Graveyard @ Academy 3
“Who’re you seeing tonight,” slurs an ever so slightly inebriated friend of Charlotte’s who we bump into on the walk down to the Academy. Upon hearing my answer he looks, at first to our photographer and then to me. “Are they heavy?”
“Not at all really, they’re a blues band,” is my response as we stroll past a group of homeless people sheltering from the autumn cold together.
“Are they really though? They’re called Graveyard! Are you sure they’re not heavy.”
Indeed, the Swedish quartet may sound like an 80s death metal band, but the reality is very much alien from the truth. Moments of heaviness, where Joakim Nilsson’s vocals take on a tumultuous rasp, the guitars upping the ante alongside him, are lurking in their sound, sure, but their beating heart is one of the blues. They take its traditional but never archaic formula and douse it in their own unique individualism, where influences do stretch so far as acts on that blackened area of the spectrum, but nevertheless it is still the blues, it still shuffles and breathes a pained sigh like Muddy Waters and Elmore James. Their music has a way of speaking to me in a deep, wonderfully agonising way, this is music as catharsis and tonight they are more outstanding than their usual imperious selves.
For 90 minutes, the world melts away and I vent, I get lost in the hip shaking grooves, the thinly driven but ultimately perfectly warming guitar tones and lyrics that reflect a world of lies, greed and bastards.
From their latest opus, the magnificent and rounded Innocence & Decadence, The Apple and the Tree weaves through Axel Sjöberg’s thumping yet jangly rhythms, infallible vocal refrains peppered throughout while Exit 97 mourns sombrely, prickling the atmosphere.
Seven Seven, taken from 2012’s politically fuelled and enraged Lights Out, is a barrage of power and almost unbearable melody, much sweeter than it is short. Endless Night meanwhile is straightforward, punchy and gets the crowd in full, glorious voice.
Even during more vulnerable, heartfelt moments like the bruised Slow Motion Countdown the room is all smiles. The broad range of musical textures in their sound has built them a diverse following and the admiration for the band creates a weight to the venue.
During a rousing rendition of Uncomfortably Numb, Drian Nash of Noman and John Nicholson of Pist [two brilliant local bands to the uninitiated] dance arm in arm and that, right there, sums up the night for me.
The band leave the stage and all is silent for a moment, but it doesn’t end there. Returning to stage with just his beautiful hollow-bodied Gibson, Nilsson croons through Stay For A Song, a song so open and soul-bearing I almost can’t handle it. Those tones and lyrics, like ethereal spectres, travel through flesh and bone to something much deeper. When the rest of the band return for a holy trinity of an encore – the aforementioned The Apple and the Tree, a rabid Aint Fit To Live Here and the storytelling magic of The Siren – I’m left speechless. I’m left heartbroken and happy.
How exactly this band affect me in such a way is a mystery I hope to never solve, it’s just one I hope will never cease to be.
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Charlotte Wellings