Lights Out

Written by: AP on 30/11/2012 17:36:55

Contrary to what their moniker might suggest, Graveyard are not an extreme metal band. No, since their inception in 2006, the Swedish quartet has been at the forefront of the rock revival movement that also includes bands like Witchcraft and, more recently, Kadavar; a movement, which pays homage to the sound of legendary acts like Black Sabbath, Cream, Led Zeppelin and Pentagram. It is tempting to believe that at least some part of the success of these retrospective bands owes to the trending over-produced, homogenous mass of rock bands popping up everywhere right now, not least because they swear by the old code that beyond the music, nothing else matters. This ideology is something that Graveyard have proudly stuck to since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2007, as their style is indisputably and distinctly retro - from the organic, real sound of their instruments to their rough rock'n'roll look. But it was not until the magnificent sophomore record "Hisingen Blues" last year that the band managed to perfect that style into something sublime, an assertion echoed by the effort briefly peaking at number one on the Swedish hitlist. This latest effort "Lights Out" then, attempts to capitalize on that success by continuing with a largely unchanged approach.

That approach manifests itself primarily in two ways: driving rock'n'roll anthems and slow, moody ballads - just as was the case with "Hisingen Blues"; the only real difference here is the slightly more mainstream production, which should be understood as the songs pack a bit more punch, if only in terms of sound fidelity. In keeping with the well-working album structure of "Hisingen Blues", "Lights Out", too, opens with a contrasting duo in "An Industry of Murder" and "Slow Motion Countdown". The former is a thumping doom rock song sporting an ominous lead melody that sets the proper foundation for its anti-religious lyrical content; the latter a grandiose, textured ballad that enables guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson to showcase the full breadth of his voice - one not too distant from Robert Plant or Ian Gillan - and the band collectively to prove there is no need of glossy production for a song to sound larger than life. As the song grows louder and more layered, Nilsson's croons of "Oh, wasn't it a long way down? / Not even you will lead us through / when the flame turns blue." will attach themselves to your cortex with immediate effect. The song is quite simply stunning; a beautiful, soulful creation that is a shining example of why Graveyard are considered one of the most exciting bands to come out of Sweden in recent years.

But after 5 and a half minutes of soul-searching, Graveyard have thankfully understood to pick up the pace with a fuzzy rock'n'roll banger in "Seven, Seven", and the following brilliant "The Suits, The Law & The Uniform", which is likely to send your thoughts to classic hits like Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" or Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love". It's the essence of a classic rock song with its rebellious title and lyrics; infectious chorus; simple, instantly memorable riffs; and small solos that fly in at every opportunity. "Endless Night", though not quite as captivating, has similar characteristics, but its brevity at 2 minutes and 50 seconds prevents itself from providing quite as many chills as "The Suits, The Law & The Uniform". It's not a bad song, but its placement in such close proximity to a standout track ultimately becomes its own nemesis. Cue "Hard Times Lovin'", and Graveyard are back with the blues in a song that sounds like a straight outtake from a Tom Waits record - which, in my book, cannot be a bad thing. It is a further testament to the fact that Graveyard excel at writing emotive ballads, a rare and envied talent that few besides Bruce Springsteen have mastered to equivalent results.

"Goliath", which served as the first single ahead of the album's release, is expectedly the most mainstream and accessible of the bunch, not that it should be discarded as a pop song because of its radio-friendly format. Graveyard have distilled into its mere 2 minutes and 49 seconds a surprising wealth of instrumental detail, and thanks to its thumping, energetic rhythm section, the song is an instant hit. "Fool in the End" reminds us why Graveyard are frequently likened to their countrymen in Witchcraft, utilizing some cool infusions of echoing Western guitar during Nilsson's refrains of "I've got the restless blues" and "You're the fool in the end". It's another great song that begs inclusion in the recommended songs of this review, and once "20/20 (Tunnel Vision)" concludes the album with some nice piano-backed uuhuuh-uhs, I'm left with an overwhelming sensation that almost nothing is wrong with "Lights Out". The only thing that nags me is that the standout tracks aren't quite as strong as those on "Hisingen Blues" ("No Good, Mr. Holden", "Hisingen Blues" and "RSS"), and that the production has been modernized, if even just a little. Still, for any fan of real rock music, "Lights Out" is a must; a timely reminder of what rock'n'roll was all about back in the day.

Download: Slow Motion Countdown; The Suits, The Law & The Uniform; Hard Times Lovin'; Goliath; Fool in the End
For the fans of: Cream, Led Zeppelin, Witchcraft
Listen: Facebook

Release date 26.10.2012
Nuclear Blast Entertainment

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