Graveyard, Peace: And the Price of It

graveyard peace

It has been a tumultuous few years for Swedish boogie kings Graveyard. In Sept. 2016, the four-piece announced their breakup. It followed the release of 2015’s fourth album, Innocence and Decadence (review here), which was more defined by its plays toward melancholy soul than anything the four-piece had done previously, and with an effective-immediately disbanding and string of cancelled tour dates, it sent shockwaves through the heavy underground in Europe and beyond, as Graveyard‘s influence had by that point already spread across borders to nearly a whole generation of retro and/or boogie-minded bands. It was a genuine surprise, and not the last.

A few months later, in Jan. 2017, they pulled the rug out from their own breakup by getting back together, and for another shocker, announced that guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson, guitarist Jonathan Ramm and still relatively recently returned bassist Truls Mörck had parted ways with drummer Axel Sjöberg (now of Big Kizz), and replaced him with Oskar Bergenheim, who makes his first appearance on the band’s fifth long-player, Peace (on Nuclear Blast). It was no minor change. This wasn’t just a band swapping out one expendable drummer or another. Anyone who ever saw Graveyard live could tell you Sjöberg was a major part of their sound and stage presence both, and as a founder of the band, he’d been there over the years as the inimitable chemistry developed between them. Whatever Peace — its title perhaps aspirational given all the madness of the few years prior — would have to offer, it was going to be a new Graveyard standing behind its delivery. And so it is.

Or at very least it’s one that sounds refreshed in their purpose and like they’re shaking off the rust they never quite let gather on them considering the touring they did to make up for lost time after Bergenheim joined. No doubt that helped them reestablish the dynamic that’s so prevalent instrumentally throughout the 10 tracks/43 minutes of Peace, which as ever is driven by Nilsson‘s gravely and sometimes bluesy vocals — especially well done on organ-laced closer “Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)” — and as the record begins with the full-on thrust of “It Ain’t Over Yet,” the message comes through clear and the band’s energy proves infectious. Part of a spectrum-spanning opening salvo with the more midpaced “Cold Love” and the subdued, Mörck-fronted “See the Day” behind it, “It Ain’t Over Yet” is just the first of several all-out rushes that one wouldn’t have expected from Graveyard three years ago.

The hooks and the songcraft are still there, and when “Please Don’t” kicks in after the quiet end of “See the Day,” it’s Bergenheim driving the movement that Nilsson tops with a bluesy ballad of coming to the city and trying to survive. In its swing and vibrancy, “Please Don’t” is essential Graveyard, and it builds toward an exciting finish with keys backing the guitars of Ramm and Nilsson as it races to its finish and the swirling, semi-garage start of “The Fox,” the shortest inclusion on Peace  at a brisk 2:45 and a carrying a sans-frills hook that likely finishes side A  and leads to the longer “Walk On” at the start of the tracklist’s second half, which is longer and shifts from one of the album’s most memorable choruses into a wide open section of echoes that set the bed for a build into the last run through the hook and a finish that finds the instruments cutting out as Nilsson recites, “It’s time to walk on” one more time, far, far off the mic.

graveyard

“Walk On” would stand as a video-worthy single, and but one might say the same of the quieter “Del Manic,” which follows. Catchy and memorable for its repetitions of the line “It’s just like staring at the sun” and its might-just-be-a-waltz rhythm, it shifts past its midpoint into a momentary swell of lower end tone, but recedes back to Nilsson‘s croon before trading back again before the next hook, “Don’t you need a little more to feel it?/Don’t you feel a little like you need it?/Don’t need a little more to feel it?/Don’t you feel a little like you need it?” sets up a swirl-backed solo and a final drop back to bluesy guitar that fades into the more uptempo start of “Bird of Paradise,” which brings Mörck back to the frontman position, his voice vaguely recalling Thin Lizzy if in rawer fashion. His presence alongside Nilsson on vocals is more than just a change-things-up tactic — he genuinely brings something different to the material he tops, and it gives Graveyard even more breadth to their sound.

That shows itself as “Bird of Paradise” gives way to the semi-title-track “A Sign of Peace,” which may or may not ultimately be based thematically on everything the band’s been through to get to this album release, but has a feeling of culmination to it anyway and moves fluidly through a kind of build before closer “Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)” takes hold quietly at first but ultimately with the unfurling of a blues-locomotive rhythm that turns near the midpoint to dual-guitar stomp backed by Bergenheim‘s kick. That quickly sets the foundation for an increasingly chaotic-sounding crescendo which recedes past the four-minute mark — the keys remaining prevalent alongside softly noodled and strummed guitar — and just when near-silence hits at about 4:50, they kick back in and give “Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)” a full revival for Peace‘s final apex, ending by cutting off cold and giving way to a kind of manipulated and echoing moan that also is shortly to disappear.

Peace will likely not be hailed as one of Graveyard‘s most innovative releases. The days of their landmark 2007 self-titled debut, 2011’s Hisingen Blues (review here) and 2012’s Lights Out (review here) are gone and despite having a signature sound, the band show little interest in repeating themselves from record to record, instead offering something different each time out within the sphere of their aesthetic and songwriting. But while it’s not revolutionary, the album should still be welcomed by fans, both for the fact that it marks Graveyard‘s return — something that, if only for months, didn’t seem like it was going to happen anytime soon — and for the reassurance it provides that despite the high highs and the low lows they’ve had since Innocence and Decadence, they remain strong, certain of who they are, and masters of the form of heavy boogie and blues rock. They’re as essential on Peace as they’ve been all along, and reestablishing that place seems to have been part of the idea anyhow.

Graveyard, “The Fox” official video

Graveyard, “Please Don’t” official video

Graveyard on Thee Facebooks

Graveyard on Twitter

Graveyard on Instagram

Graveyard at Nuclear Blast

Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to “Graveyard, Peace: And the Price of It”

Leave a Reply