that the King was not going to suck outside of Mercyful Fate. Production-wise, the vocals on the original mix are quite loud, and perhaps the rhythm guitars just a tad soft, though still graceful and audible enough to make out. The drums, leads, bass and synth line are all quite impressive, though, and the mix sounds very standard for its day and age, which is to say, it still rules today on any stereo you play it. A few of the songs fall just a fraction below others in terms of overall quality, but it's a safe bet for any fan of Fate or 80s melodic power, speed or heavy metal that doesn't immediately cringe at the Petersen's soaring pitch, and after the staring, striking visage that adorns its cover, I doubt I could ever look at a family portrait the same way again...good thing we've got Facebook instead?!
Two bands arose from the great schism that was the first breakup of Mercyful Fate. One was Fate, a more commercial act with AOR leanings led by guitarist Hank Shermann; the other was a self-titled band led by vocalist King Diamond with a little help from guitarist Michael Denner and bassist Timi Hansen. This 1986 effort was the band’s debut album and was released after the success of the "No Presents for Christmas" single.
Musically, you could say that this album picks up right where Mercyful Fate’s "Don’t Break the Oath" left off. The twin guitars are increasingly dark but persistently melodic, the rhythm section always manages to stay noticeable, and the King only lets off his wailing falsettos in favor of the occasional demonic growl. The songs themselves also range from fast paced tracks such as "The Candle" and "The Portrait," mid-tempo tracks in the vein of MF’s Gypsy such as "Charon" and "Halloween," and even a briefly menacing instrumental in the form of "Voices from the Past." The music also manages to make itself distinct by means of theatrics that were only hinted at on "DBTO;" these can best be seen in places such as the haunting beginnings of "The Candle" in particular.
The lyrics also seem to have changed quite greatly as well. The Satanic ramblings of the King’s past have been dropped in favor of themes that can easily be compared to ghost stories and the like. The first four songs in particular form an overall storyline that hints at what would come in the band’s future. Of course, I have no idea what the actual story is about but it sounds interesting enough...
Due to the quality of the music itself, the only flaw I can seem to find is that the album doesn’t seem to have much of an identity as a standalone work. It clearly showcases a few new ideas but the overall album could have easily been a third Mercyful Fate album if they had managed to keep the original lineup intact before its release. Other than that, it’s a pretty solid album.
This is definitely worth checking out for any fan of King Diamond or Mercyful Fate that can appreciate the uniqueness of both projects and would like to see the transitions in between.
1) The new band sounds great together
2) Interesting theatrics and solid songwriting
1) No real distinctions between this band and Mercyful Fate at this time period
2) I do wish they had made a full concept album; the mini-suites never seem to work well. . .
My Current Favorites:
"The Candle," "The Portrait," "Dressed in White," "Charon," and "Halloween"
King Diamond, the man with the hellish falsetto, is probably as equally well known for his solo work as for his accomplishments in the legendary Mercyful Fate. From Fatal Portrait onward, he created a sort of “horror metal” sound that was instantly scarier than anything the more accomplished 80’s metal acts like Ozzy Osbourne and Iron Maiden were doing at the time. But while his stab into solo artistry has been more-or-less an international success, I’ve just got to ask: am I the only one who thinks his solo work is vastly inferior to his work in Fate? It certainly seems that way, so allow me to voice my complaints a bit.
One of my favorite aspects of Mercyful Fate is King Diamond’s vocal approach. His interplaying of growly low-register singing and his distinct, piercing shriek resulted in harmonic possibilities never before imaginable. This dualist nature of his voice, on albums like Melissa, borders on schizophrenia; without it the album’s dark magic would certainly have faded over the years. This is the chief disappointment I experienced upon listening to Fatal Portrait. Diamond uses his falsetto voice almost exclusively, not only cheapening its effect, but making it damn near unbearable to listen to after just a few songs. I won’t question his writing, as he has a knack with creating the most terrifyingly beautiful vocal harmonies this side of Hell’s own Philharmonic. But just as when Halford abuses his falsetto (see “Resurrection”), it wears thin faster than a plain white tee in a wet shirt contest. What was so deliciously evil and inspired on albums like Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath is not only tired here, but goddamn annoying by track three or so.
Taking this into account along with a loose lyrical concept that doesn’t appeal to me (ghost stories? Seriously?) and a thin production that strips the album of much of its heaviness, the only thing keeping this album afloat is the playing/songwriting of guitarist Andy LaRocque. Though Diamond’s vocals are not entirely abysmal (they just get less remarkable and more annoying as the album progresses) and Michael Denner is surely deserving of some credit for the heavy riffs of “Charon” and “The Candle,” it is LaRocque’s leads that stand out the most.
The rest of the instrumentation has a somewhat minimal presence on the album (though Mikkey Dee is awesome on the skins), taking a backseat to King Diamond. This minimalism is counteracted by the various keyboards utilized throughout the album (see the intro to “The Candle”) to create a creepy atmosphere that makes up for the limited use of the instruments. At times it seems like Diamond and the boys were trying a bit too hard to maintain that haunting atmosphere (perhaps the riffage was sacrificed?), but the effect is nice nonetheless.
Some people really like the different sound that Fatal Portrait pioneered, even enough to consider this album a classic. My comparisons with Mercyful Fate’s material are somewhat unfair, but even standing on its own, the album isn’t that great. Songs like “The Candle,” “Charon,” and “The Portrait” are all quite good, but the rest is kind of unremarkable. It’s definitely worth a listen before you judge it, but I would be surprised if I’m the only one who finds it flawed.
Originally written for: http://www.metal-observer.com
Right after the self-destruction of pioneering speed/black metal band “Merciful Fate”, former front man King Diamond set out to create his own music, taking with him former MF members Michael Denner and Timi Hansen as charter members for his new project. What would result would be a departure from the old Satanic themes that dominated Fate’s previous material with a more horror/mystical based set of concepts. Ironically, Merciful Fate would later drop the Satanism from their work upon their reformation nearly a decade later, probably due to a more mature outlook on life in general.
Many of the older musical influences utilized by Merciful Fate are still present on this album, particularly the complex song structures that were inspired by early Black Sabbath music, married to the more speed based metal format of the time it was written in. “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. “Haunted” also possesses an acoustic section that seems to function as an early template for what will become Diamond’s more diversified style on subsequent releases.
This album is unique for this band in that it is a quasi-concept album, in which only half of the songs are tied together into a storyline. This is characteristic of other bands such as Halloween and early Queensryche, in that the concept sort of comes and goes and gives the listener different lyrical material for a break from the story. Ironically, this approach to writing an album was not maintained afterwards, indicating that this was probably a learning experience for all musicians involved.
One musician that deserves a good deal of credit for helping King Diamond to step out of the shadow of Merciful Fate and become a musical force to be reckoned with is Andy LaRoque (aka Anders Allhage). His guitar work, as well as his songwriting have aided Diamond in creating his many feats of musical brilliance, and his abilities are on full display here. His solos on “Dressed in White”, “Charon” and “Halloween” in particular are excellent displays of his musicality and technique.
A couple of rather interesting tracks that are often overlooked by the masses are “The Lake” and “Voices from the Past”. The former is a rather disturbing tale of a nun being dragged into a lake by the Philistine fish god Dagon, obviously inspired by Lovecraft’s literature. The other track is a rather brief instrumental that showcases King Diamond’s ability as a guitar player, something that is not often on display, as his duties as front man do not allow him to play an instrument other than his voice.
In conclusion, essential listening for fans of speed and traditional metal, and a good historical perspective for fans of Black Metal. King Diamond was a heavy influence on many of the current toneless screamers that dominate this particular scene, though the influence is more based on thematic material and image and less on actual physical voice technique. I recommend it highly to all fans of the previously mentioned genres, and invite others in the symphonic and power communities to give this early classic a spin, it is not all that far removed from the music you love.
Fatal Portrait is King Diamond's first full-length album (although an EP was released several months before). Hank Shermann had left Mercyful Fate to form "Fate" which was pretty much your typical 80's pop-rock...no, actually it was much worse. It was basically Hank Shermann selling out to attempt to achieve commercial success. But what many people fail to see (or perhaps refuse to believe) is that King Diamond sold out too by releasing this album, yet in a somewhat different way. For KD lost the innovativeness that he had previously with Mercyful Fate. Instead of songs about Satan and drinking goats blood, we get songs about Halloween, as well as other typical 80's power metal lyrical content. To be fair though, he does attempt a semi concept with the first four songs (and possibly the last one), but it meanders too much and is frequently very confusing.
The main reason to listen to this album is the guitarwork by Andy LaRocque. His solos are the highlights of many of the songs; shredding, melodic, and often neoclassical, he shines in "Dressed in White" (in which at least 30% of the song is guitar solos), "Lurking in the Dark," and "Haunted," although there aren't really any solos that he plays that are disappointing. (And he was still evolving!)
I'm not even going to devote more than a sentence for Michael Denner; his dull work drags down otherwise decent songs like "The Candle" by expanding the songs' running time without adding anything remotely interesting.
Another detriment to "Fatal Portrait" are the riffs. Sure "The Jonah" has a nice doom riff in the beginning, which leads into a footstomping riff during the chorus, but many are simple, uninspired, and frankly, boring. King Diamond is still developing his vocal style and it's difficult not to grimace on his off-key falsettos during "The Portrait." It wasn't until the following album that he really came into his own.
For those of you who don't mind 80's metal cheese, you might enjoy this album alot more than I did. But if any of you do decide to get "Fatal Portrait," make sure that you get the remastered version because not only do you get improved sound, you also get a pair of bonus tracks. The first is the somewhat overrated but still cool Christmas anthem, "No Presents for Christmas;" while the second is an awesome song called "The Lake." Which, with it's outstanding soloing and interesting lyrics, is arguably the best song on the entire album.
This is a fantastic debut album. After Mercyful Fate broke up, one of my alltime favorite bands, I was devastated. Truley, heartbroken. But King Diamonds solo carrer satisfied my metal cravings, and then some. On some levels, King Diamond is better than Mercyful Fate. But anyway....
'Fatal Portrait' is pure 80's speed metal. The riffs are cryptic chaos chugged out while the drums pound out insane, speedy beats. King's infamous falsetto wails are in full-effect here, and sound better than ever. The atmosphere all the songs create are indescribably, haunting, evil....
The dueling guitar solos are something you must hear to believe. They are among some of the best twin-guitar attacks, I say better than Maiden. The lyrics are great. The first three tracks tell the story of a haunted painting, and the rest are stories within themselves. Some of the best cuts include 'Halloween', with its sinister main riff and an outstanding vocal performance from King Diamond. 'Dressed in White' is a fast paced metaller the is sheer chaos, with King's melodic, haunting vocals providing once again an excellent listening experience. 'Charon' is an epic song with great lyrics, and excellent guitar solos.
On the remastered version, we are treated to the thrashing 'No Presents For Chirstmas' with its evil screeches, wailing gutiar solos and comical lyrics, as well as 'The Lake' which is also a great track.
This is a fantastic debut from the King of metal, and even though his albums would get better (Abigale, The Puppet Master), this is still among his finest solo works. Truley great.
I can remember back when Mercyful Fate split up, how many metalhead's wondered what King Diamond would sound like without the complete Mercyful Fate lineup backing him. But truth is, King never dissapoint's and never fails too give his all for his fans. When 'The Puppet Master' was announced, a few day's before it was released - I listened too alot of the older King Diamond albums too see how they have progressed. This album really caught me off gaurd, since this is my least listened too King album. But after I listended too it again, I listen too it a whole lot more. This album is killer!
First is first (as always), Kings voice. It is superb, and in Falsetto just about the whole time - which is excellent because King Diamond is a master of Falsetto, a very high voice - but he manages too sound extremley demonic anyway. The man has range and octaves - a truley brilliant voice, and as I have mentioned a million times before, the best vocalist ever to walk this earth. In my opinion, and many's opinion.
The guitars are very catchy, and heavy. They are either real fast, blistering through the song with ease, or chugging along to set mood. They are very heavy, but give off a sort of 80's vibe (King Diamond is in no way a 80's hair/glam band, if that is the notion I gave off). And probably the most catchy riff's on a King Diamond album are present here. Good distortion, very crunchy and heavy, but they don't over-do it like some bands.
The keyboard's are here alot too set mood, mostly in the form of bell's, organs, weird random noises or violins. They do a very good in the beggining of many song's too set the mood and as a sign of things to come (especially on the first track, The Candle, along with that chant - sending chills down the spine).
The bass and drums are very good, and surprisingly - double bass isn't as present as much as you would expect. Very good drumming and bass playing as well, Especially on Dressed in White - excellent bass playing. As a previous reviewer stated, very Steve Harris-ish.
All the song's here are heavy, some slower but some real shredders. All of them are very catchy, and all very good. The best track's are The Candle, Charon, Lurking in the Dark (both absolute shredders), Halloween (catchiest of them all) - and the excellent No Presents For Christmas (excellent headbanging abound). Dressed In White is great, as well as the Jonah. The only average track really is The Portrait, which too me, sounds average compared too classics such as Charon and Halloween. But by no mean's is it bad.
The lyrics are very good. Very horrific, very dark - and creative. They don't have too do with the Occult and Lucifer. King has stated himself King Diamond is more of a horror story oreinted band, while Mercyful Fate is more occultic.
All in all, this is a very, very good album - maybe King's second or third best album (trailing only behind the phenomenal Puppet Master and Abigail.). You must own this - it's great!