Graveyard

support Horisont + Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell
author EW date 22/03/12 venue Underworld, London, UK

So when I reviewed Swedish retro-rockers Graveyard's live performance last spring shortly after the release of their stunning album "Hisingen Blues" I made reference about how their brand of Cream-tinged classic rock resulted in a rare dosage of bona fide quality, noting how in an homogenised and mechanised musical world that could be such a revelation. And guess what, some things just haven't changed...

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell

But first, the finest show I've ever witnessed from a band named in honour of a British naval officer. The intriguingly titled Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell (wikipedia him) turned out to be a rollicking half hour of at times Pentagram/Sabbath-influenced doom-tinged rock and at others a more proximate similarity to the classics of Deep Purple et al that was best espoused by the endearing freeness to the soloing of frontman Johnny Gorilla. Not often these days outside of an Yngwie concert does the rest of the band (in this case bassist and drummer) wait around for the guitarist to finish his stuff and with the pleasant onstage experience came a warm reception. At least once the slow start to their set had worn off, the Shovell led by the charismatic Gorilla (that does not sound right…) showed that the sounds and (especially) the looks of the old-school are not to be triped with considering the reaction to the likes of "Red Amber and Black Sunrise" and "Return to Zero". With a clear bass sound and powerful vocals which were mere portents of further glory, a fine start turned out only to improve...

Horisont

With my one previous live experience of Horisont from supporting Pentagram having left no memory in the conscience there was a fear in me which supposed tonight's support slot would also be similarly lacking in highlights. Thankfully this unfounded fear with have been an injustice to Horisont who proffer a not-desimilar sound to Graveyard yet with an extra dollop of doom to the bluesy mix and a band who simply play their easily appreciable songs with a minimum of fuss.

Horisont provided the feel of a band of brothers - no one member, not even frontman Axel, looking to steal the limelight, instead the collection of 5 working to great effect musically and visually, with swathes of shoulder-length hair providing the aesthetic for a sound rooted firmly in the past. Listening subsequently online backs up the feeling that Horisont have not yet got a firm hand on a sound of their own just yet but it is not to feel pleased from performances where full band and audience seem pleased as punch with each other, safe in the knowledge that greatness is all over the bill. I'll accept it must be me going wrong on the night of Pentagram.

Graveyard

There is nothing truly ground-breaking about the songs of Graveyard when analysed in a deep historic perspective - they are simply borrowing deeply from the well of British and American bands who in the 60s and 70s blurred the lines between classic rock, blues and nascent doom/heavy metal - but when done so effortlessly and cooly as these Swedes do there becomes a point when it feels a new dawn is being borne in the genre and that a significantly larger audience than were found in a packed Underworld should be taking notice. Of course even the retro fad has been going a few years (Witchcraft being equally as popular around 8 years ago before slowly dropping away) but quality on this scale is not seen every day.

With a lengthy set of around 80 minutes perfectly performing tracks from both the self-titled debut and "Hisingen Blues" there was little need for frontman (and at times Robert Plant soundalike Joakim Nilsson) to break up the set with the usual protestations about how great the night was going - everyone by now knew it. Personal highlights would focus around "Lost In Confusion" and the mass participation of Pink Floyd-esque "Uncomfortably Numb" but I believe I can speak for all in saying the great sound and warm atmosphere rendered each song a triumph.

If all this sounds a touch uncritical and fan-boyish, well, sometimes it's hard to conjure up criticisms when few are around. Yes, Nilsson may not engage the audience in a Bruce Dickinson way but to level such critiques would be harsh; on occasion you just want to turn up, drink up and cheer up.

Check out the video of "Uncomfortably Numb" (not taken by myself)

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