Buried deep at the end of Swedish rockers Graveyard’s fourth album Innocence & Decadence is the illuminating number, “Stay For A Song.” The song itself isn’t particularly special, a simple acoustic number that seems engineered specifically to work as the kick-off track for the band’s encore sets. But what happens during “Stay For A Song,” where Joakim Nilsson adopts the persona of a bow tie-loosened crooner pleading for the audience to stay for one more song, tells a much more important story about Innocence & Decadence. This Nilsson-as-a-singer as opposed to Nilsson, ringleader for some power rock vikings, is a strong current that runs through the entirety of Innocence & Decadence. This is Graveyard showing they’re more than just a pigeonhole-able stoner-doom band so much as they’re a rock ‘n’ roll band, and these 11 songs are their calling card.
The most effective example of the newer, broader visioned Graveyard comes on third track, “Exit 97.” It takes a couple listens to place it, but once you notice it, it’s unmistakable. It’s a classic soul belter, except in this case it’s not James Brown, on his knees, arms wide open, begging, pleading in “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” or Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, wild-eyed and dangerously howling through “I Put A Spell On You.” It’s some white dude from Gothenburg doing his level best to channel both of their ghosts. And once you get past the fact Graveyard’s not trying to recreate the Sabbath’s “Killing Yourself To Live” you realize it’s pretty amazing. Likewise, “Too Much Is Not Enough,” complete with its female backup singers and raise-your-hand choruses, and the heartbreaker “Far Too Close” do nothing to dampen this soulman narrative.
That all said, Graveyard haven’t at all abandoned the propulsive mind-melt rock that got them to the show. It’s still all there. “The Apple And The Tree” is a particularly signature take on their cannonading sound with its fiery pace and working man blues lament. Equally spirited number “Can’t Walk Out” and its admonishment to “keep on dancin’ when the music dies” could be a Joy Division tribute if you squint and use your imagination. And “From A Hole In The Wall” may be closer to Motorhead minus Lemmy’s growl than any stoner rock labels that frequently typecast the band.
The result is an album that’s bolder, braver and broader than anything Graveyard’s done in the past and it makes Innocence & Decadence a worthy addition to the hard rock canon.
Watch “The Apple And The Tree”: