If you have the chance to see a Graveyard show, go. I know, I know—70s-rock-inspired Swedish heavy metal isn’t for everyone. But if you’re a fan of music—period—you owe it to yourself to see this band live.
The original members of Graveyard joined forces in Gothenberg in 2007. Despite a change to the lineup midway through recording their first album, they released a nearly flawless self-titled debut that same year. Now, the current members—lead singer and guitarist Joakim Nilsson, guitarist Jonatan Ramm, bassist Rikard Edlund and drummer Axel Sjöberg—are touring the States in support of their latest record, Lights Out, released on Nuclear Blast in 2012.
On their website, Graveyard says, “…no matter how much fun it is to write and record albums it’s in the live environment that we feel totally at home as a band.” Watching them from the packed floor of the Bowery Ballroom, it’s clear that this is true.
At the show’s start, the band materialized like ghosts of rock past, bathed in fog and purple stage light. With their long hair, moustaches and snap-button denim shirts, they looked more like lost members of the Allman Brothers than anything you’d expect to be classified as “heavy metal.” Though their music, like their look, is part homage to the Zeppelin-era rock gods, their sound is a reinvention of what came before, rather than a regurgitation.
Joakim Nilsson has the range and force of vocalists like Robert Plant or Chris Cornell. Throughout the show, he snapped back and forth between restrained melodies and primal screams without a moment’s pause. His guitar did the same, sometimes dueling, sometimes harmonizing with Ramm’s. From behind his drum kit, Axel Sjöberg worked the crowd like a second frontman, pounding out virtuosic solos every chance he got.
The audience was rapt. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder—metalheads with face tattoos and braided beards, goth boys with dyed black hair, girls who looked like they’d gotten their clothes from the Tim Burton office wear line. One Jersey mom, dressed in the denim and pleather of her youth, squealed as if within a hair-band fever dream.
During the hour-long set, Graveyard swaggered back and forth between slow, dirty blues and vicious metal. Highlights were “Uncomfortably Numb,” from their 2011 album Hsingen Blues, “Slow Motion Countdown” and their encore closer, “Endless Night,” off the new record.
Songs were slow, then fast, then slow again—slipping away into an intoxicating solo, or crashing to a sudden halt. We were hungry. We stamped and thrashed and called for more. We demanded that each seething missive outperform the last. Graveyard delivered.