By: Erik Sugg
Album Review: Full Length
Date Released: 25/09/2015
Label: Nuclear Blast
All in all, “Innocence and Decadence” could be viewed as a polarizing record. Graveyard may lose fans, or they could very well gain them. They’ll probably always have older fans pissing and moaning over “the good old days,” but it’s also likely that, regardless of the extreme reactions people may have against this album, Graveyard will remain one of the most top notch bands around today.
‘Innocence & Decadence’ CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Magnetic Shunk (3:02)
2. The Apple And The Tree (3:04)
3. Exit 97 (3:50)
4. Never Theirs To Sell (2:15)
5. Can't Walk Out (5:43)
6. Too Much Is Not Enough (4:37)
7. From A Hole In The Wall (3:47)
8. Cause & Defect (3:47)
9. Hard Headed (3:12)
10. Far Too Close (4:43)
11. Stay For A Song (4:35)
Joakim Nilsson | guitar, vocals
Jonatan LaRocca-Ramm | guitar
Truls Mörck | bass
Axel Sjöberg | drums
It is an understatement to refer to Graveyard as a crossover band here in the year 2015. Ever since the band’s mid ‘2000s inception from the ashes of Norrsken, (a group who also brought us the legendary Witchcraft,) Graveyard has sailed far beyond the trappings of genre and subculture to become festival favorites, major tour headliners, and they are often the answer to the dreaded question, “Who is your favorite band around today?” They are the classic rock band that metal fans enjoy. They are the doom metal band that pop fans enjoy. They are the murder ballad song smiths that jazz and blues fans enjoy. They are the destination band for small town fans looking for a rock and roll road trip. Basically, Graveyard is a band with an enviable career who received all of their accolades the old fashioned way. They work hard while maintaining a sense of fun. They display stellar musicianship without overindulging their talents. They behave professionally without displaying prudishness. And more than anything, they possess an uncanny ability to write really great fucking songs.
The band wasted no time blasting through the starting gates with their fantastic 2007 debut, but for many, the pinnacle of Graveyard’s trajectory was their 2011 sophomore release, “Hisingen Blues,” a song-per-song thrill ride of evil melodies, bitchin’ riffs, catchy choruses, and an unstoppable swing. 2012’s “Light’s Out” was well received, but often criticized for seeming “rushed” and not sounding as inspired as their previous output, (the band also had some issues during this period with longtime bassist, Rikard Edlund, who has since been replaced with the group’s original guitarist, Truls Mörck.) Regardless of the grumblings over “Light’s Out”, Graveyard continued touring and playing major festivals, and they increased the solidarity of their fan base all along the way. For the three year period between “Light’s Out” and the newest offering, “Innocence and Decadence,” fan chatter ebbed and flowed from the curious, to the presumptuous, to the flat out accusatory. “Will Graveyard drop the ball? Will the new album have more rockers and less ballads? Will it be as good as ‘Hisingen Blues,’ or better?” So far, the overall response seems to be positive, but there are some head-scratching moments for long time fans. Still, when it comes to a band like Graveyard, who have continued to increase in popularity even after being in the game for nearly a decade, there’s really only one thing they can do when faced with these commonly-seen, mid-career loyalty-shifts amongst followers. They must push themselves forward, making no compromises for anyone but themselves, and ignore the bickering expectations of the masses. To my ears, it sounds like this is precisely what Graveyard has done.
Album opener, “Magnetic Shunk,” is an instant classic for the band. This tune was heard in live sets before the record’s release, raising many a brow amongst their old school followers. Those lucky enough to get the preview wondered if this doom/boogie masterpiece would signal a return to all the precious quirks that made “Hisingen Blues” such a standout record. Well, yes and no. The record is not short on groovy rockers, but as “Light’s Out” proved, you really can’t rest on your laurels with Graveyard. Take for example, “The Apple & the Tree,” which was chosen as the video single a few weeks before the release date. Man, did that song confuse people. Not only does it not sound like the Graveyard of old, it also doesn’t sound like anything else on the record. It could almost be a Dire Straits song with its snappy jazz chords and its pristine guitar tones. However, the strong chorus and the lyrical content referencing bygone eras and predetermined fates are fine representations of everything that makes Graveyard the band they are.
Tracks like “Exit 97” and album closer, “Stay for a Song,” bring the mellow moodiness of the previous record, but the album’s rockers make it a far cry from “Lights Out.” One of the midpoint tunes, “Never Theirs to Sell,” is a stellar, under-three-minute rock and roller that almost sounds like it came from the early ‘2000s, (back when groups like The Hellacopters and The Hives were kicking out the jams.) “Can’t Walk Out” and “From a Hole in the Wall” should satisfy the rock heads for the most part, but the four-on-the-floor rhythms minus the band’s usual off-beat timings may throw some listeners for a loop. But if those gripes do come? “Cause and Defect,” which has similar grooves to their debut, and “Hard Headed,” with its fuzz-bass intro and its hard-hitting swing, should shut them up.
One track in particular simply must be discussed due to its vast departure from anything the band has previously recorded. That would be the soulful ballad, “Too Much is Not Enough.” The words “soulful” and “ballad” are not uncommon whenever Graveyard’s music is discussed, but never have they been more apt than when referencing this tune. If the band was going for something brand new and uncompromising, something that could potentially cause a divide amongst their touchy fan base, this song is the one. “Too Much is Not Enough” is about regret, heartbreak, and deep spiritual pain. It sounds like it’d be more at home on a 1972 record by the Faces or Humble Pie rather than a 2015 “doom metal” album, (it even has “Blackberries”-esque backing vocals for christ’s sake.) This song may be a deal breaker for some, but for others, (myself included,) it is a fine offering; a standout track where the band exudes a wealth of artistic growth. For me it’s nothing but Graveyard just doing what they do, and doing it well. Chances are they’re 100% comfortable with any allegiant shifts that may recur as a result of this song.
All in all, “Innocence and Decadence” could be viewed as a polarizing record. Graveyard may lose fans, or they could very well gain them. They’ll probably always have older fans pissing and moaning over “the good old days,” but it’s also likely that, regardless of the extreme reactions people may have against this album, Graveyard will remain one of the most top notch bands around today. That goes for the metal scene, the doom scene, the rock scene, etc. Hell. That goes for the music scene in general.
‘Innocence & Decadence’ is available here
Band info: facebook