What’s great about bands like Gravebreaker is that they take fresh sounds and ideas and employ them over what sounds like late 70s metal. Thus, it’s as if metal was ahead of its time back in 1978 and we are just discovering this brilliant garage band that recorded one glorious album that, had it been released at the time, would have catapulted metal to new heights. But because of band tensions and complications it lay dormant only to be discovered in late 2016 where it dazzled listeners and vinyl collectors alike as if they had just found a lost gemstone.
That’s not the actual story of Gravebreaker but it makes sense as a way to succinctly describe their sound without going off all half-cocked. Hailing from Sweden, this power trio, comprised of men named Fury (strings), Devastation (drums) and Nightmare (vocals), pump out rehashed early metal in the form of Judas Priest, Accept and Warlock. You know, classic bands that defined the sound.
But that’s not all! If you act now you can also get Gravebreaker’s unique take on synth sounds. Drawing directly from the synthwave revolution that has every mid-20s, unemployed tweaker running to their parents basement to dig out the Casio, Gravebreaker inserts, rather deftly, some very forward thinking keyboard sounds into their mix. Particularly on tracks like “Sacrifice” where there is even, dare I say it, a bit of autotune like interplay between the keys and the vocals. Even worse, it works really well by adding another layer of complexity and intrigue to a very old sound.
There are also sweet, liquid doses of borderline epic metal across Sacrifice. “Kill and Kill Again” tells a tale across it three-and-a-half minute run-time about fighting off an evil tyrant who seeks to create a master race (sound familiar?). Warriors for justice and good, the guitars and drums effect a galloping, triplet style heralding the call of the horses, or other farm animal, of war. There’s even a pretty epic keyboard line that mimics a trumpet or bugle. CALL OF WAR!
It’s tracks like the aforementioned “Kill and Kill Again” along with the nearly speed metal take, “Pray for Death” that make Sacrifice shine. Gravebreaker are at their pinnacle when they are playing fast-forward driven metal akin to Finland’s Speedtrap. Think of Gravebreaker as a blend of those Finn’s and Portugal’s Ravensire towering over single guitar riffs drawn from the Judas Priest back catalog.
The final track, “Messenger of Death,” represents their take on a traditional, longer-form ballad from the Iron Maiden days. While the track doesn’t hit a homerun in that regard, it has it’s moments and flashes of promise. Clean guitars, stuttered drumbeats and some of the throatier vocals combine to make for the most progressive track on the album. At well over six minutes, on an album with a thirty-eight-minute run-time, there’s room for editing, yet, the synth touches, with their laser like focus certainly add a positive touch as the extended outro hammers on.
If garage metal was, or is a genre, then Gravebreaker are it. Their songs are raw, forward driven and mostly made for the love of the form. Despite being from Gothenburg, these guys are clearly looking elsewhere for inspiration, particularly to British roots of the genre. Even if you don’t own a motorcycle, or even a single piece of leather, you can still enjoy Gravebreaker. Just be sure to tie a bandana around your head to keep the sweat from your eyes and remember: it’s totally cool to headbang at any age, especially if you do so while on your knees.