I’m a relatively newcomer to the world of King Diamond. Like I’ve mentioned before I have a pretty good mentor on all things metal and he’s shown me some bands that I love just as much as all my favorites. King Diamond is one of those performers that just slipped through the cracks for me. In my formative metal years, I listened to mostly Thrash and New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. So, someone like King Diamond, while always near the fringes of my interest, never really got into my eyes or ears. That all changed when I was shown the song “Halloween” by King Diamond. (More on this one later.)
The macabre and falsetto filled songs of the one and only King immediately interested me. In a similar vein to Iron Maiden and their album covers, King Diamond really looks a lot scarier on the surface. So my interest in the King really exploded after I saw him in concert last December. You can read my review of that show here, and boy, was it a treat.
King Diamond has had a long and illustrious career in heavy metal. While his time in Mercyful Fate is fantastic, this list is just focusing on his “solo” material. Mercyful Fate is a list for another time. This list might be a little heavy on the Abigail songs, but I feel like I’ve gotten the breadth of The King on this list. So we’ll start off with some honorable mentions.
Honorable Mentions For King Diamond’s Career
Coming off Abigail II: The Revenge, “Spirits” is near the end of that album’s narrative. It showcases that the King still has it even later in his career. It’s a direct sequel to the events of Abigail and this song is the penultimate track on the album. It’s overall a great track on an album that some might call a disappointment, but really, it’s impossible to live up to the lofty standards of the original.
Masquerade Of Madness
The Institute might not be out yet, but if “Masquerade of Madness” is any indication, that album will be a return to form for King Diamond. This song was previewed on his most recent tour and it simply, kicks ass. It’s got the same haunting feeling that his songs should give you, and the King’s voice sounds as good as ever here.
Behind These Walls
The Eye might be the most underrated of the King’s post-Abigail releases. It tells the story, instead of possession, evil spirits, or Black Horsemen, it tells about atrocities against mankind. Most notably, burning of witches, treatment of nuns, and the evil of the Church. “Behind These Walls” is another showcase song for King Diamond’s one-in-a-million talents.
This one is quick. There’s just something about KD singing dates. Whether it’s July 7th, 1777 or 1642, it just sounds great. This song tells the story of the strange goings-on at Convent of Louviers. The Chaplain of that convent was Father Mathurin Picard. The story intertwines with that of Madeline Bavant, who entered the convent in 1625 after being seduced by a priest, was imprisoned and died in 1647. It’s a crazy album with a great story that deserves a full listen through.
The Invisible Guests
In a career as expansive and awesome as King Diamond, some good songs have to get left off a a top 10 list. “The Invisible Guests” off Them is one of those songs. It barely gets squeaked out, but this song continues the story of Grandma and her evil dealings with spirits outside of our human realm. This one might be a shocker for a lot of KD fans, but it barely misses the top ten for me.
The Top 10 Best King Diamond Songs
Like I said before, this list is going to have a lot of Abigail. I don’t think a lot of people would disagree that, Abigail is his finest album and a lofty one to do better than for the rest of his career. “Omens” combines everything that you’d want out of metal. It has a chugging guitar riff that keeps you hooked the whole song. KD wails and blisters the lyrics with his vocals. Finally it has that twin guitar attack of Andy LaRoque and Michael Denner trading off riffs and solos.
This one continues the story and features various deadly omens of the arrival of Abigail’s birth. A cradle shakes by itself, church bells toll by themselves, flowers die, horrible smells fill the air, and most ominous, the dinner table is set for three at night. Miriam and Jonathan discover that she’s pregnant with Abigail the very next day. This might not be the best song off Abigail, but it continues that story and gets the tenth spot here.
#9: The Candle
If you were wondering what King Diamond would sound like by himself, you must’ve been surprised in 1986 when he released Fatal Portrait. The first of four songs on the album that contain a self-sufficient story, “The Candle” begins the album in classic horror style. After a quick intro, you’re treated to the roaring guitars and wailing vocals. I can only imagine what this would have sounded like for the first time in 1986.
The spirit of Molly is trapped in a candle that our narrator burns. She’s released and haunts her mother, Ms. Jane for the rest of her life. It’s a simple story on the album, but one that works wonders. It’s a slower song in the grand scheme of things for King Diamond, and that only adds to the atmosphere and ambiance of it all.
#8: The Possession
Abigail makes a return to the list with “The Possession”. Continuing the story left off with “Omens”, this one delves into how Abigail’s spirit possesses the body of Miriam. My favorite part of this song is around the 1:45 mark. The slow build up of the more clean guitar tones into the heavier tones and finally the shredding guitar solo. LaRoque and Denner really know how to trade shredding guitars on this album. This song in particular shows just how King Diamond knows how to terrify without sounding silly or overtly shocking.
None of the songs off Abigail can be called underrated, because it’s a classic heavy metal album, but this and “Omens” might be the two most underrated tracks.
#7: Eye Of The Witch
The opener to The Eye, it’s all about a necklace that allows for the wearer to see what it’s seen in the past. It opens up our narrator’s eyes to all the atrocities throughout history of the Church and persecution of witches. If you look directly into the Eye, you die. Once again, King Diamond gives you a smashing horror story without being too campy. This time around it actually sets up like a Poe story about finding the fateful necklace.
This one chugs along at a brisk pace instead of being all guns blazing like other songs on the list. That quality of KD’s music makes it perfect for all occasions.
#6: Welcome Home
Mikkey Dee is basically The Animal from The Muppets. The follow-up to Abigail was Them. It told the story of King Diamond’s fictional evil Grandma and the voices he hears know as, “Them”. “Welcome Home” is the opening song on the record. They’re welcoming Grandma home from an asylum. The story unravels as King finds out the nefarious deeds that his Grandmother is up to. The spirits in the house speak to the Grandma and King is told to forget about what he’s seen.
The song is usually an opener for the band, depending on the concert. But it’s always coincided with Grandma being wheeled on stage and her interactions with the King. Like most of his other songs, it tells a horrifying story about evil and the occult. This time it’s as heavy as any song in his catalog and LaRoque really steps up his game on the guitar here.
#5: Sleepless Nights
Conspiracy is the sequel to the story of Them. After King is incarcerated and locked up for killing his Grandma at the end of that album, he’s released and goes back to the house that caused all his problems. His mother and therapist conspire against him to get control of the estate. King makes a deal with Them, so he can see his dead sisters spirit. She answers his questions, but can’t help him with the plot against his life. Eventually his mother and therapist are successful in killing him. What they don’t know is that he’s going to now haunt them for the rest of their lives.
“Sleepless Nights” starts off with one of my favorite riffs on any song. It transitions into heavy guitars and King Diamond wailing. It’s the best song off Conspiracy and a great one to hear live.
#4: The Lake
Somehow, some way, “The Lake” didn’t make the final cut on Fatal Portrait. Thanks to bonus editions and remasters, we were given this amazing track. Of all the King Diamond songs that are about the occult or Satan, this one might be the most terrifying. While the lyrics are a bit tough to decipher, it contains all the hallmarks of classic King Diamond song. I was thrilled to hear them play this one on their most recent tour, and they gave it a prime position, closing out the main set just before the encore.
It’s got a hard driving riff and some serious lyrics. Whatever innocence and Christian ideals that are espoused in the beginning of the song are replaced by the seduction of evil and Satan. This one is well worth the listen if you haven’t gotten around to it.
“Halloween” holds a special place in my heart. Hailing from the Fatal Portrait album, it was the first King Diamond song I fell in love with. I’d surely heard songs by him and Mercyful Fate before this one, but the subject matter and everything enthralled me. It made it all the way to number three in my list of Top 10 Heavy Metal Halloween Songs.
When it’s played live, it has an even better energy. The opening riff just translates so well to being played out of nowhere on the setlist. The other magical thing about the song is when King Diamond gives the crowd a chance to interact by having them scream for Halloween. If you need to introduce someone to King Diamond, there really isn’t a better song for it. If it wasn’t for the greatness of the next two songs, this would be my number one.
This is the only video I’m going to promote that’s not from the official King Diamond Youtube channel or an official source, because this song needs the introduction with it. It just adds so much ambiance and atmosphere to the song. It sets up the story of the whole Abigail album. “Funeral” transitions into “Arrival” which if not for the fantastic first song on this list, would be the quintessential King Diamond song.
What more can I say about this one that hasn’t been said? Just listen to the opening riff of this song. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know, then I don’t know what will. This song is heavier than most metal songs out there and doesn’t need to be played at the speed of light. It’s a masterclass on guitar work between Denner and LaRoque.
#1: Black Horsemen
The epic conclusion to Abigail, and one of the most hauntingly beautiful heavy metal songs ever written. If there’s a song to upset “Arrival” for the top spot, this is it. I’m a sucker for concept albums that begin where they start. The start of Abigail is the Black Horsemen riding away in the darkness and the end is also the Black Horsemen riding away into the dark. You’re given the best vocal work of King Diamond’s entire career here. I mention the dueling guitars of LaRoque and Denner a lot, but this is their absolute apex.
Abigail takes control of Miriam, and kills Jonathan while he’s not paying attention by pushing him down the stairs. Miriam gives birth to Abigail and is killed. Her last sight being the terrible yellow eyes of Abigail. The seven horsemen from the beginning of the story find Abigail eating something too horrifying to mention in the crypt of the mansion. They take her away to bury her in a chapel deeper in the forest, driving seven silver spikes through her body to keep her from resurrecting once again.
When I saw King Diamond live, he dedicated this song to his fallen bandmate, Timi Hansen. It’s an apt dedication because his driving bass keeps the song at a brisk pace. It’s striking between all-out blitz during the solos and subdued beauty during the slower parts. “Black Horsemen” is a fitting song to close out the Abigail album and this list.
You can check out the other entries in THS’s Fright-A-Thon here.
For more on King Diamond, horror, heavy metal, or any other pop culture make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.