Monday, May 14, 2012

King Diamond - In Concert '87: Abigail (1990)

If 1987 seemed a little early on in King Diamond's solo career to put together a full-length live effort, keep in mind that Roadrunner didn't actually publish this until 1990 as a contractual filler, and King had already had years in Mercyful Fate to draw on. By this point, his career was hot, with five superb studio offerings that represent one of the finest 'streaks' in all metal history, each a slice of occult horror dominated by fantastic riffing, corny if effective narration and more memorable melodies (vocally and otherwise) than you could dream of. So once King and the label parted ways, there is no question who was missing out, and it makes sense that they'd drop this to turn another dime on the name.

That said, while it does present a good glance at the formative King Diamond live experience, In Concert '87: Abigail does have its flaws. There are certain tracks, like the opener "Arrival" where I found that the leads would almost drown out the rhythm guitar, and King's lower range vocals also feel a little broken and shaky. However, the sound and performance do seem to improve as the set deepens (or rather the sequence the tracks are ordered on this disc), and the crowd reaction throughout the course of the entire disc is vibrant, along with King's own frontmanship. If you've seen the band live, you'll already know he's one of the most comfortable singers in his niche in the live environment, and I can't say I've ever seen him on an 'off' night after probably 5-6 gigs I've seen him at (with Fate and the solo band). Otherwise, the performances are pretty solid, in particular the drums and LaRocque's guitar playing, though again I wish the rhythm guitars (performed here by a stand-in Michael Moon) were just louder and more potent in general.

As for track selection, this was the Abigail tour and thus those cuts get the most attention. "Funeral, "Arrival", "The Family Ghost", "The Possession", "The 7th Day of July 1777" and "Abigail" are all present and accounted for, joined by only two Fatal Portrait songs in "The Candle" and "The Portrait". It's almost a shame, because as much as I love the flawless Abigail, I really would have preferred if they discarded the drum and guitar solo tracks in favor of something like "Charon" or "Halloween". Not because Mikkey Dee and LaRocque are incapable of showing off and impressing, but because...who cares? I actually found that the earlier material sounded more consistent here than the sophomore songs. Rounding out the list here, they've also included a decent rendition of Mercyful Fate's "Come to the Sabbath", and for a finale "No Presents for Christmas" from the 1985 single, for a total of about 53 minutes duration.

Unless you're in the market for bootlegs and such, this is really the only 'official' live album you'll hear from those important years, so whether or not King himself cares about it isn't going to mar the hardcore fan from its acquisition. Personally, I don't find it all that exciting, but nor is it bad. The times I've experienced them in concert sounded far superior to this, and the following double live album has much more to offer, though it's 14 years along in their career. That aside, this is not a terrible representation of the band by any means, the vocals and instrumentation are all audible, the falsettos sound good and there's enough of the necessary, manic energy in the song selection. A longer live album with material from 1988-90 would have been a better deal in '90, but sometimes you gotta take what you can get.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]

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