Graveyard - Lights Out
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date Nov. 6, 2012 (North America); Oct. 26, 2012 (Europe)
Graveyard is a scraggly-haired quartet from Gothenburg, Sweden who play a dash of 70s-inspired hard rock that segues somewhere between Black Sabbath and The Sword. As one might expect there's a dose of killer riffs, but the band has far more than just guitar greatness in their repertoire. Recorded entirely analog, the band's third disc Lights Out is refreshingly crisp, unabashedly charismatic and very much without flaw. Frontman Joakim Nilsson has a throaty and wide-ranging vocal howl that allows the songs to both breathe and suffocate. That is to say, when the band strives for subtlety and understatement, they achieve it. When they want to pour on the attitude and swagger, well they deliver that as well. From front to back, Lights Out has very few, if any, missteps.
Album opener "An Industry of Murder" is a dusky blues howler that drips with coiled ferocity and a sense of precision and balance unlike very few of their contemporaries. So many bands these days seem to go for the jugular from the very onset and Graveyard seem to understand the inherent simplicity in packing a wallop without leaving one haggard and breathless. From its earthy beginnings to its stormy conclusion, "An Industry of Murder" is as stirring an opening salvo as one could ask for. On the heels of that is "Slow Motion Countdown," a dramatic and stormy cocktail that is arguably one of the year's best by a wide margin. A slow-burning epic with a stew of emotions, the song hits in all the right places and proves rather easily why the band is so beloved the world over.
For those who prefer something a bit more potent and power-packed, "Seven Seven" is gnarly and craggy, spitting and gnawing its way to the finish from the very onset. While its not nearly as strong as its two predecessors, it does allow the band to flex its proverbial guitar muscle and the song's closing stages are arguably some of Lights Out's finer moments. "The Suits, The Law and the Uniform," is snappy and snarling, while "Endless Night," roars like a speedboat and never lets up. While "The Suits," is fraught with emotion and energy, "Endless Night," is certainly the stronger of the two. Anchored by a soaring climax and Nilsson's husky grunge-like croon, there's a palpable sense of gravity and grimness that's hard to overlook. Bassist Rikard Edlund has admitted that the song is about going to war with one's self and if the histrionics of "Endless Night," are any indication, it most assuredly was not an easy battle. "Endless Night," is also a prime elucidation of the band's penchant for 70s-era influences and the vintage veneer is heard from the opening seconds.
The genius of Lights Out is that it packs a punch without any gimmicks. There's no fancy effects, no distortion pedals, no astounding guitar solos. The songs are terse, taut and titanic. Clocking in at 35 minutes, the nine songs say a lot without relying on wizardry or whimsy to do the talking. Rather than power-packing the disc with one headbanger after another, Lights Out finds the quartet swimming in a sea of downtempo dalliances that allows them to show off both their range and their collective charms. "Hard Time Lovin'," is undeniably soulful and bluesy and hints at a stoner psychedelia that the band could channel even deeper if they felt so inclined. That sense of stoner psychedelia may indeed be married to this simple fact: In various press outlets, the band has been quick to downplay metal influences and often points to bands like Fleetwood Mac and Big Business as torchbearers and beacons along the way.
Insofar as the rest of the disc, well, there's little disappointment. "Goliath," which serves as the band's lead single is an urgent and antic affair that points at the constant struggle of a daily grind. Whereas "Endless Night," was raw, evocative and incendiary; "Goliath," is buoyant, jubilant and in many ways anthemic. Penultimate cut "Fool in the End" is arguably one of the album's most mature songs and seems to point at a self-effacing prophecy that keeps things reflective and grounded. Lights Out ends with "20/20 Tunnel Vision," a tangled stew of torment that seems to pack all eight songs into one massive encore.
But heaping praise on Graveyard is certainly not a novel concept. To date, the band has won a Swedish Grammy for Best Hard Rock Album, have landed on three Billboard charts and even appeared on multiple Best of 2011 lists for their last album Hisingen Blues. If album statistics and hardware are not enough to keep one awed, then consider this: earlier this year, the band sold out almost every date on its debut U.S. headlining tour. But even the loftiest of accolades can still leave room for naysayers and negativity. Perhaps its best to put it succinctly. Listen to Lights Out. Spend the forty minutes and let it sick into your marrow. Feel the bone-shaking bravado and the gusts of grandeur that envelop every passing minute. Allow Nilsson's haunting howls and the quartet's hallucinatory guitars to filter into your atmosphere. And if all else fails, tether yourself to "Slow Motion Countdown." Chances are, you'll be grateful you did.