Review Summary: The King is dead. Long live the King!
The sudden breakup of Mercyful Fate back in 1985, caused by creative differences between King Diamond and Hank Shermann, caught all Fate followers by surprise.
Their debut EP, Melissa and Don't Break the Oath inspired the flourishing European first wave of black metal and young US thrash acts such as Metallica or Exodus, winning the loyalty and respect of a considerable underground fan base who wondered what King would sound like without his main song writer Hank.
Under is pseudonym, King Diamond didn't waste much time in taking his former Fate band mates Michael Denner and Timi Hansen, the new Swedish recruits Andy LaRocque and Mikkey Dee and starting a new chapter, releasing on December 25 the single No Presents for Christmas (this song can also be found on Fatal Portrait's re-issue), taking only six months to shape his highly anticipated debut album Fatal Portrait.
Fatal Portrait is a bridge between the occult and epic Fate previous style and a more conceptual, but still dark, theatrical approach so perfectly achieved on the next album Abigail.
This first conceptual effort can be found on Fatal Portrait's first four songs: The Candle, The Jonah, The Portrait, Dressed in White and the ninth track Haunted. This five songs form a short horror story about a man that frees the haunted spirit of a little girl, named Molly, trapped in every candle of the house.
Musically, Fatal Portrait keep the Fate formula based on dark oriented lyrics, inspired riffs, epic twin leads and King's unique falsetto range, however the songs have now a more melodic and traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. This stylish approach is based on a extremely solid rhythm section that lays down a solid foundation for the melodic guitar lines and dramatic vocals that mixes high falsettos with occasional demonic growls. The lyrics also evolved from the previous satanic main themes into a more theatrical narrative, making this record probably the most easy listening album of King's career. Songs like The Candle, The Jonah, Charon and specially Halloween are very accessible and become quickly live favourites for many years.
Even if sometimes we feel some lack of an overall identity throughout the album or find some filler tracks like the instrumental Voices From The Past, Fatal Portrait still remains one of King's best records, helping to establish King Diamond as a respectable metal act in the mid-eighties.
The Candle, Charon and Halloween
Solid musical performances
King's theatrical vocals
The cool, but dispensable, instrumental Voices From The Past