INTERVIEW: Graveyard - Deities of the Rock Riff
Sweden’s music scene is as thriving a creative hub these days as it has ever been. The nation’s passion for music shows no signs of abating or becoming stagnant, and heavy rockers Graveyard’s home of Gothenburg is the heart that pumps melody through the nation’s veins - a blood that is also infested with a feverish addiction to the rock riff.
“The Gothenburg sound is really diverse - it has always been a great town for music. I listen to a lot of Goat. We shared a rehearsal space with them, so it was hard not to hear them. They’re great!’ enthuses Graveyard frontman Joakim Nilsson with pride and appreciation.
Graveyard are a band who wear their influences on their sleeve and are proud to do so. Forged through a mutual love of European and American heavy rock of the 60s and 70s as well as the timeless beauty of Soul and Blues, Graveyard consistently deliver the next evolutionary stage of balls out Rock ‘n’ Roll.
After touring in the states with Mastodon and Clutch, and a handful of local dates and festivals, the band took some time out at the beginning of 2015 to focus on the writing and development of their forthcoming album ‘Innocence & Decadence’. But some personnel changes were afoot.
With the departure of founding member, and Joakim’s childhood friend, bassist Rikard Edlund, former guitarist and vocalist Truls Mörck made a welcome return to the band.
Having left after band’s self-titled debut, Truls has easily slipped back into the fold. Penning and singing the sensitive ‘From a Hole in the Wall’ as well as adding to the harmonies that layer the band’s songs, Truls is not the only member stepping up to the mic on this album.
Guitarist Jonatan adds a powerful vocal to ‘Far Too Close’. So how does lead vocalist Nilsson feel about his band mates stepping on his patch? Joakim laughs, “it adds diversity to the album and gives me a little break!”
Truls is not the only old face to return to the Graveyard family on this record. Ulf Lundén was also welcomed back as cover artist for ‘Innocence and Decadence’, having created the cover for 2011s ‘Hisingen Blues’. The ex-bassist of Swedish metal band ‘Bombus’ was given creative carte blanche by the band, “We really trust Ulf with his ideas…he is a very hard working guy and we are extremely happy with his work”, said a clearly chuffed Joakim.
As a band’s popularity grows, the most die-hard fans often begrudge any changes to a band’s sound, fearing a possible softening or image alteration. No fear of that with Graveyard’s new offering: “I think I was worried we were going to sound softer on this album.’ Nilsson disagrees with the idea that the more popular a band gets, the safer their sound must become… ‘We are still writing the songs we want to hear’, he reassures us.
‘Innocence & Decadence’ was recorded live in the studio to capture the intensity and ferocity of the band’s onstage performance, something they haven’t been able to do in that past due to lack of space in the studio. This time round, however, they were lucky enough to have a bigger studio, enabling them to record the incendiary live riffs screaming out from Joakim and Jonatan’s guitars, equalled only by the dynamic rhythm section of Axel and Truls, which creates what is a visceral, thrill ride of a record.
New ideas and nods to past sounds pepper the bands new album. The inclusion of a synthesizer on ‘Exit 97’ may surprise some fans. “We wanted to make that part of the song thinner with just one instrument - we tried just a bass then a synthesizer. As for the synthesizer sound we wanted to make that part of the song like the sound track to a horror film’ enthuses Nilsson, clearly happy with the results.
There’s even a nod to Motown in the hauntingly beautiful ‘Too Much is Not Enough’: “We are the result of our influences. Even though I haven’t listened to a lot of soul, I have recently picked that up. I like the feeling of it. I like singing it”, explains Joakim.
It was whilst touring that the band decided to introduce audiences to the album’s opening track ‘Magnetic Shunk’, in order to test out their new material. It fast became a set list regular, a naturally up-tempo Graveyard song that created fever in the pit – a reassuring sign for a band on the eve of a new album.
In the past, Graveyard has been labelled a political band due to the social awareness of their lyrics, a sentiment the band appreciate but never consciously set out to be. Joakim feels they have toned down their frustrations towards political failings on this record, focusing more on relationships and highlighting the plight of those isolated in life.
The band are still empathetic to the fight against social wrongs and reassuringly still have a social conscience. Graveyard’s music remains powerfully honest and their narratives remain equal to any Norse saga. ‘Innocence & Decadence’ will not disappoint. The spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll thrives in the souls of these men!
Joakim Nilsson Vocals/Guitar
Truls Mörck Bass/Vocals
Jonatan LaRocca-Ramm Guitar/Vocals
Innocence & Decadence is out September 25th 2015 on Nuclear Blast Records
Images courtesy of Nuclear Blast Records