So, it was payday yesterday, and one of my long-standing traditions is that whenever possible, I'll try to buy a new album on payday. It's been this way ever since I worked in the music department in the Warehouse... now that I get paid monthly it's a bit more of an occasion. And off I wandered to JB Hi-Fi at lunchtime, looking for nothing in particular.
After turning up a decent Creedence Clearwater Revival best of in the bargain bin, I headed off to the rock/metal section. Perched on the shelf was a new release from a band called Graveyard. Underneath it was one of those generally effusive hand-written cards to the effect of 'Exciting new release! Shades of Led Zeppelin and Cream!' which may or may not be true. And although JB have often gotten it right in the past, well, sometimes they get it wrong too.
So I resorted to a quick iPhone scout of Rate Your Music, which I probably shouldn't use as on oracle, but it tends to be right more often than not (even if it does have overly strong and sometimes conflicting biases towards all things metal and all things indie). The really useful thing about RYM is that as well as a meta-rating, it tells you how many individual ratings that meta-rating is comprised of, and you can view all the user reviews which have a range of comments from completely throwaway to attention-seeking Pitchforkishness to highly insightful. It's like Metacritic only what actual real people think.
Anyway, Graveyard's 2007 self-titled debut rated a 3.87 (out of 5), whilst new release Hisingen Blues weighs in at 3.70. That might not sound that high, but bear in mind that the highest rated album on the site (guess who) is only sitting at 4.30. Anything above 4.00 is pretty much a classic (ffs even Powerslave only just breaches the 4.0 barrier, at 4.06), whilst 3.5-4.0 is the bastion of the very good.
So I took a punt and bought both their albums on a whim. Good decision, it turns out.
Basically, these guys fucking rock. There's a massive early-70's influence here, not just in terms of the songwriting but also in terms of the instrumentation and production style. Think The Sword, only replace that band's influences with Steppenwolf, Led Zeppelin, and Cream and you're getting close to what Graveyard sound like. And they look the part as well.
A bit more research unearthed the fact that these dudes actually have a ridiculously good pedigree. They originally signed to Tee Pee Records, which has played host to some fine artists like Hermano, High on Fire and Priestess, and they're currently signed to Nuclear Blast which also boasts some huge names. Oh and they've toured with the mighty Clutch (as well as CKY).
Both albums are great, although I'm probably favouring Hisingen Blues a little more right now. It opens with Ain't Fit to Live Here, which is a good a showcase of the band as you will find. A slick drum fill to start (very reminiscent of Keith Moon's style), then a stonking riff, and the opening lyric is a cracker: "I got no friends, only people that I know". The old-school production really accentuates the band's greatest assets - apparently their producer Don Alstelberg pulled out a few Jimi Hendrix tricks, to good effect too I should add (the guitars sing at times).
Drummer Axel Sjöberg's busy but tasteful style fills the faster songs with a huge amount of energy and impetus - he never misses an opportunity for a drum fill, but never gets too flashy with it either. And singer Joakim Nilsson has a phenomenal set of pipes, whether he's crooning his way through slower numbers like Uncomfortably Numb (well, before it morphs into a fantastic Skynyrd-esque guitar duel), or howling like a man possessed on the harder tracks.
And that's another strength the band has too - they're certainly no one-trick pony with their work incorporating elements of hard rock, blues, and rock and roll. There are fast rocking numbers, ballads, mid-tempo groovers, all executed very well.
What none of this description captures is the fact that this band just has... presence. It's not an easy thing to describe, but there's something about Graveyard that urges you to take notice when their stuff is playing. It's probably best described as 'stop what you're doing and rock the hell out'.
After a few listens, Hisingen Blues is an early contender for album of the year in my books, and their 2007 debut is sounding great too. So thanks JB Hifi, and thanks RYM.