After a mercifully brief hiatus, Sweden’s favourite retro-stoners Graveyard are back in action. Their fifth offering Peace is an absolute riot of swinging riffs, groovy basslines, and all the fuzzy stoner metal you could possibly want in 43 minutes. Its overall sound owes a lot to early Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath – more so than on previous records which occasionally strayed more into Jimi Hendrix worship. A very strong contender for album of the year, it knocks every other “summer soundtrack” flat.
Opening the album with a bang, “It Ain’t Over Yet” is a serious statement of intent – namely that the band are back in action and firing on all cylinders. There’s no fanfare, no lead-up, but an electrifying crash of drums and guitars and we’re off. A fast-paced song, its fairly simple melody, underpinned by the rumbling bass of Truls Mörck and accompanied by an uncredited Hammond organ, sets the tone and pace of the album. The group are clearly enjoying themselves, with new drummer Oskar Bergenheim acquitting himself excellently. Clearly, his appointment to Axel Sjöberg’s vacant seat has not just revitalised the band but also spurred them to greater heights. His thunderous tub-thumping gives the track – and the relesae as a whole – a real sense of immediacy. Combined with vocalist Joakim Nilsson’s energetic singing (verging occasionally on Robert Plant-esque howls) and his and Jonatan La Rocca Ram’s excellent guitar interplay, and you’ve got a song so good you’ll wish its title were true to life.
They do slow things down properly on “See the Day” which acts more as a breather than a ballad, unlike “Uncomfortably Numb” on Hisingen Blues. The easy melody and laid-back tempo all serve as a breath of fresh air after the opening one-two punch of “It Ain’t Over Yet” and “Cold Love”. Mörck takes over the vocal duties on this one, and his lighter, cleaner singing style helps bring out and emphasise the delicate guitar melody for a soothing balm that varies the record’s pace and styles. His voice doesn’t quite suit his next outing, the Neil Young-esque “Bird of Paradise”, but this is really the only misstep on the album.
Check out the Peace video trailer here.
Nilsson’s vocals, meanwhile, wander happily into Robert Plant territory at times, which is a definite plus for those fans of the chapter of rock history that Graveyard evoke. Not only that, but their hoarse, coarse edge manages to convey an urgent emotional fragility without sounding exaggerated – take “The Fox” as the best example. The anguish and sorrow wrung out of the line “Sufficiently but never enough/even with his final breath” is heart-breaking without sounding overwrought. The album’s production contrives to give it all a wonderfully fuzzy edge as if it’s a dusty record you’ve found in your parents’ collection that sets them off to reminiscing about the good old days of the summer of ‘69.
“Revitalised” really is the watchword here; Peace sounds fresh, energetic, and lively. Probably the biggest complaint to be levelled is that it’s too fast-paced. Though not much different to its predecessors in terms of runtime, the sheer pace of the release makes it feel as if there’s no time to really luxuriate in the kind of woozy, bluesy stoner rock exhibited so well previously. The longest song is the closer “Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)” and, while it’s an incredible jam, it feels as if a couple of longer, slightly slower numbers – or even just ones that offer a tempo other than ‘fast’ – would help elevate it from excellent to superlative. Even “Del Manic” doesn’t quite fit the bill, feeling more like the band are restraining themselves rather than letting the blues ooze through at a fittingly relaxed tempo. But this is ultimately a minor complaint at best.
By which I mean I want more of this. It’s probably the most perfect comeback album Graveyard could have made. It’s got everything that makes them great, and more. It builds deftly on their established sound without radically changing the formula or taking any crazy left turns, but without making it sound stale and repetitive. If you imagine someone has mashed up the sound of Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum and Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut, leaving in all the psychedelic guitar frills of the former but taking out the pseudo-Satanic Hammer horror of the latter, it would be a reasonable approximation of what’s going on here. You can hear this at its most pronounced on “Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)”. It’s got all the bouncing, fun, psychedelic melodies of Blue Cheer, especially in the breakdown in the middle, but is given a serious grounding with the bass and rhythm of Sabbath.
“Please Don’t” watch this music video. Kidding! You really should.
All in all, Graveyard are unashamedly having fun on Peace. Their time away has served to improve their sound, and the line-up change has strengthened their chemistry, giving them a big shot of adrenaline in the process. Be sure to shatter your neighbours’ quietude with a set of big speakers and this excellent offering. They’ll thank you when you tell them it’s the album of the year, honest…
Peace Track Listing:
01. It Ain’t Over Yet
02. Cold Love
03. See The Day
04. Please Don’t
05. The Fox
06. Walk On
07. Del Manic
08. Bird Of Paradise
09. A Sign Of Peace
10. Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)
Run Time: 43 minutes
Release Date: May 25, 2018
Record Label: Nuclear Blast