As we move into 2013 the hard rock revival shows no sign of slowing down, with a seemingly endless supply of longhairs emerging from the studio with a hip new record (analogue exclusively of course) and a spot on tour supporting The Sword than you can shake a retro rock shtick at. This isn’t something to sneer at of course as before there was Metal there was The Blues and if bands want to carry on the great traditions of Sabbath and Thin Lizzy with nary a nod to the intervening years between now and today, then so be it. Regression can be progression after all, and with their third album “Lights Out”, Gothenburg quartet Graveyard demonstrate how they’re looking through both ends of the telescope.
The brisk riffing and swirling keys of ‘An Industry of Murder’ kicks things off with a sadly all too relevant lyrical tale of corporate greed, demonstrating that as is the case with the timeless and warm sound emanating from the speakers, the message remains the same; the kind of thing Ozzy used to wail about back in the dark days of the 70s is still a cause for passion today. The pace drops to a languid level with ‘Slow Motion Countdown’, a stately and mature ballad that few bands in this particular genre would be able to pull off without succumbing to the cheese factor. In contrast, the grin-inducing ‘Seven Seven’ and ‘Endless Night’ are pure radio rock, seemingly custom designed for the open road and cruising towards the sunset then the cold Northern climes of Graveyard’s homeland, but the feeling is natural, helped especially by the eagerness of Axel Sjöberg’s racing percussion.
One of the things that elevate Graveyard to a level slightly higher than their peers is the strength and clarity of Joakim Nilsson’s vocals. On ‘The Suits, The Law & Their Uniforms’ he channels the spirit of Bon Scott effortlessly over the loose Clutch-esque rhythms flowing below yet maintains a clear identity of his own, never lapsing into parody. He even manages to sound in control whilst crooning the hedonistic lyrics of ‘Hard Time Lovin’ which comes across almost as a lament for the kind of heavy touring, hard partying lifestyle of the bands Graveyard seek to emulate. The Hammond organ that drones in the background is as reassuring as the embrace of an old friend, and it wouldn’t be a hard rock album without one.
The standout track has to be the joyous stomp of ‘Goliath’, a three minute hip-shaker where all the elements of the classic sound combine into something tangible and life-affirming, helped by Nilsson and other guitarist Jonatan Ramm’s exuberant solos. It just feels more genuine and natural than say, the childish occultism of Ghost and Blood Ceremony, and that’s why “Lights Out” will ensure that Graveyard don’t end up six feet under before they’ve had their chance to rock out with the best of them.