King Diamond’s “Fatal Portrait” Still Gazing Intently At Thirty Years (1986-2016)

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The colors on this dark oil painting remain vibrant if it should be observed in the light but that is not always the best setting for the works of the great King Diamond. The malevolence of his creations always seem to come to more sinister life if gazed upon in the shadows and with that being said I must announce that it was thirty years ago today that the world first looked upon the “Fatal Portrait” – the first solo album by King Diamond. Though I remembered seeing it on the shelves of a long shuttered record store named “The Little Record Store”, I didn’t purchase it since this was not really the kind of Metal I was following. Truth be told the King spooked me a little back then along with Fate so I stuck to what I felt was safer stuff like Maiden and Priest. Don’t worry about this admission as I caught on not too long after and made sure I was a quick study. I’ve snagged the albums overall plot from its official Wikipedia entry and it states

“Five songs on this album (first four and “Haunted”) form a short story. Narrator sees a face in “every candle that [he] burns”. This face speaks one word to him: “Jonah”. So he finds an old book, speaks a rhyme and frees the spirit from the candle. It’s the spirit of a little girl named Molly, who tells him her story, that happened seven years before. Mrs. Jane kept her 4-year-old daughter Molly in the attic until she (Molly) died. Before, Mrs. Jane painted Molly’s portrait and put it above the fireplace, so that Molly would become immortal; however, Molly made the portrait speak to her mother, so that Jane would know about Molly’s pain. Mrs. Jane then speaks a rhyme and burns the portrait. A free spirit of Molly returns to haunt her until she goes insane.”

Clearly this was the beginning of the new chapter in King Diamond’s musical career and with this work and the ones that followed, he was bringing the listener into dark realms of horror and mysticism and always telling a compelling story while also delivering some fantastic Metal music. Everything on the album is written by King Diamond but the songs “Charon”, “Halloween” and “Haunted” would also be written by his former Mercyful Fate colleague Michael Denner who was a member of the band up until 1987. Historically speaking this remains the only album in the King catalog that does not feature any writing credits to guitarist Andy LaRoque who can be found on almost everything released after this one. The full lineup of the King Diamond band back during this release were King (lead & backing vocals), Andy LaRocque (lead guitars), Michael Denner (lead guitars), Timi Hansen (bass) and Mikkey Dee (drums). Now despite my saying that I didn’t purchase my own copy when it was first released on Roadrunner Records doesn’t mean that I didn’t get the chance to listen to it with friends who had one spinning in their basements much to the chagrin of their parental units. Thanks to their interest in this album I would get more acquainted with it and find that my favorite tunes fell to “The Candle”, “Charon” and “Halloween”. As you look over the tracks below what tracks are striking you with memories of being your own favorites?

Track Listing:
1. The Candle
2. The Jonah
3. The Portrait
4. Dressed in White
5. Charon
6. Lurking in the Dark
7. Halloween
8. Voices from the Past (Instrumental)
9. Haunted

The album was eventually remastered and gave us a couple of more tracks, one being “The Lake” and the other the now classic “No Presents For Christmas” which is quite possibly the most maniacal holiday tune ever. It was also co-written by Denner and was immediately added to my favorites from this timespace in King Diamond history. King Diamond has gone through numerous lineup changes since this release but has kept guitarist LaRoque by his creative side and had moved over to Metal Blade Records with his 1995 album “The Spider’s Lullabye” where he has released eight more albums in terms of studio, live and collected works. To me, his stories have gotten scarier and the mood they convey more dire. He is Metal’s own Stephen King when it comes to weaving the tale of the grim. It should be noted that King Diamond’s popularity is at an all-time high in the most recent couple of years after an almost ten year absence from activity in the music world. His show is bigger and more compelling and his voice seems better than ever. Congratulations King Diamond on your debut becoming a “Metal Milestone” and thanks for making fans cling tighter to the sheets when they sleep and walk ever more cautiously down a darkened street. Thanks to your efforts the night remains something best ventured into with company. Let me know your thoughts about this album in the comments below especially if you purchased it during its initial release and let us know what it means to you today.

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