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53 tablatures for King Diamond


King Diamond - Fatal Portrait (7/10) - Denmark - 1986

Genre: Heavy Metal
Label: Roadrunner Records
Playing time: 41:57
Band homepage: King Diamond

Tracklist:

  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
  9. Haunted
  10. The Lake
King Diamond - Fatal Portrait

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 MF? It certainly seems that way, so allow me to voice my complaints a bit.

 

One of my favorite aspects of MERCYFUL FATE is 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.

(Online March 19, 2008)

Eric Provenza



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