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KING DIAMOND - Fatal Portrait cover
3.34 | 40 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1986

Filed under Heavy Metal


1. The Candle (6:40)
2. The Jonah (5:16)
3. The Portrait (5:07)
4. Dressed in White (3:08)
5. Charon (4:16)
6. Lurking in the Dark (3:34)
7. Halloween (4:13)
8. Voices From the Past (1:31)
9. Haunted (3:53)
10. The Lake (4:13)

Total Time: 41:55


- King Diamond / Vocals
- Michael Denner / Guitar
- Andy LaRoque / Guitar
- Timi Hansen / Bass
- Mikkey Dee / Drums

About this release

Release date: February 17, 1986
Label: Roadrunner Records

Produced by King Diamond and Rune Höyer.
Assistant producer: Michael Denner
Engineered by Roberto Falcao.
Recorded and Mixed at ''Sound Track Studio'', Copenhagen, July - August 1985.

Thanks to UMUR, diamondblack for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

"Fatal Portrait" is the debut full-length studio album by Danish/Swedish heavy metal act King Diamond. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in February 1986. After the demise of Danish heavy metal act Mercyful Fate in April 1985, because of creative differences between lead vocalist King Diamond and guitarist Hank Shermann, King Diamond formed a new band using his stage name as the new band name. Former Mercyful Fate guitarist Michael Denner and bassist Timi Hansen also joined King Diamond. New second guitarist was Andy LaRoque and new drummer Mikkey Dee. Both Swedes. King Diamond shifted his lyrical focus and imagery from satanic/occult themes to horror stories. Mainly delivered in concept album form.

..."Fatal Portrait" is one of the few exceptions in the band´s discography though, as only some of the tracks on the album form a concept story, while the rest are individual tracks with no conceptual connection to each other. In short the concept story is about a girl who is locked in the attic by her mother, dies and then comes back as a ghost/spirit to haunt her mother (there are more to the story, but these are the basics).

Compared to the murky, occult and at times anarchistic material by Mercyful Fate (atonal soloing, challenging song structures, loose rythm structures), the music on "Fatal Portrait" is generally more streamlined and melodic heavy metal with a few nods toward thrash/power metal delivered in a theatrical fashion. King Diamond´s high pitched vocals and harmony vocals provide the music with a very distinct sound, but the guitar playing by Andy LaRoque should also be mentioned as an exceptional element on "Fatal Portrait". Michael Denner is a great guitarist too with his melodic playing style, but Andy LaRoque really is something special to my ears. The musicianship is overall excellent though and all involved deserve a mention for their tight inventive playing.

The material is generally of high quality. The tracks are memorable and feature both melodic and harder edged qualities. It´s a great dynamic mix of elements that provide "Fatal Portrait" with enough variation to ensure it a longevity that not many albums possess. Tracks like "The Portrait", the unbelievably melodic "Dressed in White" and "Haunted" are among the highlights. I know "Halloween" is probably the most famous track from "Fatal Portrait" but personally I´ve always felt it was among the weakest tracks. Still great though.

Taking into account that "Fatal Portrait" was released in 1986, the sound production is pretty strong. Sure the guitar sound could have been a bit more powerful, but other than that the production is really enjoyable.

While you can loosely associate the music with traditional heavy metal, King Diamond´s original approach to singing (he was/is of course strongly influenced by singers like Dave Byron (Uriah Heep) and Rob Halford (Judas Priest)) and arranging and the general image of the band were pretty unique back in 1986 (and still is today). With vocals this distinct sounding, the music of King Diamond will always be an aquired taste, but to the fans this is a fantastic start to a fantastic career for the band. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.
By the time Fatal Portrait was released in 1986, King Diamond had already established himself as a household name within the metal community through his work in the legendary Mercyful Fate. His distinct high-pitched howl captivated many metalheads on classics like Melissa and Don't Break the Oath, and a 'solo' album naturally seemed like a good idea. Of course, in retrospect, we know that the King's solo ensemble ended up being every bit as successful as Mercyful Fate, but the suspense leading up to Fatal Portrait must've been pretty great back in the mid-eighties'. With a fantastic group of musicians to back up his musical vision, King Diamond delivers nine solid tracks of thrashy traditional heavy metal on this debut. In many ways, Fatal Portrait lacks the maturity and sense of perfection that would be achieved on Abigail, but that's not to discount the quality of this release; although it's not the King's finest hour, Fatal Portrait is still a very worthy debut.

In many ways, the music on Fatal Portrait is quite similar to what was heard on the first two Mercyful Fate albums. There's a bit more of a thrash metal influence this time around, but the roots of the music are still in traditional heavy metal - and, of course, having King Diamond's vocals at front and center is enough to put a unique stamp on any album. The musicians supporting him are all clearly skillful, though it's mostly the guitar playing that really grabs my attention. Both the bass and drum performances are competent enough, but don't strive for much more than that - the fretwork from Andy LaRoque and Michael Denner, on the other hand, is absolutely spectacular. The lead guitar solos are phenomenal across the board, and the powerful riffage doesn't suffer from any shortcomings either. My only real gripe is that, with a few exceptions, the songwriting is generally less remarkable than on later King Diamond efforts. Not all of the songs here are particularly great, but a few excellent tracks like “Haunted” do help save the album from ever feeling mediocre as a whole. Still, there aren't nearly as many jaw-dropping moments as there would be on future releases, and most of Fatal Portrait leans more towards 'average' than it does towards extraordinary.

The production could also be a bit more dynamic, but if truth be told, Fatal Portrait is still a very solid effort from King Diamond. The riffs are powerful, the musicianship is impressive, and the King's vocals are as unique as ever. Fatal Portrait is not a high point in his career, though, and newcomers to King Diamond's music should make sure to check out a few other albums (either as a solo artist or with Mercyful Fate) before giving this a listen. Next time around is when things would really start getting good...
King Diamond's debut album plays it rather safe, delivering a competent batch of thrashy traditional metal tracks without quite managing to carve out a distinct identity for Diamond's solo career. The three opening tracks and Haunted together make up a short narrative piece, which prefigures Diamond's future career focus on lavish and over-the-top concept albums, but the rest of the songs feel rather like filler - Halloween, in particular, is a simplistic and repetitive stab at a hit single which leaves me rather cold. On the whole, it's a good effort but it doesn't quite scratch the itch for me; it feels more like a warm-up than a fully-realised album.

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