Graveyard Digs New Plots on ‘Peace’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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There’s a temptation to label Peace, the latest album from Swedish blues-rock groovers Graveyard, as something of a comeback album. After all, it’s their first release since their reformation after breaking up, so technically, I guess, the label fits. Of course, “break up,” no matter how official it was, feels like something of a misnomer. Announced in September of 2016, to the dismay of fans around the world, their break up was a capstone to a decade-long career of hard rock boogie that left something of a void in the rock and roll ecosystem.

Cut to four months later, however, and the band was reunited. Most people would just call that a break, but hey, who am I to judge? Still, it seems silly to succumb to the notion that Peace is a comeback. It’s not. It’s simply, their latest album, regardless of how hard fans are trying to look at it otherwise.

Graveyard offers a wry nod to this idea with their album opener, “It Ain’t Over Yet,” a rollicking hard rock anthem that finds lead singer Joakim Nilsson doing his best to imitate Axl Rose’s hard-edged falsetto in a stark departure from his usual vocal style. Fueled by a raucous groove, it’s an immediate attention grabber that promises more of what Graveyard fans have come to expect.

As ever, Graveyard is playing in their Sabbath-cum-Cream sandbox, combining skull crushing riffs with an intense blues blade. This is more than apparent as the album moves into its second track, “Cold Love.” Here, Nilsson abandons the falsetto for the haggard growl heard on their earlier records. It’s an irrefutable jam powered by a killer bass line from Truls Morck and begs to be listened to at ear splitting levels.

There’s no real denying that Peace is dedicated to the rock, but as the album moves on there’s almost a lack of focus that dulls the affect of the album. Take the track “Please Don’t.” It’s superficially rocking, but feels a bit perfunctory. It’ll get some heads nodding, but there’s a distinct lack of memorability that prevents it from being much more than existent.

That’s a problem with much of the album, which never really descends into bad, even at its worst moments, so much as it plugs along without a sense of direction. Peace exists as a collection of songs in search of cohesion. It ambles and meanders, but never quite lands on its purpose. It almost feels like the band recorded it simply because it was time to make a new album.

Which, on the whole, is fine. There are plenty of highlights here to please fans, such as the album’s closer, “Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)”. This six-minute jam find Graveyard doing what they do best: mastering the build. The slow start builds into a wild crescendo of rock greatness that might be among the band’s finest work. The track feels almost like a statement of purpose, making a promise for a new direction that they’re trying to grow into, even if they haven’t quite gotten there yet.

That phrase, “new direction,” is a double-edged sword. We want bands prevent staleness without abandoning the reasons we loved them in the first place. Perhaps that’s why Peace so often feels safe. They’re pushing themselves, but not full-throttle. That gives the album an almost liminal feel; it’s a suggestion of growth and a promise for more that coaxes fans along without jarring them too heavily.

Intriguing are the addition of organs and keys, which serve to punctuate the band’s bluesy style. There’s a new depth and bombast that Graveyard are experimenting with, and they’re clearly aspiring to new heights. Whether or not they’ve achieved them yet is up for debate, however. It works more often than it doesn’t, but when it doesn’t it falters towards boring.

That said, there’s definite promise here. Growth spurts can cause some awkward movements as you get used to new dimensions. While it occasionally fumbles and stumbles, there’s a hint of what they’re growing into that could see Graveyard blowing the roof off. In that way, Peace, like, well, peace, feels like an ideal to be attained rather than a singular achievement in itself. One day, we might see the album as a turning point that flung them into new directions. As is, they’ve kicked open a door without venturing too far inside. It’s a solid enough entrance but hopefully next time we see some more follow through.

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