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This is another of the many projects this popular Javi “I-Own-A-Studio” Bastard Félez is involved, he formed this group back in July 2007 with Julkarn, when approximately 90% of old school nostalgic Catalans came out copying the vintage thrash and death sound from those icons whose music we’re all familiar with. Actually Graveyard unashamedly admits on their official website biography from which exact bands they ripped-off their riffs:
“They had always discussed about the possibility to develope a band/side-project in order to worship and show respect toward those bands they hailed since they were teenagers like Entombed, Asphyx, Dismember, Slayer, Celtic Frost, Edge Of Sanity, At The Gates, Venom, Autopsy, Carnage, Morbid Angel, Grave or Bolt Thrower”.
As most contemporary neighbor groups, these guys intend to sound like the veterans so you know you can’t expect much uniqueness on these songs. Despite their undeniable lack of innovation, these Catalans have gained certain popularity, sharing stage with their idols and have been given the chance to record a couple of albums, the first one with the collaboration of Mr. Swanö. Their debut One With The Dead was preceded by a humble EP entitled Into The Mausoleum and an intense show schedule – however as these cuts confirm, they are still deprived of so much experience and musicianship.
Obeying faithfully the basic subgenre standards, Bastard & his team offer some straight-up filthy death metal based on elementary low-tuned riffs, song-structure versatility and a few ambitious arrangements on tracks like “Necrology” or “The Burning Gate”, which might not be surprisingly inventive, not even inspired, but offer notable aggression and intensity despite the obvious repetition of lines, predictable tempo changes and archetypical lyrics. These guys provide their music of great dynamism and energy with predominant fast beats which rarely present shifts, almost uninterrupted on simplistic tunes as “Carven Epitaph” or “Walking Horrors Of The Undead” on which they emphasize those dumb choruses as well, incorporating concise slow sections to complement the dominant speed. It seems they start running out of ideas as variations on riffs begin to expose exhaustion, confusion and incoherence, losing vision and consistency on the title-number, with the group coming up with the same clichés and patterns, eluding creativity and direction on those alarmingly dull structures. Formulas remain quite minimalist on “Caro Data Vermibus” too, a song which hardly reaches 2 minutes, revealing growing uniformity of lines and increasing technical fragility, adding however a nice touch of punk on the essence and attitude of those easily configured raw riffs, instrumentally with little to offer though. On the contrary, a more serious effort is discovered on the decent instrumental piece “Abandoned Churches” and “Riding A Pale Horse”, which introduce some powerful galloping lines of bigger finesse and cleaner texture, influenced by power NWOBHM – accenting sophisticated harmonies that soon lack continuity and perspective. Harmonies are also incorporated on lengthy sequences of the overlong “The Skull”, on which Graveyard slow down to obtain weight and cadence, creating a dark climax – exposing again their incapability to design effective riff progression, getting stuck on the same lines during seemingly endless tedious sections.
They’re stealing riffs and formulas from old bands but we saw that coming, didn’t we? Besides, Graveyard aren’t only lacking originality, the absolute absence of songwriting skills is critical. The performance on this album is however competent for an amateur group of this level – Bastard & co. intend to add certain level of complication but never work really rigorously on the complexity and variety of arrangements and the technique of riffs – most songs are quite simplistic and straight, demanding no special abilities, remaining unchallenging and accessible in terms of difficulty. Of course, solos are too scruffy and noisy, riffs repetitive and dull to extremes while rhythms stay considerably homogeneous, predictably featuring a few alterations, yet generally insubstantial. Surprisingly, despite the bunch of flat, random riffs, hooks and fills, some songs don’t come out that bad, specially when Graveyard bravely transcend the death metal principles by including strong harmonies and sweet harmonies, pushing away brutality for a second to refine their ways as you can check on that instrumental title. But that’s an exception on an album deprived of ideas and grace – the songwriting process has failed in particular, discovering countless repetitive structures, exhausted arrangements, riffs that sound mostly the same, embracing a nearly exact pattern during the whole record, song after song stubbornly, making the music overlong and boring, without freshness or fluidity. The singer’s growling is inexpressive and generic too, delivering lots of uninspired empty lyrics with nothing to say, abusing of the same topics and themes, demonstrating undisputedly how unoriginal and conventional these Catalans’ schemes are. Incapable to beat, not even match the brilliance and hugeness of the vintage titans, this group simply exposes how poor the current Barcelona scene is as the leaders of the subgenre in their home city.
Graveyard ain’t good musicians, no imaginative composers or decent disciples of the late 80’s Swedish groups either – deprived of creativity and technical skills, they just can imitate, copy and plagiarize the original product. Their preconceived intentions to sound like somebody else set restrictions to the creative process, something alarmingly usual among most thrash and death acts in the Catalan territory, which seem to feel quite comfortable with that status of old school rip-off. Always the same, a bunch of shows and a couple of albums later, Bastard & co. are still comfortable stuck on the same clichés, inexplicably regarded as the death metal champions of Barcelona, gigging alongside veterans who definitely play in another league. Success and popularity are often unjustified in this business lately.
Forget about Messi. Forget about Xavi and Iniesta. Forget about Camp Nou and Estadio Cornellá-El Prat, Sagrada Familia and Gran Teatre de Liceu, because now Barcelona and all Catalonia have a new pearl. Its name is Graveyard. And although these Spaniards cover with glory Spanish death metal, another country comes to my mind during listening to this debut album. Yes, it is mighty Sweden and the beginning of the nineties. With these twelve songs the metal history came back to the glorious past when such bands as Dismember, Entombed, Nihilist and others were reigning, to the past where pure death exhalements were covering the newborn stage. Each child in the kindergarten knows that Dismember and Nihilist are dead now, whereas Entombed changed their music. But actually the whole situation seems to draw to end, when the sounds of “One With The Dead” strike my ears unmercifully. What is more, I can knowingly and willfully declare that this first album in Graveyard’s career is the splendid successor of “Like An Ever Flowing Stream” and “Indecent & Obscene”.
The front cover is the first thing that absorbs the attention. Why? Because it is very simple yet expressive and convictive, and there is no color palette (only black and white). It perfectly fits to the musical entirety. Ok, let’s back to the music, because after forty seconds of ‘traditional’ intro, the death is unleashed with arrival of “Pantheon Vulture”. The realization of sound is nothing new here (Dan Swanö mastered it), but I treat this like the only way of production. What does it mean? Far from nowadays modern and sterile offerings of small and big bands, the Spaniards are drowning in Swedish metal water, well known from the glorious past, so I can describe Graveyard as old school outfit. On the other hand everything is fresh and vivid, in spite they play death metal with doom and heavy influences. It’s hard to write about best song, about the highlight, even after many meetings with the album. So I start quite atypically, writing about two last songs which differ from the rest significantly. These tracks are pure doom metal killers, however the last one is Candlemass cover (really daring idea with clean vocals) and there is no surprise, while “The Skull” is a real monolith that crashes my mind – great pounding riffs and mournful guitar lead, regular clear growls, church-like keyboards with spoken words and paralyzing atmosphere that encircles my senses. The rest of tracks have many changes in tempo, they are varied and full of metal passion, so no boredom is recognized. The album is marked by splendid melodies reminding of Dismember or Entombed from their legendary debuts: in track called “The Burning Gate” especially after 1:40, in turn the beginning of “Riding A Pale Horse” is like a faster opening from “Dismembered” (absolutely cult song from Dismember first appearance), in addition, after three minutes, whole impression is intensified by slow down with some voices of tortured or undead ones. Also very interesting is instrumental track “Abandoned Churches”, here my thoughts fly away to “Silent Are The Watchers” taken from “Death Metal” album by Dismember (again!) due to similar guitar work and amazing heavy metal solo leads…
Nullum est iam dictum quod non sit non sit dictum prius. These words perfectly describe situation of today’s underground. There are lots of old school crews, mostly rooted in Swedish metal history and for certain Graveyard is one of them. Is it trend or fashion? For sure it is getting out of control just like worthless and of no artistic value Beherit/Blasphemy “kvlt” copycats some years ago. But this Spanish killer is a proof that quite new band (formed in 2007) is able to create great music based on the past. Of course there is one essential condition: without an unique individual touch of metal, you are nothing just a poor imitator. And Graveyard has it beyond the shadow of a doubt, what is more, they are exceptional band on the scene, even if they are not explorers of a new land, they keep the fire of pure aged death metal still burning. “One With The Dead” is in the league with old Dismember, Desultory or Entombed, not “in the vein of…”, but another splendid piece of metal leading the genre. In one of the countless interviews given to the underground press Javi Felez (vel Bastard) said: “our goal is to make cool songs with cool riffs, that’s where we put all of our efforts, no matter if it is ‘original’ or not”. Is there is a need to say more? Music, performance and attitude – everything is complete here, so the final mark is very, very high. And I hope the future will bring more morbid tunes of pure old-school death metal. I believe they are able to do it.
But now “Prologue: The Reaping” is filling the air…
It's amazing, but the plague called old school Swedish death metal has spread around the globe in terrifying speed, infecting many, nothing expecting maniacs. Nowadays it's not weird anymore if band from wherever else, but not from Sweden, sounds like a Sunlight Studio recording. Like from Spain for instance, where you can find such bands as Morbid Flesh, Unconsecrated and Mass Burial. This is also where Graveyard hails from. Barcelona, to be more exact. Anyway, I don't know whether it's good or not that something what used to considered as a main characteristic for one particular scene and country is so spread that everyone - wherever he lives - is able to adopt it. It's a subject for a long discussion, which would take us anywhere anyway, but the truth is that nowadays not necessarily a Greek sound must come from Greece and Swedish sound come from a Swedish band.
To me the country of origin doesn't matter, as long as the music is fine. And trust me, Graveyard does fuckin shred with their death metal and these guys do it better than many, many Swedes! I've got in my collection their debut MCD "Into the Mausoleum" and it was very OK, although musically it was slightly different, more archaic and primitive type of death metal, not necessarily Swedish sounding, as there were also many similarities to the early American scene and bands like Autopsy and Death (Mantas). With "One With the Dead" though Graveyard took a huge step forward in every aspect of the musicanship.
The production was the first of such big improvements that I've noticed on the LP. "Into the Mausoleum" pretty much sounded rough and sort of very obscure, while the album has got a nice, crispy and aggressive sound with guitars in the vein of Sunlight Studio’s HM2 distortion. I can honestly say that Graveyard is one of those bands, who took this sound into the new era and as such "One With the Dead" sounds very close to Interment's "Into the Crypts of Blasphemy" or Evocation albums for instance, which means it's aggressive, powerful, full of energy, with a slightly modern touch, but still very old school and of course with the characteristic buzzzzz of the guitars. And it's a great production, if you ask me!!!
And for the songs, well there's absolutely nothing more to demand from this band, as they've managed to compose absolutely killer ten tracks of pure Swedish school of death metal and comparing them to the "Into the Mausoleum" it feels like comparing "Left Hand Path" with "Premature Autopsy" if you know what I mean. Or maybe "Dismembered" with "Like an Ever Flowing Stream", as Graveyard is much closer stylistically to Dismember than Entombed. They have those razor sharp riffs, played with great passion and enthusiasm, they have the aggression and of course there are plenty of hooks and infectious melodic parts, which is always the most exciting part of such albums. It's pointless to mention the best songs from "One With the Dead" as I would go for the whole tracklist, but I can say that "Carven Epitaph" may be the least cool song on it (still great though), but if I really, really had to choose some of my favourites I would go for "Pantheon Vulture", "Necrology", "One with the Dead" and "The Skull", as this song is just really killer doom / death metal anthem, with amazing creepy atmosphere and even some keyboards to make it even darker. Fantastic stuff, really. Graveyard have picked up only great riffs, no fillers and boring parts, the whole album is just faultless and the whole 45 minutes go really quickly, but that's good, because once "One with the Dead" ends I play it over again.
I must also mention two more songs, which I think make "One with the Dead" even more varied. First one is the instrumental "Abandoned Churches", with some wonderful riffing and melodic leads, which remind me nothing else but the mighty Iron Maiden! And the second track is "A Tale of Creation", Candlemass' cover, which sounds fantastic. It actually reminds me Swedish band called Satariel, who did an album called "Phobos and Deimos" in 2002, which offered a cool mixture of Swedish death metal with Candlemass-like doom, and even featured Messiah Marcolin on vocals in few songs. That sounded great and "A Tale of Creation" really reminds me that album, with the mix of raspy growlings and classic Candlemass clean singing. Anyway, I love the original version of it and thought it could be a blasphemous interpretation, but no, it actually turned out to be fuckin amazing and I love it! Of course it’s more brutal and slightly faster, played with a death metal feeling and without the sorrowful atmosphere of the original, but I really like it anyway!
What else can I write? Eh, I don't know, so let’s the music speaks for itself and trust me, "One with the Dead" is just a killer album. Yes, it did take a lot of inspiration from Sweden and yes, it may lack an originality, but again, I don't care. The songs are unbelievably strong here, I've been listening to it for like 50 times in past two weeks and can honestly consider "One with the Dead" to be one of the best albums of the recent years and I'm not talking about the old school death metal only, but metal in general. Definitely a must to have!
Standout tracks: "Pantheon Vulture", "Necrology", "One with the Dead", "The Skull", "A Tale of Creation"
Spain’s Graveyard released their debut, One With the Dead,in 2009, but I hadn’t heard about it until an old friend of mine recommended it to me. Let’s just say that this buddy knows my taste well, because although this is from Spain, this release is full of Swedish death metal influence, and I have to say, it’s fucking great. This is the kind of old school death metal revival sound that I can listen to all fucking day! Also, as a side note, does anyone else think that death metal album covers in black and white almost always indicate that the album will be good? That’s just a little trend I’ve noticed over the course of my time as a metal connoisseur.
After a prologue, the death metal that we all know and love starts up with ‘Pantheon Vulture.’ As expected, the riffs are here in full force, being somewhat groovier than I expected. Y’know, like “dat riff” in Dismember’s ‘Override of the Overture,’ except not quite that awesome. Well, this album is chocked full of similar “dat riffs,” which is fucking great. One thing I especially like about the riffs is that their effectiveness is aided by the structure of the songs, which constantly shift from faster paced blastbeat sections to slower sections quite often. This keeps the songs interesting, yet oddly easy to follow.
This album also has a nice melodic flair to it, akin to a band like Necrophobic, that really has the ability to captivate just about any death metal fan. It’s just that fucking entertaining! Whether through one of the rather well-crafted guitar solos, or through the vast amount of great lead melodies, this album just has a thing for being addictively memorable. I’ve actually been humming some of these at work for about a month now. Specifically, that one in ‘Riding a Pale Horse’ is not only catchy, but what it does for the end of the song is what really makes it great. That transition to a scream at 2:58 is simply blood-curdling! How about that intro to ‘Carven Epitaph’? Holy fuck, that was good! Not only that, but it works with the riffs in the song very well, leading to a nice transition when it returns later on in the song. Shit, that thing just sounds fucking creepy. The awesome kind of creepy, not the, “I’m watching you while you make poopy,” kind of creepy.
There’s an instrumental track on here called ‘Abandoned Churches,’ and damn if it doesn’t remind me of Dismember’s ‘Phantoms of the Oath,’ except better. The leads are so much catchier, and the transitions are infinitely better and generally more interesting. Seriously, this is fucking fun to listen to. At this point, they’re just rockin’ out and enjoying life, because no matter how dark and evil this band wants to sound, this is just a fucking fun song. Maybe it’s the use of some Iron Maiden staples such as the leads and the little gallop-y drum rhythm. I don’t know. It;s just fun!
After an album of tracks around the 3-4 minute length Graveyard now hit us with the slow and doomy song, ‘The Skull,’ and god damn, this is some old school greatness! I can genuinely imagine this being from the early 90s. Hell, if I didn’t know this was from 2009, I’d expect it to be from 1993 or something. This just feels so fucking genuine, which I just can’t say for a lot of the mainstream death metal these days. GOD FUCKING DAMMIT, the guitar harmonies on this song are just woefully bleak and utilized so well! Really, I just love what Graveyard is doing with this song. In this, they’ve shown that they can do the regular death metal stuff well, while also branching out into the slower realm and succeeding with flying colors.
The album then ends with a Candlemass cover, which is pretty damn great in its own right. It’s an interesting deviation from the rest of what Graveyard did with this album, but since ‘The Skull’ immediately precedes this, it’s not an awful transition. If anything the death/doom rendition of this (as opposed to Candlesmass’ “really fucking doom” version) is a nice reworking of the original.
Overall, this is an album that any OSDM fan should devour with pleasure. It gives you all of the speed, all of the riffs, all the fucking evil and darkness that the kids love these days, and all the greatness that you’ve come to expect from your death metal. This is an album full of Maiden-esque melodies that are tastefully placed all over the tracks here that really lend themselves well to creating the bleak atmosphere that Graveyard is going for. In addition, Graveyard show that they can kick ass at the slower, doomier side of death metal with ‘The Skull.’ Fuck, this conclusion is too long. Get this album.