Swedish rockers? you just know what they’re going to look like, right? lots of beautiful teased-out hair, jeans artfully ripped in all the places that jeans don’t really rip in real life*, cheekbones you could cut yourself on. So here’s Graveyard.
I bought their 2012 album Lights Out in the fabulous tangled Parrot record shop in Carmarthen, I was seduced by the old-style rock aesthetic of the cover and half-remembered good reviews of their previous album Hisingen Blues. The cover is slightly reminiscent of Uriah Heep’s Look At Yourself and I rather like the cool**, dark and creepy taxidermy of the inside cover. Not a monster, spiky logo or busty beauty (cartoon or real) to be seen – good.
The old-style aesthetic is directly comparable to the music here. Graveyard do have a pretty unique sound, for a start for a hard rock band they don’t sound particularly guitar-driven, the instruments my tired old ears picks out as the dominant ones are bass and vocals – which is not to say there isn’t some very tasty axe work here and there, just that it never overshadows the band as an ensemble. The songs on Lights Out feel old, organic – a product of a bygone age in a way that conjures up Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and UFO*^ at times, but never in a slavish way. There are some really quite different, quite interesting sounds here, Lights Out has not been written to fit in with any genre, any pre-conceived ideas of ‘heavy’, it just is.
Examples? You want examples? You dare ask me, 1537, to prove it? Foolish mortal! Okay then try the closer, ’20/20 (Tunnel Vision)’ for size. There’s a touch of Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac here, just a touch, in this gently sung tale of fighting alcoholism; complete with a rousing finale and some subtle Rhodes touches. Or cue up the pumping ‘Goliath’ if you want some harder rock kicks, that’s a fine rhythm section driving this tune and when it gets louder later on it never loses sight of the song for the sake of the volume – take that capitalists!
You need more? it’ll come as no surprise at all that Graveyard are able to turn in a brilliant ballad in ‘Hard Times Lovin”, which if we ignore some slightly wonky lyrics^ is an absolute belter and I would say could claim to be a distant cousin, out-of-wedlock, of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’. It is sung to perfection too by Joakim Nilsson (I think) and the playing is bang on the money hitting the mark between emotion and melodrama just right – if you’re inclined to try a single track on Spotify, I’d suggest this one; even if you’re not a big soft sap like me.
It’s not all so great though I’m afraid. In my opinion the sequencing isn’t all it could be, I’d swop sides around straight away – it’s funny how some LPs can be improved like that. For years the only copy I had of Shake Your Money Maker was one where my friend had accidentally taped the sides in the wrong order for me, I think it’s much better – I can’t listen to it right end up now. But I digress, the songs just don’t seem as strong on Side 1 of Lights Out, although I do like the tick-tocking rocker ‘An Industry Of Murder’ and the title ‘The Suits, The Law & The Uniforms’.
I’m pleased I stepped into the Graveyard, you wouldn’t want to live there necessarily but it’s a good place to go and hang out in with your mates, occasionally. I hope I haven’t made it sound like a hastily assembled collage of antique rock trick tracks, it is much better than that, at its best, a carefully crafted set of songs. That’s all you need.
And they’re not a glam band. At all.
*which I can exclusively reveal, following years of scientific research carried out under strict laboratory conditions, is basically exactly the right places to expose your knees and knackers to the world.
**but fucking difficult to photograph!
^Hey, Graveyard’s English is a MF lot better than my Swedish, but a lack of idiom does show slightly at times and they just use too many words here and there.