Graveyard – Peace (Nuclear Blast, 25 May 2018)
I can still vividly remember the first time I heard Graveyard: it was “Ain’t Fit to Live Here,” the opening song from their 2011 album Hisingen Blues. High-energy electric country-blues with great wailing vocals, that could have fit seamlessly on side A of Led Zeppelin III (an album which, front to back, was unquestionably and irrefutably the finest output of Zeppelin‘s repertoire — please feel free to comment below if you disagree and I’ll gladly tell you how wrong you are), the song instantly hooked me and still hasn’t let go to this day.
After buying that CD shortly afterwards, the rest of the songs (like the title track and Uncomfortably Numb) pushed the Swedish retro-rock troupe onto my list of my favorite 2011 releases. And the following year, the promise of a Graveyard material was so appealing that we had pre-ordered Lights Out as soon as it was released.
Now, that one (the band’s third overall) came out to somewhat mixed reviews, and although the basic style and quality of performance were very similar to what had come before, I have to admit that there really didn’t seem to be the same “wow” factor, standout tracks that would stick in your head for days or weeks after hearing them. While it wasn’t a bad album by any measure, it didn’t quite pull me in for repeated listens nearly as many times as its predecessor had done. And the next thing I knew, the band had split up or gone on indefinite hiatus or something — which I remember feeling disappointment after learning, because it seemed like they had so much unrealized potential.
As an aside, I never even realized until just recently when this new record was announced, that they had actually put out a fourth one prior to disbanding. Somehow that news had completely escaped my attention and I’ll want to be sure to go check that out soon — but first, their big comeback album will be out tomorrow, so let’s talk about Peace!
For those who — like me — were afraid we might never get to see Graveyard return to their former glory when they called it quits a few years back, the title of the new album’s first song really sums it up: “It Ain’t Over Yet.” And as for the cautious optimism many of us were feeling when news of this record first came to light: actually hearing the song definitely solidifies that it was not at all misfounded. The dark-toned heavy blues with gritty bass, wailing vocals and wailing guitar, filled with a completely renewed sense of vitality, here is that classic Graveyard we all fell in love with in the first place! On top of it all, a bit of organ crammed in there makes for a thick and solid arrangement that just warms the soul.
First single “Please Don’t” and the album-closing one-two punch of “A Sign of Peace” and “Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)” also feature varying degrees of organ within their spirited orchestrations. But of course the band is also known for its mellower moments with a more stripped-down bluesy approach; “Cold Love” and especially “See the Day” certainly fit the bill nicely. To top it all off, the band brings in yet another dimension of early 70s influence with the psychedelic-tinged “Bird of Paradise,” coming across almost Band of Gypsys-ish.
So in a nutshell, if you had enjoyed the classic blues-rock idiom engaged by these guys in their earlier works (and that of compatriots like Witchcraft) but the slew of imitators that keep popping up just aren’t cutting it … or if you’re a longtime fan of the soulful 70s stylings that these guys have made a career out of recreating … then it would absolutely be in your best interests to give Peace a chance.
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