has a long tradition of creating concept albums specifically designed to creep his listeners out. The frontman of the band who also goes by the name King Diamond, has been experimenting with merging heavy metal and horror storytelling since the formation of his earlier band, Mercyful Fate
. Their groundbreaking album Don't Break The Oath
introduced the idea, which King Diamond has had free reign over since that album's release in 1984. No other band has pursued the concept with the enthusiasm King Diamond has. The reason for this is likely that he does it so well.
Or maybe they just don't want to cross the King.
Abigail was not the first album of King Diamond's solo career; it was preceded by Fatal Portrait. It is however often cited as his best. Fatal Portrait did have a story in it that spanned multiple songs, but King took that one step further with Abigail, making sure that the story was told through every song. Indeed, skipping one of them while listening to the album would leave large holes in the tale. This brought new meaning to album oriented rock. A single song could be enjoyable, yes, but compared to gaining the added dimension of a skin-crawling story, listening to one song off Abigail doesn't make much sense.
As usual for King Diamond, it opens with a spoken-word skit. Eerie synth sets the mood as a priest presides over a highly unorthodox funeral. The ceremony is for one Abigail LaFey, a girl stillborn on 07/07/1777. Between this track and the fifth, "The 7th Day of July, 1777," the listener is informed of the abnormal circumstances. Rather than being buried or cremated as convention would dictate, Abigail is mummified and nailed to her coffin with seven silver spikes, as ordered by Count LaFey. Abigail was not his legitimate daughter, and when the Count uncovered his wife's infidelity, he pushed her down a staircase and declared that no bastard baby would inherit his fortune. The baby was born dead, and the Countess soon died from the injuries sustained in the fall. Clearly gone mad, the Count named the fetus Abigail, cursed her, and had her mummified and nailed to a sarcophagus, which was placed in the family vault.
The Count eventually died, and his mansion lay empty until 1845, when the inheritance passes to a young man named Jonathan LaFey. Taking his new bride Miriam Natias with him, Jonathan takes a coach to the mansion, which stands atop a hill and overlooks a misty valley full of shadows. Along the way they are stopped by the Black Horsemen, wraithlike servants of the dead Count. They warn Jonathan to turn around and leave the mansion alone. Jonathan ignores their message, but cannot forget the promise they make as they vanish. "Someday you'll need our help, my friend."
On the way to the house, the shadows in the trees and at the gate seem to move as if alive. Arriving at the house, Miriam and Jonathan light the fireplace and all the candles, and the house too apparently comes alive, seeming to breathe. As the fire dies down, the young couple heads to bed, and when they are asleep a shadow on the wall comes to life, but disappears the moment the sun comes up, and both of them sleep on.
The next night, Jonathan cannot sleep. Despite the fireplace still roaring, the room refuse to become warm. Suddenly there is a bright light, and Jonathan is confronted with the living shadow, who turns out to be the ghost of Count LaFey. Urging Jonathan to let Miriam sleep, he takes him to the family vault in the crypt beneath the house, at the bottom of a long staircase. Count LaFey cautions Jonathan on the stairs, telling him that he could break his neck if he isn't careful, and then dissolves into deranged laughter. One can assume that this is the staircase on which the Count performed his evil deed. The vault is opened to reveal Abigail's tiny body.
The Count goes on to explain that Abigail has possessed Miriam, and the only way to stop her is to take the life of his beloved wife. Jonathan returns to the house, and all the next day he and Miriam see omens everywhere. He does not tell her what he saw the night before. The church bells ring without anyone in the belltower, flowers begin to wilt, and a cradle appears in the house all by itself. It then becomes evident that Miriam is pregnant.
Jonathan knows that it was Abigail inside her, and the pregnancy was certainly not a normal one. Over a period of a couple hours, it had become very noticeable that Miriam was carrying a child, which she is thrilled about. Evil Abigail would be born by the end of the day. Jonathan talks to Abigail, and she responds through Miriam's voice, using Jonathan's wife as a puppet. At one point Miriam regains control, briefly, and reminds him of the slippery stairs. Jonathan forms a plan. He fakes defeat and tells Abigail she should be reborn where she died, and Abigail takes to the idea. They descend to the crypt, and the long, deadly staircase.
Jonathan gets ready to push Miriam down the staircase that killed the Countess 68 years before. Abigail, who has seen through his plot, turns and pushes him first, and Jonathan presumably dies. Miriam descends the staircase and enters the vault, and gives birth, dying in the process. The seven Black Horsemen arrive too late to save the couple, and find Abigail eating the corpse of her surrogate mother. They rush her to a chapel in the middle of the forest.
The last song, Black Horsemen, ends with the seven servants taking Abigail to the chapel in the woods, but goes no further than that. Is it safe to assume that Abigail is destroyed? Probably, but it doesn't make a very good ending. This always used to bother me, until I realized that Funeral takes place at the end of the story. In it, they say that Abigail was born in 1777, but they never mention what year it currently is. Another clue is that in Funeral, they drive silver spikes through Abigail, "so that she may never rise and cause evil again." This leads me to believe that the events of the rest of the album precede this ceremony. Silver spikes are never mentioned when Jonathan and the Count visit the crypt, and as far as we know Abigail did not cause any kind of evil between her first birth and her mummification. Putting Funeral at the beginning rather than the end was a brilliant move. A funeral certainly must have taken place in 1777, so the song serves as a placeholder for that event until the end of the album when the listener realizes that Funeral actually happens in 1845. In a way, it describes both.
The use of Funeral to both open and close the album is interesting, because it introduces the cyclical nature of the story, which is a common device in horror literature and film. Horror music is, evidently, no exception to the rule. Just as a horror movie might include a hand bursting from a grave at the end, Funeral suggests the possibility that Abigail has not been stopped permanently. In 2002, King Diamond released the album Abigail II: The Revenge, which falls far short of the mark that Abigail placed so high. Most choose to consider the story of Abigail to be over at the end of the first album. It's a horror story told in a medium that would surprise many, but to heavy metal fans the world over, Abigail will remain as classic a tale as The Exorcist or The Fall of the House of Usher.
1. Funeral (1:29)
2. Arrival (5:26)
3. A Mansion in Darkness (4:33)
4. The Family Ghost (4:05)
5. The 7th Day of July 1777 (4:51)
6. Omens (3:56)
7. The Possession (3:25)
8. Abigail (4:52)
9. Black Horsemen (7:39)
Abigail - King Diamond - 1987 - Roadrunner Records