Sunday, June 1, 2014

King Diamond - Abigail

Jesus Christ.

Or should I say "Hail Satan!"

Whatever God you subscribe to, the correct answer is that you should be worshipping King Diamond instead.

And Abigail will become your Holy Bible.

Like most non-believers, I dismissed King Diamond records when they were first issued. The falsetto was humorous. The face paint predictable. The music wasn't compelling enough for me to focus on. And on top of it all, there was a guy I used to work with at a radio station that thought the world of them.

Come to think of it, the guy kind of looked like King Diamond, minus the white face and plus a hundred pounds. His hair was receding and he wore these creepy glasses. But other than that, he kind of looked like King Diamond.

And who am I kidding? The guy was a creeper, glasses or contacts, and he said lots of inappropriate things to women.

He was in his early 30's, and what the university would call a "non-traditional" student. He wore sweatpants and track pants a lot, but he was by no means athletic. He drove a brand new Yugo (no shit) and lived in the basement of his mother's home.

If it seems like I'm painting a very unflattering portrait of this man, it's because I am. I invested some time in him and overlooked a tremendous amount of faults in order to be swindled somewhat, and I don't take too kindly to things like that.

Initially, our relationship began with metal. I was coming off of it, but this cat was in the full swing of it. In a way, his advancing age and reluctance to dismiss metal like a proper adult was inspiring. Plus, he had an incredible amount of knowledge about heavy metal and hard rock.

On top of it all, he had a great  radio voice, so I put him in charge of the station's heavy metal program that we had just scheduled into the format for Saturday nights. Prior to it, we had a show called "Saturday Night Live," where we played nothing but live albums for three hours straight. I argued that nobody is going to want to listen to a bunch of live records if they're looking for a soundtrack to their Saturday night.

But metal fans? Fuck yes.

I got a kick of watching him work. He smoked cheap cigarettes, but other than that, he was a teetotaler. He'd shut off most of the lights in the studio, have his entire show booked in advance-starting with a trippy, twenty-minute long mix of creepy metal and sound effects.

It  was cool.

Anyway, King Diamond, Judas Priest, Queensryche, that  kind of shit, typically lead off his Saturday Night metal show.

He'd get animated with his discussion and he rightfully challenged me in my newfound contempt of the genre. He could tell I was cracking, that there was no real logic behind why I turned my back on metal.

And he was right.

Nonetheless, I wasn't ready for King Diamond, and whenever that falsetto hit, any attempt to try and sell me on his art was 86'd.

He'd break out in a  Diamond falsetto at  the drop of a hat, just to get my goat. It was all in fun, and he gave good conversation. As a result, I lobbied hard for the guy, got him out of the weekend schedule and put him on  the sales team during the days-where he began to STEAMROLL some accounts for the station. This success suddenly put him in the position of General Manager to my roll as Program Director-thereby leapfrogging him above me in terms of hierarchy.

Not that it mattered, because we were friends.

The success went to his head, and that's when the inappropriate comments towards women started. Staff members began to avoid him, and their uncomfortableness made me uncomfortable, particularly since I had vouched for the guy, yo.

When I confronted him about it, he shut down. He isolated himself in his office. He went a little bit nutty.

After a few months of this nonsense, I backed a talented young woman to replace him, and this made more of a distance between us. We went for long period of not speaking, and then suddenly his attire began to improve. Before long, he was wearing tied. Crazy shit.

Finally, the mystery was too much for me. I asked him about the getup. He flat out told me that he had given himself "to the Lord Jesus Christ." There was a hint of craziness in his eyes, or maybe it was just that creepy big man fucking with me. I didn't know, by that point.

He told me that he had met a woman at his mother's church. She was an attractive blonde, clearly out of his  league, but she was on the rebound after a breakup, and he put away his crude commentary long enough to string him along into believing he had a shot with her.

But the first thing he needed to do to win her heart was to get rid of those pesky Satanic records.

By the next week, motivated by the time when I finally broke the silent treatment and spoke to him, he called me into his office.

"Todd, would you be interested in buying some of my cd's?"

"Which ones?"

"Oh," he paused for dramatic effect. "All of them."

I asked why. He told me the story. I said, "Are you sure?" It was pathetic as all get out, but this was a time when compact discs were like little pieces of silver, and they retailed for nearly as much.

He was offering sweeeeet deals, so I drove over to his mother's house in Waterloo and he walked me down to the basement where he kept a bachelor pad motif, that is if you can ever really have a bachelor pad in the basement of your mother's house.

He lobbied hard for King Diamond, but I stuck out for a bunch of Marillion imports. This really bothered him, as he searched the synapses of his grey matter to go over the lyrical content of this British progressive rock band.

He determined that there was indeed some evil within Marillion. As well as Aerosmith's Get Yer Wings, Guns 'N Roses Appetite For Detruction (he wanted too much for the original vinyl pressing, so I stuck with the standard cd version) and a copy of AC/DC's Highway To Hell. There were a few other titles as well-more cds than vinyl-and I made my way home with the booty.

Not more than a month later, he was back to wearing sweatpants, bumming cigarettes, and becoming a bit more social. But it was too late. Bridges had been burned. Metal shows hosted by another (not as good) host. Advertising accounts had been left unattended, only to be hustled by other stations.

And religious girlfriends will typically put the dumpy King Diamond guy out to pasture, the moment their ex-boyfriend calls again, promising to conform.

"Hey Todd," the deflated man said before he exited my life for the final time, "Would  you ever consider selling back those Marillion albums back to me?"

I'd actually be quiet interested to see how he's doing, but I needed to write out this long-winded introduction to a King Diamond review to remind myself why that would be a bad idea.

The stories intersect only on the two minor details that 1.) The radio dude kind of looked like a fat, balding version of King Diamond and 2.) he really liked King Diamond.

I'm sure he told me all about the concept of Abigail, just as I'm sure as I ridiculed it, deeming it not worthy of further consideration. But if the years have made me more nostalgic, they've also made me wiser and more tolerant of such topics as theatrics-specifically, the kind that originate in Europe.

Diamond, a Dane, lifts heavily from classical scales and operatic drama in his work. With Abigail, he creates a lyrical Victorian nightmare-its plot a detailed story arc of murder, ghosts, and some obligatory seven horsemen.

The arrangements are just as detailed, with loads of fingertapping flourishes and speedy scale runs, all punctuated by drummer Mikkey Dee's impressive kit work.

But it's Diamond's vocal strategies-alternating from a metallic bark to an operatic wail, even in mid-verse. His performance verges on pure insanity in some moments, while other times it sounds as those there may indeed be someone else behind the wheel of Diamond's twisted art.

Abigail is straight-up frightening if you let the album take hold and allow Diamond under your skin. To merely point out his attention-grabbing appearance and over-the-top vocal performance is only a lazy observation. The reality is that somebody spent an awful amount of attention to detail to come up with this nonsense, while we let bands with substantially less vision rule the roost in the American arenas.

Abigail proudly uses the metal vernacular to execute a very credible concept album that still sounds like nothing else you've ever heard. It's an album that many generations will continue to namecheck, but very few of its worshippers will be have the same royal bloodline that King Diamond has fathered with this near metal masterpiece.

1 comment:

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