Hello, my name is Dr. A.1N.2 Grier. I’m addicted to Mr. Kim Bendix Petersen and his cross-bone microphone and horror-ific storytelling. But, is it a crime to own four copies of Abigail?3 Is it that terrible to own a t-shirt for every King Diamond and Mercyful Fate album cover? And why does everyone make fun of me for the King statue on my office desk.4 Does Grier have a problem? No, motherfucker, he doesn’t. If he had a problem, there would be a new review, interview, or career introspective on King every week here at AMG. But, that’s not the case, is it? So, for all you sonsabitches out there that think I have a problem, I’m gonna prove to you that I’m not crazy. That’s right, I’m going to review Carriage‘s non-King-related debut record, Visions. This album is so far from King Diamond—and Mercyful Fate, for that matter—that you’re all gonna be proud of Old Man Grier. So, do us all a favor and chill.
So… Visions sounds exactly like King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. So much so that Ferrous thought it fitting to hand this off to me in hopes that I would, once and for all, get fired by the Big Man himself. But, the joke’s on him. The joke’s on all them! Go ahead and scroll down to the bottom of this review and you’ll find Grier‘s first ever 4.5/5.0. Ha! Made you look. That honor is, obviously, reserved for King‘s next masterpiece.5 In all seriousness, Carriage does indeed have that special something only found on classic Mercyful Fate releases. There’s also plenty of Iron Maiden in their sound, too. There’re meaty, MF chugging riffs; scores of old-fashioned, dueling guitar solos; cheesy, soup-thick KD key action; and vocals that spend most of their time near Dickinson range, but also with the ability to soar to the heights of King. It seems like a match made in heaven. But does it work?
After opening with the Iron Maiden-like instrumental, “The Procession,” “Primal Ritual” sets the tone for the rest of the album. That’s done with a mix of Maiden/Mercyful Fate guitar work and Dickinson-esque vocals that transition to King-ly falsettos. “Primal Ritual” gallops along at a pace that’s over thirty years old but, before it gets too comfortable in the groove, the riffs change. Then, they change again. From trotting to running to walking, this song (as well as the others of the album) is oozing everything from head-bobbing verses/chorus to melodic transitions and dueling solos.
The best of the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink variety include “The Owl,” “Alucarda,” and “Medusa’s Stare.” The first is an instrumental that takes the simple foundation of “The Procession” and builds a house on it. Acoustic versus distorted guitars, melodic versus charging riffcraft, and magnificent builds that float into some of the best solo work on the album. But, the back-to-back closers (“Alucarda” and “Medusa’s Stare”) are quintessential Carriage pieces. “Alucarda” begins with and holds onto a sinister Iced Earth songwriting style straight from Burnt Offerings—yet, with pre-1992 Iced Earth vocal delivery. It takes the simple intro riff and then builds on it. Then, the rest of the song builds off that. Riff after riff and solo after solo bring “Alucarda” past its six-minute mark and into “Medusa’s Stare.” The closer takes everything gathered from its predecessor and packs it in. This time, though, it’s done with more old-school Maiden character. Bass, solos, melodic leads; all help to deliver the most-dramatic build on the album. A build that doesn’t feel forced and climaxes at the perfect time.
Other highlights include the kickass MF groove of “In the Night” (with it’s gruff-to-clean, Maiden-meets-Metal Church-like vocal arrangements) and the ’70s, occult-rock vibe of “Gypsy Woman” (with a punchy chorus and the most melodic and passionate back-half of any song on the disc). But, from “Primal Ritual” to “Gypsy Woman,” and beyond, the vocals stand out as the weakest part of the album.
Don’t get me wrong, the dude can belt it out like Dickinson on “Primal Ritual,” falsetto like King on “Drink the Blood,” and take a crack at Halford on “Alucarda.” But the vocals aren’t at the same level as the impressive instrumentation. They are a little all-over-the-place for my taste. Honestly, if it wasn’t for all the great riffs, the impressive soloing, and the dynamic master, I wouldn’t have scored Visions as high as I did. Walking into Visions, I planned on hating it. But, after the first spin, it snatched at my undercarriage and wouldn’t let go. There’s definitely room for improvement but Carriage have done a damn good job producing one fun debut.