I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Carriage - "Visions" (2018)
Genre: Traditional Heavy Metal
10 Tracks / Run time: 47:56
Release: Stormspell Records, Summer 2018
It's hard to believe that it's been almost twenty years since Mercyful Fate's last studio album, and more than a decade since the last solo disc from MF's iconic front man, King Diamond. Many bands have tried to fill the "melodic-devil-music" void that King's and MF's absences have left behind since then; the most successful of these would definitely be recent Grammy award winners Ghost, whose face-painted, Satanic-pope front man "Papa Emeritus" certainly owes a visual (though not vocal) debt to King Diamond. Meanwhile, the underground scene has spawned a number of traditionally-minded retro-metal combos that bear a much closer resemblance to the classic Fate/K.D. sound. Some of these occult-metal revivalists include Them, Attic, and Hell. We can now add Carriage to this rapidly-growing list.
Hailing from Portsmouth, Virginia, and featuring former members of Possessor, Heaven Falls Hard, and Mammoth Black, Carriage was formed in 2015 and made their first recorded appearance on Divebomb Records' Masters of Metal Vol. 2 compilation the following year. The quintet is now preparing to unleash their debut full length album, entitled Visions, through the true-metal specialists at Stormspell Records. The ten-track disc is a total fists-in-the-air throwback to the days when thrill-seeking teenage headbangers gathered at the "IMPORT" sections of their local record stores, snapping up anything with skulls, graveyards, witches, or pentagrams on the front cover. Press "play" and enter Carriage's coven!
Carriage - "Primal Ritual"
Mercyful Fate and King Diamond comparisons are totally unavoidable while reviewing Carriage. The band's Facebook profile lists such additional influences as Judas Priest, Savatage, Grim Reaper, Metal Church, Exciter, Iron Maiden, and Black Sabbath, and I can hear bits and pieces of all of the above throughout the tunes on Visions, but MF and KD are definitely the most prominent in Carriage's sound. These guys are all about re-creating the eerie vibe of the Danish metal legends' Melissa/Don't Break The Oath era, from the guaranteed-to-scare-your-mother cover art to the tongue-in-cheek lyrics about flesh eating ghouls, secret graveyard rituals and of course, numerous shout outs to my man SAAAAAAAA-TAAANN! (throws horns)
The sound of horses' hooves kick off the moody intro "Procession," which sets a nice, atmospheric tone. The two-minute instrumental (think Iron Maiden's "Transylvania") leads into the galloping first track, "Primal Ritual," where vocalist Robbie Rainey wastes no time in showing off his impressive King Diamond impersonation. This guy can pull off the King's trademark helium-high falsettos and his low-register, menacing snarls, which I'm sure is no mean feat! "In The Night" is a gloomy, mid tempo track that gives the rhythm section of drummer Randy Ashberry and bassist Tombstone Steve (yes, really) a chance to show off as they lock into a nice vintage-metal groove.
"Drink the Blood" and "Deadly Corpse" continue to display Carriage's knack for crafting ghoulish metal melodies with style, and "The Owl" is a killer instrumental offering with the guitar team of Michael Martin and River Ashberry living out their wildest Shermann/Denner or Tipton/Downing six-string tandem fantasies. These guys have chops to spare! The twisting, crunchy guitar work in the mid-section of "Hunting the Witch" makes it one of the album's highlights, but the moody epic "Alucarda" (the disc's longest track at six minutes and change) is no slouch and neither is the album closing "Medusa's Stare," in which Rainey does a certain Mr. Diamond especially proud with his wails of "BeeeeeWAAARE... Medusa's STAAAAAA-AAAAAAARE!" in the chorus.
Summing It Up
Carriage's Visions may not be the most original album to come down the pike in 2018, but the quintet's instrumental and vocal skills are top notch and their deep love and respect for classic '80s metal shines through in every note of this album. Carriage were obviously having a blast when they threw down this set of good ol' fashioned devil's metal. If the flame-throwin', skull-waving, blood-drinkin' live photos of the band in the CD booklet are anything to go by, it looks like they're a ton of fun to see in concert, too!
October will be here before you know it and Visions will definitely fit right into my Halloween season playlist, right next to the usual creepy classics by (of course) Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, early Savatage, Danzig, Annihilator's Alison Hell, and the Misfits.
King Diamond is supposedly working on a new album as I write this, but no release date has been announced yet. Until the King rises to haunt the Earth again, his disciples in Carriage make for a damn fine substitute, proudly carrying the torch of old school, more evil-than-thou melodic metal. Great stuff here, guys. Horns up, WAY up.
Check the band out via their Facebook page, and let Visions cast its spell upon you!
© 2018 Keith Abt
Melissa Clason from Fayetteville, NC on July 22, 2018:
Thanks for introducing me to a new band! I'm going through some more of their music on YouTube, and it sounds awesome! Definitely going to have to get this album.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 09, 2018:
Hi Alex - thanks, this album is a lot of fun!
Alex Rose from Virginia on July 09, 2018:
Hey, I know these guys! Cool to see them popping up in the feed! Nice review.