Oh, hello there. I didn’t see you come in. What’s that? Oh, no, this isn’t the Authenticity Debate room. Yeah, you’ll want to head down the hall and hang a left. You’re looking for the door labeled Liturgy. This here’s the Graveyard room. Check out our sign: “No Admittance Except On Party Business.” We don’t need no lab-coated grey men poking and prodding at this music to determine its precise chronological provenance, its ratio of originality to faithful recreation, its place on the curmudgeonly Linnaean taxonomy of Metal And Its Relationship To Rock. We take our good times seriously around here, as do the 70’s-steeped gentlemen of Sweden’s Graveyard on their fantastic second album Hisingen Blues, so kindly step the fuck off.
This is red-line-pushing, white-heat burning, heavy blues rock that is, I’d wager, almost impossible to dislike. Graveyard’s style ticks off all the usual suspects: Sabbath, Cream, Zep, Blue Cheer, Skynyrd, Pentagram, and of course fellow countrymen in retro-rock, Witchcraft (with whom members of Graveyard spent time in an earlier band). Dissimilar sound aside, fans of Clutch and Monster Magnet would also assuredly find their no-bullshit-rock itch quickly scratched. As always with the best albums, this name-check chasing is mostly unnecessary, because Hisingen Blues is an immaculately comfortable and immediately likable album that teaches the listener precisely how to listen to it: loudly, and often. It never feels like the listener is crate-diving through Mikael Åkerfeldt’s dusty and well-worn collection of obscure Swedish folk/prog records, so tactile is its appeal.
This is a band for whom the word ‘digital’ means nothing other than ‘relating to the toes and fingers.’ Graveyard’s take on the hard-rocking blues is not particularly occult or arcane, as far as the current revivalists of this style go; the listener is treated to very little in the way of summonings and incantations of dark forces, and is instead knocked upside the head with a metric shit-ton of generously-answered prayers to the Patron Saint of Righteous Fucking Jams.
The above-mentioned Righteous Fucking Jams tend to alternate between more straight-ahead heavy blues rockers (“Ain’t Fit to Live Here,” “Buying Truth,” “Hisingen Blues,” “Rss”) and moodier tunes that plant their asses right down in the middle of the dust-cracked crop circles that birthed this whole doom thang in the first place (“No Good, Mr. Holden,” “The Siren,” “Uncomfortably Numb”). Still, even the doomiest moments here are much more “Hole in the Sky” than “War Pigs,” viz., loosely swinging, feel-good dashes into inevitable oblivion rather than petrified hymns to abjection and existential terror. The end of “Uncomfortably Numb” speeds up exactly where you’d want it to before dropping into a very Skynyrd-ish solo section, while “Longing” starts out all spooky Santana, and then saunters into some toe-tapping Morricone whistling.
Graveyard has it all in spades on Hisingen Blues – classic analog sound, catchy, memorable songwriting, tight musical chops, fantastically expressive vocals, a broad dynamic range (maybe this is what Varg’s been banging on about with his constantly asinine comparisons to classical music), plus all the little flourishes that poke out of the warm production upon repeated listens – some handclaps here, a bit of tambourine there, the tastefully lazy snare bounce-roll on the slow downbeats of “Uncomfortably Numb”, the barely noticeable spaced-out backing effects on “Hisingen Blues,” the effortlessly double-tracked octave harmonies that pop up occasionally, and on and on.
The album isn’t perfect, but then again, this type of hybrid brew shouldn’t aim at perfection. The main complaint is that “Ungrateful Are the Dead,” the tune which follows the palate-cleansing instrumental smoothness of “Longing,” should kick in at a higher energy level. More generally, the second half of the album is ever-so-slightly less rollicking than the first half, and the bonus track “Cooking Brew” doesn’t finish off the album half as well as the foot-stomping, fist-pumping climax of “The Siren.” Just when the canny listener begins worrying that “The Siren” is going to follow the exact same dynamic and emotional arc as “Uncomfortably Numb,” Joakim Nilsson breaks into his most fearsome Robert Plant wail with “Tonight a demon came into my head, alright! / And tried to choke me in my sleep!” All worries are assuaged; all asses are kicked.
Obviously, these are but the teensiest of picked nits. The bottom line is that this album flat-out smokes, front to back, and doesn’t care who knows it. Your mom wants to jam along? Awesome. Grandma, too? Pass the bong. Your dog and your local fireman and the cousin you’ve got funny feelings for and the reanimated corpses of Napoleon Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette and Alexander Graham Bell are all banging down the door to high five you? SAY FUCKING YES TO LIFE, FRIENDS. That’s all we’re really after here.
I said earlier that this wasn’t going to be a review about authenticity. Crucially, the reason a review of Hisingen Blues can avoid wallowing in such meta-critical whinging is precisely because the music refuses to even acknowledge the terms of the question. This batch of tunes is so ass-wallopingly strong that it never gives leave to Mr. No-Fun-Ever Critic to get a word in edgewise. So help us keep on keeping on: say yes to ass-walloping, say yes to Hisingen Blues, say yes to life.