When Swedish hard rock Norrsken disbanded in 2000, its principles both embarked on their own doom rock journeys: Guitarist Magnus Pelander formed Witchcraft, while vocalist Joakim Nilsson formed Graveyard.
Both outfits maintained Norrsken's dedication to Sabbath-indebted doom metal, but as time has gone on, both bands -- especially Graveyard -- have moved toward a beefy, melodic rock sound.
This isn't to say that either fits the "Nickelback" template -- far from it, but selections from Graveyard's latest, 2012's Lights Out, wouldn't sound entirely out of place following Three Doors Down, Saliva, or Shinedown on some modern rock radio station. Propulsive album opener "An Industry of Murder" coasts from a sinister, palm-muted verse to an wide-open chorus; "Slow Motion Countdown" grooves over soulful jazz and blues textures; album highlight "Endless Night" lifts the kickstand and rolls steadily toward boogie rawk glory.
Lights Out doesn't abandon Graveyard's classist leanings, but it does find the band folding in contemporary metal touches into its brawny crunch. I spoke with Nilsson about the album's blues elements, his record collection growing up, and how the band never attempted to play "throwback" rock.Up on the Sun: I saw you guys play last January. Do you remember playing the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe?
Joakim Nilsson: Yeah, yeah, of course. It was a wild little room with a lot of people in it. It was really packed. It was fun.
I read so many things about Graveyard that reference you as "retro" or "vintage" metal, but Lights Out doesn't really sound that way to me. There's certainly some warm, analog tones which are evocative of '70s production techniques, but this one seems much more in touch with "modern rock" than people normally give you credit for.
I don't know why people are so hung up about us recording [using] analog [technology]. A lot of people do in all types of genres and all types of music. I don't think that has too much to do with it. We always say that in interviews, that we are inspired by old bands, old blues, hard rock and all of that stuff, so I guess that is where our roots are. That's our foundation, but we never tried to be a throwback band. We never wanted to sound exactly like the band's playing in the '70s. We always try to be as contemporary as we can. We're trying to write music for today, not to the kids in the '70s.
Do you get fans of old boogie rock from the '70s showing up at your shows, or is it mostly young kids who just sort of imagine that you sound like "The Seventies?"
We have a wide variety. It's both young girls in the front row and old men with ponytails in the back, you know? It's all different types at our shows. It's pretty great, actually.
You mentioned the blues, and I feel like this record really exhibits your bluesy side, especially "Slow Motion Countdown." Are you into blues from a specific era?
I try to listen to a little bit of everything, but sometimes the old recordings are a little too folky for me. I kind of like the '60s and '70s, especially the blues [rock] groups like Fleetwood Mac and that sort of thing. I try to be inspired by a little bit of everything, everything that's good anyway.
Sometimes when people hear the word "blues" people think of bad Eric Claptron records. That's not exactly what you guys are drawing on.
Not really, but [he] made a lot of good things, too you know?
I don't mean to be too down on Clapton -- I like Cream and some of his records, too -- but there's sort of a perception here in the States where people think of some white blues players as being sort of anesthetized, too clean...
It can be too happy for the blues.
For me, blues is something more sad, and I guess that's the kind of blues that we put in our music.
What the radio like in Sweden? Did you grow up hearing old American records on the radio or from your family?
I mostly grew up with jazz and classical music. It was much later on that I got into Sabbath, and that made me want to hear everything that came out during those years, maybe '73 and '74. After that, I wanted to hear everything.
Graveyard is scheduled to perform February 19, at Crescent Ballroom.
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