Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Graveyard: Beyond 'Stoner Rock'

It's not uncommon for Scandinavian bands to fetishize the hippest sounds and aesthetics from throughout rock history. What separates Graveyard — as well as its sister act of sorts, Witchcraft — is that those fetishes are held in near-perfect balance with the group's own personality. In other words, it would be an injustice to include the quartet's dynamic take on blues-soaked '70s hard rock under tags such as "stoner rock," "doom," or anything else that aims to make Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer's sludge even more limited in range.
"Right Is Wrong," the penultimate track on Graveyard's deftly produced self-titled debut, is a proto-metal epic built to scale, a song that plays effectively to each of the band's temperaments and strengths. Singer-guitarist Joakim Nillson's stout, striking voice hits first, with a singularity that comes less from quirks and more from sheer might — the kind of commanding howl that could easily help him escape rock-geek cult status.
Where others working in the secondhand-Sabbath milieu often bludgeon through their songs' sections without distinction, or groove ad nauseam in the name of psychedelia, "Right Is Wrong" juxtaposes simmering verses and solos with explosive choruses and a big-riff breakdown, crafting real drama that emits light to go with the heat. There's Sabbath in Graveyard, sure, but also Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, Cream and the nimble interplay of San Francisco's Summer of Love mainstays.
In some fashion, Graveyard's macabre name, metalhead lyrics ("Satan's Finest" closes the album) and taste for fantastical cover art do it a disservice. The band's appeal travels far beyond rock nostalgia, into genuine songcraft.