Thursday, November 17, 2011

Abigail: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 3 of 7

Abigail. Not just the 1987 album, but also its sequel, Abigail II: The Revenge. The original is an oft-cited all-time heavy metal classic and is undoubtedly the crown jewel of King Diamond's accomplishments - but, to be difficult, I guess, I have to be even more taken with the 2002 sequel, Abigail II. As we wouldn't have Abigail II without Abigail I end up in a conundrum attempting to proclaim the sequel superior while I still have to concede that nothing from the King Diamond camp (or many others, for that matter) will likely best the original. Luckily, we have both, and the chicken versus the egg matters not.

She may be neither good nor evil but Abigail is a persistent little bitch. Greedy as I am with King Diamond's output, I'd love to see an Abigail III: The Beginning to find out exactly from whence she originally came and what exactly her motivations are for her multiple incarnations (aside from the fact that everyone keeps killing her in her youth). For now, though, we have to be content with a few generations of her existence. One of King's creepiest ghost stories (and one of the most coherent, fully realized concept albums of its type - see Imaginos for how convoluted it can get), Abigail is narrated from the point of view of several characters and provides a fairly straightforward tale (as straightforward as possible across seventy years from 1777 to 1845 and multiple generations with at least two ghosts, that is).

The original album is a breakneck slab of power. King Diamond maintains full falsetto on top of majestic multi-layered harmonies for nearly the entirety and the tempo rarely slows. This is gothic opera at its finest and most frantic. At this point in King's solo career Michael Denner was still on board and trading leads with Andy La Rocque. It did not get any better. Until it did.

Abigail II, coming 15 years after the original, picks up on Abigail's (the second incarnation we know of) eighteenth birthday. We're treated to a little expository backstory and learn James O'Brian, one of the Black Horsemen of Abigail, is half-brother to the original stillborn ghost and, effectively, grandfather (and surrogate father) to the reborn Abigail, now come of age. She encounters her mummified former self as she returns to her family estate and we're treated to all the dramatic necessities of a remarkable sequel set in the late Victorian era: previously unknown connections, the revelation that those thought dead still live, murder, possession, incest, rape, poisoning, madness, another reference to The Eye and so on.

Story aside, with both chapters being fantastic, how does Abigail II, in this listener's opinion, best the original? Bombast. It's grandiose, tremendous in its drama, both musically and in its story. With voice acting, atmospheric effects and theatrical flourishes abounding, it's cinema for the ears. Only La Rocque returns from the original cast though we are treated to another lead courtesy of Mike Wead, who has stayed on through King Diamond's latest recording. No, it isn't technically better than Abigail but it's bigger. It's bloodier. With the backstory digested over and over across for fifteen years before it's simply more fun.

As with the best of fireside tales (and horror sequels), we're left, of course, with some unknowns, some creepy possibilities. Abigail's "spirit twin" is left in dire circumstances and we wonder just how she may manage to spawn again...and again... 

Up next: Eye of the Witch

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