Review Summary: The wonderfully horrifying story of one man's obsession with vengeance... If it's Halloween, this is certainly a treat.
Oh lord, where do we begin?
First of all, King Diamond is a sick ***, but I'll be damned if he isn't one of the most intelligent, most talented sick ***s this side of Denmark.
Keeping with his solo career tradition, The Graveyard is a concept album in which King Diamond sings the part of the main character - in this case a man who witnessed McKenzie, the town's mayor, sexually abusing his young daughter. Naturally, this chap's got no clout and when he brings it to the courts, the mayor rigs it so that he's tossed into the loony bin. Given ample time to go insane, King's character finally escapes from "Black Hill Sanitarium" (the starting point of the album) and starts to hatch a plan to get back at the McKenzie.
There's a weird (at least in my mind) sort of disconnect in the story where King's character has this whole thing about on a wall and dying in a graveyard by decapitation making your soul go up into your brain where you live forever, but for the most part it can be ignored. It just comes back at the end, but is mostly irrelevant, except for the fact that it makes for an eerie song (Heads on the Wall).
As previously mentioned, the album begins with the chugging, thick rhythms of "Black Hill Sanitarium," where King, switching between his lower tones and his operatic falsetto, informs the listener that his escape is "for the mentally ill / for those who have lost the will" and that he "hates those men in white," giving the listener a forecast of gloom and despair from the very onset of the album. And it only gets gloomier.
From there, King's character plots to take McKenzie's daughter - the one who had been molested - in order to lure him into King's trap. This starts when King's escape leads him to a graveyard where much of the story takes place. Upon arrival, the more chaotic tune of the song, "Waiting," gives off the correct impression of King's character's insanity and his rather optimistic attitude towards kidnapping the girl and exacting his revenge. It seems like in this song, he uses the falsetto a lot more to show off the character's madness, while his middle tones push the plan as something anyone would do.
"Heads on the Wall" brings up the theory posed by the album that if decapitated in a Graveyard, the soul creeps into the mind and lives there forever. The track slows it down with a much more chimey guitar riff opening to a bit of a ballad, if not an awkward one. It continues on in a slow pattern, gaining speed with every occurrence of the chorus, until finally there as a complete instrumental and vocal break followed by an explosion where King tells the listener how he takes it upon himself to kill the undertaker, Jeremiah, and appoint himself the Graveyard's new caretaker as he continues to see (or possibly imagine?) heads on the wall. The song slows down again until finally King slides into a chaotic interspersed speaking part pushing the listener further into the insanity of the character.
From there, his voices go on to tell him to kidnap Lucy, McKenzie's daughter in the track "Whispers." Said voices are doubled versions of Diamond's own voice, and have interspersed pauses whose rhythm reminds me of West Side Story - finger snaps and all. The corresponding image of a group ganging up on one man mentally to force him to do something is probably the intended effect, though.
King then moves on to exact his plan, showing up at Lucy's school - seeming to admire her a bit more than any man should, and luring her into his clutches by saying he's not a stranger and that he'll bring her to McKenzie later on, while she starts "making such a fuss" and fighting him, until he finally has her and tells her to play with some homemade dolls. You can hear that high insane voice in his interaction with Lucy just about every time. There's some good drumming on here that helps connect the vocal parts with the guitar parts, while the guitar creates a catchy riff that largely follows King's melodies, with, of course, some of LaRocque's tasty solos tossed into the mix.
"Digging Graves" slows down again as King laments over his own change since being committed to Black Hill Sanitarium and digs the seven graves in which he will put Lucy. The song is dark and gloomy, really painting that picture you see on the cover of the album and one effect on this song that really helps establish that tone is the use of the heavy-sounding bell - one you might expect to see in a decrepit clock tower somewhere you'd never want to venture at night.
His plan put into motion, King calls McKenzie up and tells him to come meet him at the cemetery, or "Lucy will be dead." The song is fast, once more, and features a few oddly distorted vocal lines from Diamond, which denote words spoken directly into the phone to McKenzie. Despite being hard to understand, they get the point across pretty well while the music takes a slight change during these parts in order to accommodate.
"Sleep Tight Little Baby" slows down once more, opening with a spoken intro and the sounds of a crying "Lucy" as King's character places her in a coffin and begins to bury her. In some mad attempt to comfort her, he starts singing a lullaby about his plans for revenge. This song features a good deal of King's keyboard playing, which sets the childish lullaby tone in contrast to his grating revenge-driven anger on the track. Finally, as the track ends, McKenzie shows at King's place as he laughs, forcing the Mayor to do his bidding in order to see his daughter again.
This segues into a track ("Daddy") with a more cathedral suiting keyboard pattern as King slips into a new sort of voice which seems to signify him portraying Lucy directly, crying about her molestation. From there, a science fictiony keyboard part leads into an aggressive guitar accompanied by King, now playing his main character again, berating McKenzie, telling him that he's "going down."
At this point, King exposes his full and final plan, where he blindfolds McKenzie and forces him to play a game of "Trick or Treat," where he must dig in one of the seven graves to save his daughter. He has three chances to find her, or he is told she will die. As he digs into the first two coffins, he doesn't find Lucy, but on the third try he succeeds and is promptly knocked out by King. The instrumentation on this track is all over the place on this track, but in a wonderful way. The guitar once again enters a heavy, driving role, and at times launches into a fiery squeal. There are a few select parts where the drumming is choice - namely during the solo in the middle of the song, and King really gets his scream out there on this track.
After this King pulls Lucy up from the grave in the mostly forgettable track "Up From The Grave," which has a repetitive chorus and a lot of childlike singing that King seems to be fond of in dealing with Lucy. It should be noted, however, that this song is the most drum-heavy and that Darrin Anthony does not disappoint in establishing the core bass thumps that make this song eerie along with the haunting keyboard chimes.
"I Am" comes across as another mostly forgettable song where Diamond's character, mad enough that he must now hold a trial for himself to convict McKenzie of his wrongdoing. There are a few fun parts, and the guitar is interesting, but for the most part, the slow nature of this song just doesn't keep up with the rest of the album.
Finally, the album ends in a lyrical gem of a song, "Lucy Forever." It opens slowly, with some excellent drumming as King sets a date for McKenzie's death - "the first light of dawn." However, Lucy pulls a rope and a shard of glass from a broken window falls down and cuts off King's head. He finds that whole rumor about losing your head in a graveyard is true, and his soul goes into his head. Lucy moves to free her father, but his head warns her not to. In the end, she listens to him and takes his head up into her backpack, leaving her father trapped in a structure on the grounds of the graveyard. The majority of the song is slow and grinding, but picks up about two thirds of the way in, with the drum beat speeding up considerably and LaRocque pulling into a driving solo as King screeches at Lucy to take him with her. Finally, it closes with King singing that he'll be with Lucy forever.
All in all, The Graveyard really takes the time to establish itself as a powerfully driven album with an interesting theme which deviates from the rest of King Diamond's catalog. For fans of Diamond's voice, it's a no-brainer. For fans of metal or a good concept album in general, it's also a no-brainer.