The immediate question that comes to mind when someone brings up the concept of a King Diamond compilation album, at least for me, is “How?!” (This of course being proceeded by a long line of expletives since I missed seeing him live this fall, because I am an idiot). Considering that pretty much all of King Diamond’s albums, excepting roughly half of “Fatal Portrait”, are concept albums with individual storylines, a compilation that spans decades seems a feat that must be crafted with particular precision.
But “Dreams of Horror” is here, and the tracks therein are seemingly selected in such a way that it is clear that much thought went into it. The two-disc set features roughly two tracks from each album (with the exception of “Conspiracy”, which has three tracks on the album, the largely narrative “Let It Be Done” appearing for added creepiness). My first reaction upon listening to the compilation was primarily shock at the exclusion of the title track from “Abigail”, which of course is the song everyone starts singing whenever someone mentions King Diamond. I don’t particularly object, of course; I’m always intrigued and somewhat pleased when bands choose the songs one doesn’t expect, and besides I have a copy of “Abigail” and can listen to it whenever I want. I was a bit blown away that it wasn’t on the album, however, as it is arguably the King’s most famous solo-band hit. After spending some more time with the collection, however, I have cultivated a theory concerning the selection of songs on the album that may make the exclusion of said song and other big hits like it a little clearer.
After my initial whining of “Then why isn’t “A Mansion in Darkness” on there? Why “Black Horsemen?” Wahhh!” it occurred to me that both “The Family Ghost” (gotta get that riff on there, you know the one) and “Black Horsemen” wrap up the story behind Abigail very nicely. First we have the moment in which Jonathan meets the ghost, is taken to the crypt and learns of Abigail La Fey’s demise, and then we follow up with Miriam’s birth of the monstrous child reborn. There. BAM!! If you have to sum up “Abigail” in two songs, that’s the way to do it. Now you have just enough of a taste, if you are not very familiar with King Diamond (including that tasty, tasty opening riff of “The Family Ghost”), to whet your appetite for going out and hearing the albums in their entirety.
Another reason that the particular songs that were selected were chosen may have to do with highlighting some of the connections between the albums. Clearly, “Them” and “Conspiracy” are connected, and it shows. It’s very easy to follow the storyline between the two albums, particularly if you know that the character Missy is featured on both, but even between story concepts there are common elements that are made clear by the songs picked from each album. Death, the supernatural, the abuse of authority and hypocrisy, madness, and loss are all common themes in King Diamond’s solo work, and the songs selected for “Dreams of Horror” exposes the connective tissue that so delicately ties all the albums together.
While “Dreams of Horror” may not be “Hagalaz’ Favorite King Diamond Tracks” compilation, it serves its purpose well. For new fans, it introduces the albums and their stories, while for old fans, it highlights the connections between them, and for literature nerds like myself, it’s positively fun in its focus on narrative. My only real complaint would be the short shrift that I feel like “The Eye” gets on the compilation, although there had to be an instrumental, I guess. For a man as prolific as King Diamond requires a number of compilations. It’s been a while since the last one, and “Dreams of Horror” certainly delivers.