Graveyard – Hisingen Blues

January 01, 1970

(Nuclear
Blast)

 

www.nuclearblastusa.com

 

The last
few years have witnessed the emergence of a third generation of shaggy-haired
youth overtly influenced by the early-to-mid-1970s electric bombast of punters
like the almighty Black Sabbath, the riff-happy Deep Purple, the prog-minded
Uriah Heep, and the legendary Led Zeppelin. Said youth have since picked up
guitars and sat down to drums and began making a din of their own, leading to
bands like the Sword, Wolfmother, Witchcraft, and Rose Hill Drive putting their
particular stank on the metallic doom-and-gloom of said musical forebears.

 

Sweden’s
Graveyard hail from the nearly-mythical Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest
city, an international seaport, and home to possibly more bands per capita than
any metropolis outside of Austin, Texas. Influential bands like In Flames, At
The Gates, and Dark Tranquility created what is known, in certain circles, as
the “Gothenburg sound,” a melodic form of heavy metal that hybridized
Scandinavian black metal with hardcore’s angst, thrash’s fury, punk’s attitude,
and hard rock’s melody and innate audacity. While Graveyard has carved its own
path out of the Nordic hinterlands with a sound that is less death and more
retro in nature, with their sophomore effort, Hisingen Blues, the band has the opportunity to make a bigger critical
and commercial splash than any of its regional counterparts.

 

Following
the back cover’s admonition to play Hisingen
Blues
at “the highest possible volume in order to fully appreciate the
sound of Graveyard,” the listener is instantly transported back in time by
the opening chords of “Ain’t Fit to Live Here.” With an urgency that
chain-whips both Heep and Zeppelin, the song bursts out of the starting gate
with a manic rhythm and clashing guitars that underline Joakim Nilsson’s Robert
Plant-styled vocal howl. Drummer Axel Sjoberg’s backbreaking bursts of sound
channel Zep’s Bonzo more so than the metronomic blast-beat familiar to Swedish
metal fans, Sjoberg pounding the cans like a man possessed by absinthe-guzzling
demons.

 

If
“Ain’t Fit to Live Here” gets your blood boiling with speed, thrash,
and blinding flash, “No Good, Mr. Holden” slows the album down to a
near-glacial pace, the band dusting off its old warped vinyl copies of
Sabbath’s Vol. 4 and dressing the
riffs up nicely for the new millennia. Nilsson’s vocals are a little duskier
here, no match for Ozzie’s banshee wail or Ronnie James Dio’s epic
grandeur…maybe more like Badlands’ Ray Gillen, with a little blues lying
barely-concealed beneath the high voltage currents. The guitar solo near the
end – Nilsson’s, possibly, or perhaps second stringbender Jonatan Larocca Ramm,
is a thing or horrible beauty, kind of like a phoenix rising from the ashes of
the song’s mesmerizing dinosaur stomp.

 

Graveyard
hits full stride by the time they arrive at the title track, “Hisingen
Blues” a full-blown metal-edged monolith with vocals nearly drowned out by
broken glass guitar and the massive rhythmic hurricane delivered explosively by
Ramm’s larger-than-life drumbeats and Rikard Edlund’s heavy, fluid, and often-times
ethereal bass lines. Balancing carelessly on the fine tightwire between hard
rock and heavy metal, Graveyard spices up the brew with a little
psychedelic-tinged lead guitar and some trippy space-rock sounds. Three songs
in, and you’re hopelessly sucked into the maelstrom that is Hisingen Blues.

 

Whether
it’s the moody “Uncomfortably Numb,” Graveyard’s take on mid-70s Pink
Floyd and as close as they come to a ballad with nuanced drumbeats, careful
guitar strum, and atmospheric vocals, or the whether you fall headfirst into
“Longing,” the sort of deep-blue tone-poem that Zeppelin created and
numerous other bands of the era experimented with, you’re going to find
something to crow about here. “Ungrateful are the Dead” is another
toxic mind-bender, a musical acid trip with chunks of chainsaw guitar; gruff,
nearly-hidden vocals; and a swirling psychedelic heartbeat. Hisingen Blues closes with a “bonus
track,” the blues-rock dirge “Cooking Brew,” the song’s intro
offering shimmering guitar notes spun out of pure molten steel before getting
down-and-dirty with a bluesy vibe that is assisted by Nilsson’s growling voice
and heavy, blackened riffs the band must buy by the ton.

 

Whether or
not Graveyard gets any traction stateside with Hisingen Blues remains to be seen, though they stand as good a
chance as any to break out in these troubled days and time. Both Graveyard and Hisingen Blues would have been right at
home in 1973 or ’74, touring with fellow travelers like Spirit or UFO, building
an audience by word of mouth, glomming rave reviews from Rick Johnson and the
Mad Peck in Creem or Circus, and earning heavy rotation on FM
radio.

 

Sadly, AOR
has gone the way of the floppy disc as radio stations squeeze in a few songs
between commercials. MTV, which fueled the 1980s-era boom in hard rock and
metal, pulls in bigger ratings numbers these days by promoting teen pregnancy
and drunken anti-intellectualism with its insipid reality programming. Music
videos? Fuggitaboutit! As for the music press, present company excluded, few
zines/blogs/websites outside of those that genuflect at the altar of Martin
Popoff will deign to recognize the greatness of Hisingen Blues.

 

Still, if
you enjoy a certain street-smart cro-mag edge to your rock ‘n’ roll, take a
welcome trip back in time with Graveyard’s Hisingen
Blues
. Inspired rather than tired, Graveyard has built a gleaming city in
the sun on top of the ancient musical ruins of its hard rock ancestors.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Hisingen Blues,”
“Longing,” “Cooking Brew” REV. KEITH A. GORDON

           

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