Great Metal Albums of 1986: King Diamond- Fatal Portrait


Religion’s offensive against heavy metal and rock music in general in 1986 had the polar opposite reaction with me. As a result of people like Jimmy Swaggart and Jesus freaks showing up at concerts to condemn us to hell, I actively went out and sought ‘Satanic’ music or what is known as ‘black metal.’ It wasn’t a difficult task as it finally motivated me to get off my rear end and buy Mercyful Fate’s “Melissa” album. Afterwards, having known that Mercyful Fate had gone their separate ways, I discovered former lead singer King Diamond’s 1985 EP, “No Presents for Christmas” and his 1986 album, “Fatal Portrait.”

My first reaction to “Fatal Portrait” was that it could have been a Mercyful Fate album. Everything about this album from the guitar solos to the melody of the songs and of course, King Diamond’s unmistakable vocals, screams “Mercyful Fate.” Not that it’s a bad thing, but it does show who was the principal song writer in King’s previous band. But what you do get is nine really good songs.

What I didn’t know until recently was that half of “Fatal Portrait” tells a story. The first four songs and the closer tell the story. In a basic retelling, the Narrator sees a face every time he burns a candle. He speaks one word, the title of the second track, into the candle and frees the spirit of a girl named Molly who tells him of how her mother, Mrs Jane, kept her locked in the attic until she died. Mrs Jane paints a portrait of Molly and hangs it above the fire place, once freed, Molly tells her mother of her pain. The mother burns the portrait, thus freeing Molly’s spirit who haunts her until she goes insane. Once I knew this story, it gave those songs new meaning and made me appreciate the album more. It goes without saying, the great metal music behind the story helps as well.

The three songs which aren’t connected to the story are all good as well. One to note in particular is the instrumental, “Voices from the Past,” where King Diamond plays all the guitars on it.  He doesn’t crank any solos but does a good job and it does set up the closer well. But to satisfy my need for a favourite track or hidden gem, it has to be “Halloween.” While I can’t explain exactly why I think it’s the standout track, it is. Maybe because the guitars and King’s vocals seem to really come together on it more than the other tracks and that’s saying something with this great album. However, if they put the track, “The Lake,” which is featured on the reissue, that would be the best track.

Track Listing:

  1. The Candle
  2. Jonah
  3. The Portrait
  4. Dressed in White
  5. Charon
  6. Lurking in the Dark
  7. Halloween
  8. Voice From the Past
  9. Haunted


King Diamond

King Diamond- lead and backing vocals, guitars on “Voices From the Past”

Andy LaRocque- lead guitars

Michael Denner- lead guitars

Timi Hansen- bass

Mikkey Dee- drums

I’m sure that the God Squad had this album on its hit list and probably the PMRC too. Even if you’re not into black metal, this album is still a great listen.

Next post: Armoured Saint- Delirious Nomad

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6 Responses to “Great Metal Albums of 1986: King Diamond- Fatal Portrait”

  1. I always wanted to like King Diamond more than I did, I loved the stories and the artwork but I’ve always found him vocals hard to take. Friends of mine were absolutely obsessed with him when I was growing up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just listened to this yesterday actually! Totally agree this could have been a Mercyful Fate album. I always find King Diamond albums take a while to sink in but when they do your hooked.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Dressed in White” and “Lurking in the Dark” are career highlights. Stellar stuff. The next one was even better. Abigail is so good it’s stupid.

    Liked by 1 person

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