Release Date: Nov 6, 2012
Record label: Nuclear Blast / Nuclear Blast Int'l
After emerging on the scene as talented but copycat retro-metallers on their eponymous 2007 debut (inspired primarily by compatriots Witchcraft), Sweden's Graveyard appeared to find their calling as born-again bluesmen on their 2011 sophomore album, Hisingen Blues, swapping Pentagram for Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac as idols to aspire to, arguably to the bettering of their career prospects. This theory gains credence with the comparatively speedy gestation and late-2012 delivery of the quartet's third long-player, Lights Out, which shows a Graveyard committed to simultaneously refining recent efforts and taking a few new chances with their sound. To wit: urgent, quasi-metallic offerings such as "An Industry of Murder," "Seven Seven," and the simple but irresistible "Endless Night" rub friendly shoulders with groovier efforts like "Fool in the End," "The Suits, the Law & the Uniforms" (bonus points for its skronking Stooges/"1970" sax), and the wonderfully laid-back "20/20 (Tunnel Vision).
Sweden has a rich history of metal bands, to the point where it (along with its neighbor Finland) ranks as the world's highest in terms of metal bands per capita, but I can't think of any who had the very august and blue-blood Wall Street Journal act as a conduit for the world premiere of a song from their newest record, Lights Out. I haven't kept up on the investment banker world, so maybe casual Friday attire has ditched the Dockers and Top-siders for a pair of engineer boots, a jean vest with old school NWOBHM patches sewn on it, and grimy hair tied back. As metal bands go, Graveyard is definitely closer to the 'yeah, my Dad can listen to this' as opposed to the overtly crude and deliberate offensiveness of the latest grindcore band, and hopefully their ability to turn bluesy hard rock moves into melodic ear candy convinced a bonds trader or two to check out iTunes during lunch and download some songs.
Before there was metal, there was the blues. Metal's original trinity-- Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple-- all started in Britain's blues scene, and those roots are still discernible on their early records. Even into the 1980s, there were traces of the good-time boogie music of Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo in hair metal, while darker strains of Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker lurked inside Glenn Danzig's outsized persona.
I have an extremely divided opinion of Lights Out and of Graveyard in general. On one hand, it raises questions: Where does pastiche take creative form, and when does it water down aesthetics of the represented genre (in this case, a sort of doom-metal subversion)? Where does the expression of influences lose the ability to translate, and where does rehashing begin? On the other, I catch myself unknowingly enjoying Lights Out whenever I quit trying to overtly “listen” to it. So to aide my thought process, I decided to clone myself and then discuss the album over drinks.
Graveyard's third slab bristles with all the burly muscle its North American adoptees have come to expect from these Nordic metal longhairs. The Swedish fourpiece clearly enjoys dropping acid rock in its black-light burrow, which, when combined with a propensity for vintage tones and Joakim Nilsson's growing Chris Cornell resemblance, produces a work of surprising warmth and soul. "Endless Night" and "An Industry of Murder" thunder, but "Hard Times Lovin'" and "Slow Motion Countdown" flow like lava.