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Crypt Keeper Campfire Tales - 65%

doomknocker, August 14th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2002, CD, Metal Blade Records

King Diamond's solo career has been something I've been more aware of than being an outright fan of, sad to say. Shame on me, I know, but my ears were attuned to different sounds and styles all those years ago and seeking out anything Mr. Peterson has done that wasn't Mercyful Fate-based didn't seem right at the time. That, and a few too many folks I knew had clamored on that only a handful of his post-no-oath-breaking works were worth anything (I recall quite the lackluster opinion on "House of God" when it was first released), so that in itself sorta soured my expectations. However, I'm a changed man, my tastes have evolved and expanded, so back a decade or so ago I figured it was time I gave a solo King effort an honest try. Which lead me to this...

As a singular entity, "Abigail II: The Revenge" is a dark yet pleasant listen, slightly underwritten on a musical level but made up for with sheer imaginativeness and the grand scale of King's story. Then again, it feels as though a lot of King's albums are like that; strong on the spiel, less so on the rest. It could just be me, but I've found King to be a better vocalist than a songwriter in the long game scheme of things (I know he composed "Gypsy" and "Come to the Sabbath", but neither of them are on this disc, nor do the songs present stand on that level, so...yeah). The story, as we all know, expands upon the previous "Abigail" rigamarole with the inclusion of new settings, new characters and new scenarios, none of which are genial in any way. Without going into too much detail, what follows is a tale of curiosity leading to repeated bouts of treachery on a few others' parts and Abigail seeming to tap into her inner darkness and (almost literally) unleashing Hell. Blame the Little One, it was all her fault, dammit! So on that aspect alone there's plenty of twists going on to ensure that, from end to end, the audience isn't lost or their interest waning. I can't say the same for the musical end, unfortunately...

With that said, it's a bit hard to get a good and proper listen of this given how quickly "Abigail II" runs from hot to cold, then back again. While not all that far removed from the Fate, the main feel of the music seems more based on cultivating an atmosphere and lush darkness and Midnight Syndicate-level horror than heaviness, which in itself can work when done well. To wit; when the main creative focus is properly honed I'm able to block everything else out and become swept up in it all (which, thankfully, happens more often than not), where everything is on an even keel and the rest of the band plays off the story's goings on, and yet when the it takes on a more generic tone I actually found myself tuning out, waiting for any of the tastier harmonic leads and sections that make up the better parts of the album, when the group works counter to the main attraction. And believe me, there are also plenty of those to be had; when things go from milquetoast to melodic that's when the hairs on the ol' forearms stand on end, rapt with anticipatory shakes on what will happen to the poor put-upon anti-heroine, but when the opposite comes to pass you may find yourself tuning out and using this as background music for chasing your cat through the house, for even King's falsettos and voice-overs many not be enough to rope you in. While this doesn't happen all that often, the fact that it still does kinda keeps this from being as much of a compulsory listen as its predecessor was (evidently, that is...I'll get to it soon enough. Maybe...)

So all in all my first taste of the Diamond was a bit of a tough one to chew, but not one I ultimately disliked. I get what he's looking to do with this group and, given enough time, I may be back to see where else he can go and where he's been with it. Good, bordering on great in the right spots, but needed a bit more in the end.