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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Album Review: Graveyard - Lights Out

So we’re at the end of the year 2012, and people are making their top ten lists of their favorite albums. I reckon the new Graveyard- Lights Out is topping most of them. It was a strange year, some hyped up records that didn’t meet their expectations, some better than imagined (Soundgarden- King Animal), and the gems; the surprises of the year. Lights Out, Graveyard’s third and best, is a kaleidoscope of influences ranging from classic rock of all sorts to hard rock/metal with a stoner edge to it. But this is no ordinary hard rock album, nor are the band members merely competent musicians. They prove to be above average, especially the lead singer- Joakim Nilsson. His voice is sort of like Jack Bruce with the scream of a Chris Cornell, or Ian Gillan. At some points throughout the record, he sings like Freddie Mercury without the high pitched vocal gymnastics, although he does have an impressive octave range. And the band is no slouch of a band. The drummer never overplays, writes the perfect parts for each song without flaunting drummer chops, but has the energy of any drummer in comparison. I’d say that for all the players of this band. They are more concerned with a good record, than featuring  individual skills you’d typically hear in this genre of music. That’s what stood out for me about Graveyard, that they seem to share the same musical foundation as the classic rock groups of the 70’s more than current metal bands. And that’s probably why they’re getting much attention for this record. It’s a killer record!

“An Industry of Murder” is the quintessential album opener. It softly begins with a siren going off into a muted guitar riff and a rising drum roll. You know something’s about to hit hard. This is a rock and roll tutorial on how to open a monumental record. The lyrics are metaphoric for the politics of life.  Fear of mass control.  Some of the best lyrical phrases I’ve ever heard are on this track.

In an unexpected fashion, instead of continuing with heavy propensity, the album drops to a mellow- “Slow Motion Countdown”, one of my favorites. Nilsson proves to be one of the best metal singers of today and really shows his true vocal talents on this one. The band backs him with a variety of dynamics. Just between the first two tracks, Graveyard already sounds like something in your record collection, something more than a new band, but a record as good as anything since the birth of metal. 

“Seven Seven” pounds out a Stooges back beat with vocal grunts to match it. A lot of bands go for this sound and miss it. Even The Strokes’ sound was based on this ethic, but their pop element strayed from the heart and spirit of The Stooges. Graveyard ‘gets it’ as good, if not better than anything The Stooges put out, continuing in that vein.

“The Suits, The Law, & The Uniform” is another stand-out track for me. As if the band hadn’t broadened their influences already, this one is reminiscent of The Kinks- Arthur, or something off Quadrophenia. Where do these melodies come from? It’s so rare that you’ll find melodies this good on a new record.

“Endless Night” continues with that Stooges vibe. This would fit into a late 60’s garage rock compilation beautifully, clocking in at a quick two and a half minutes, the way a song in this manner should be. Just goes to show, another quality trait of this band- they never overdose on themselves, or drag on and on. Every song begins and ends perfectly.

“Hard Tomes Lovin” is a standard blues number with lyrics about love and loss. If Mark Lanegan covered this song, it would probably sound identical. At this point in the record, is Graveyard even a metal band? I know members come from the Swedish metal scene, and Nuclear Blast only puts out metal, but the album is closer to old fashioned rock and roll. I tend to go back and listen to the softer songs like this, more than the heavier ones. Nilsson’s voice is tender and raw at the same time, a vocal attribute you don’t find in most. 

“Goliath” revs up the energy and pace, back to a punk rock mentality. The only thing that could make this better, is if they actually got Iggy Pop to sing along. I wonder if he knows this band is doing his thing, better than him in some ways!  It also features a short and sweet guitar solo at the end.  Far from a jam band, Graveyard hits you with a solo, or a drum fill when it’s utterly needed and leaves you wanting more.

“Fool in the End” is peculiar. Nilsson’s voice is so gradual over the band bashing away. I wonder how this comes across live. This is also the most he sounds like Jack Bruce. Is he directly influenced by him? Who isn’t influenced by Cream in some way or another? And by this time in the record, it feels like the album’s flown by in a minute, which is the feeling you get from any great record that fires you up. It’s a short song leading into the epic album closer- “20/20 (Tunnel Vision)”. 

Every awesome band will consciously leave you wanting more, leave you intrigued. “20/20” is riff-oriented and moves through unusual time changes, but feels straight-forward. It has a jazzy swing to it, similar to early Black Sabbath. Finally, the band lets out their “Hey Jude” moment, well, not exactly a ‘nah nah nah’ outro rally, but ‘oohs’ you can’t help but sing along to.

In summation, this IS one of the best albums of the year. Hell, it’s one of the best albums of the past ten years. The only thing I ponder, is whether Lights Out should even be considered metal. And if so, which category of metal do they fall into? Many think of bands like Cream or Iron Butterfly as the genesis of metal, to which I think Graveyard is more akin to. Nevertheless, it’s all rock and roll to me, and Lights Out is going straight into the pages of history as one of the best records of its time. Sweden has been booming and churning out top quality music for years, of all genres. Who will rival something this good in America?

The members of Graveyard are:

Joakim Nilsson – Guitar & Vocals
Jonathan Ramm – Guitar
Rikard Edlund – Bass
Axel Sjöberg - Drums

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. In my opinion I still favor Hsingen Blues, but this album is really great. Also, like you, I tend to go back and listen to their softer songs which are amazing.


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