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Lately, I stumbled across an interesting band called Graveyard. The four men come from sunny Barcelona in Spain, and have a little weakness for Lovecraftian literature. This is also the case for me, and I have already listened to many great bands inspired by Lovecraft’s stories: like the German gothic metal group The Vision Bleak (which is still one of my favorite bands, and about to release a new record this year). Graveyard received a couple of very positive reviews for their first record One With The Dead, back in 2009, and also for their brand new follow-up The Sea Grave, which features very fitting cover artwork. I decided to give this second album a shot, and sat down with it for a couple of spins.
The atmospheric Lovecraftian instrumental “R’lyeh I” immediately builds up a strong conceptual atmosphere. There are a total of four instrumental songs on this record which are all very short but perfectly executed. They sound dark, desperate, and the transitions connect very well with the regular songs.
Sadly, the rest of the release can’t keep up with these instrumentals. The songs on this record vary from doom metal to old school death and speed metal passages. Overall, the record has more slow and mid tempo passages than fast paced work. This might be all right for a couple of songs, but all non-instrumental tracks on this release sound very similar and exchangeable. The album simply lacks diversity and innovation. A few Swedish bands come to my mind when I listen to this kind of music: such as Dismember, Grave, Unleashed, or very early Therion. These references aren’t bad per se, but this record simply offers nothing new in comparison. Twenty years ago, these guys would have had a great career before them, but nowadays the whole thing sounds too old-fashioned to crawl out of the underground. While the release surely has a coherent guiding concept, and will likely appeal to genre fans, I had hoped for some more diversity in conjunction with the conceptual approach.
Doom and traditional Swedish death metal fans should give this release a few spins, and might get a positive surprise from the four Spanish musicians. Those who expect a more atmospheric and conceptual approach in connection to the Lovecraftian lyrics should look elsewhere. I fully understand the positive reviews for this band by more traditional metal fans, but it’s probably not my cup of tea.
Originally written for Black Wind Metal
In this whole furor of old skull death metal, it can be easy to dig the filthy rumble of some new group of Swedeath-worshiping hopefuls one day, and have forgotten what their logo looks like the next. Among the multitudinous putrid morass are a number of outfits producing highly convincing punishment that makes them worthwhile in their own right, rather than just as a potentially entertaining opening act you might happen to see. Spain's Graveyard, for example, are a band that I endeavour to follow and collect at every possible turn, so their latest record was approached with high hopes.
The Sea Grave is forty minutes of worthy sequel to the excellent first album, and although it might not receive quite as many repeat plays as that one it is sure to get more than its fair share. It has the most massive sound Graveyard have achieved yet, its menacing guitar tone and monstrous bass lines reinforcing the Bolt Thrower/ Hail of Bullets vibe, but still with the creepy riffs nicked from the likes of Depravity and Abhorrence. The three 'R'lyeh' intros are pretty pointless and, as my brother said while we were cranking this in the car, the opening of 'The Visitations of the Great Old Ones' is a pretty damn good start to an album in its own right. Boom-boom-boom and then right into blasts - setting the formula quite nicely for a record that continues following the Bolty and Unleashed influences Graveyard wear on their leather sleeves, with perhaps a dank odour of their deathrone-occupying countrymen Teitanblood detectable.
That might be in part due to drummer Gusi, who has impressed since Graveyard first wafted up on my radar (and who by the way kicks just as much cadaverous arse in his other band Morbid Flesh). This guy is still upping his game it seems, keeping it ugly and simple, but scaling up the pace and brutality enough to take the album to the next level. His blast beats are enough to bring in the black/ death crowd for this one, while the mix of Dismemberisms and Blasphemophagher-esque atrocities occasionally spewing off the strings of Bastard and black/ thrash vet Mark Wild are probably enough to keep 'em.
The guitars in general, while not loosing riffs quite as catchy as the dominating debut One with the Dead, keep the carnage shambling forth with panache and an arse-load of memorable moments. 'Faces of the Faceless' even recalls the violent groove and catchy choruses of 'Walking Horrors of the Undead'. Graveyard haven't forgotten their days of recording Candlemass covers though, and there are still plenty of weighty doom/ death sequences to offset the rotting rampages. Julkarn, who it seems will from now on no longer offer his services to the band live, puts in another really sterling performance here. In keeping with this review's angle and rambling so far, his vocals are classic death metal, but of a very fine cut and easily standing out from the generic "frogs in a moor" that Martin van Drunen condemned on the most recent Asphyx record. Huge, crepuscular roars and grunts are his remit, nicely bolstering the already massive atmosphere.
For those that dig Graveyard, this is of course a no-brainer - much like its monochromatic cover art ghouls, the music contained compliments the Spaniards' existing catalogue very tastily. If you don't, but you're in the market for some old school death metal that doesn't remind you that there's been about half a decade of this fast-staling underground "old skull" death craze now, you can go and find this and then the new Krypts album. That should set you up until 2014, when I'm crossing my fingers for some impending material by Morbid Flesh.
“…I call thee, O’ old spirits…”
The phenomenon of Cthulhu mythos and all eerie novels, which the Providence master of horror named H.P. Lovecraft created, has spread over the heavy metal music in such a way that nowadays it is as common lyrical theme as Satanism, zombies or guts ripping. Metallica had their “The Call of Cthulhu” (amazing song) and later a whole bunch of death metal artists had that lyrical theme used… that takes us back to Morbid Angel, just to name the best example of all. For the recent resurrection of the old school death metal, which one can spot, the Cthulhu mythos has a great importance. Many bands started to use Lovecraft’s works as their lyrical theme, some even created whole concept albums – just listen to both The Grotesquery LPs! And only recently I was frequently listening to albums of such bands as Unaussprechlichen Kulten, Megascavenger, Chapel of Disease, Puteraeon, plus The Great Old Ones – killer post black metal band – all worshipping the creations of Lovecraft and being influenced by his works they used them for lyrics with great results. And now I have yet another album and band, which are totally dedicated to the Great Old Ones, Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep etc. Graveyard is their name and “The Sea Grave” is how they titled their second LP!!!!!!!!
“…The Beast of the night shall foretell their coming…”
Definitely Graveyard is one of my favourite new death metal bands, which play their music in the most old styled and obscure way, in this case being influenced by the great Swedish heritage of bands like Carnage, Entombed and Dismember. I have no doubts that some of the previous works of this Spanish band are essential for every death metal maniac and should be cherished almost as much as some of the classic 90’s albums. You may be allowed to skip “Into the Mausoleum” demo, but you just must get “One with the Dead” LP – amazing debut full length – as well as “The Altar of Sculpted Skulls” – devastating MLP, which contained some rare songs and re-recorded oldies. These two releases are masterpieces of pure old school Swedish death metal (even if the band is Spanish he!). Recently I had a chance to obtain a couple of split EPs with Graveyard being one of their participants: one is a killer release shared by Graveyard and Deathevokation and another is the new 7”EP “Of Ancient Metal and Eternal Death”, which the Spaniards share with Polish Ulcer. Both EPs were great appetizers for me before the main course, which “The Sea Grave” is… and man, even if I knew it will be a killer album I still felt absolutely stunned, when I started to listen to it. It is another masterpiece for me!
“…for they walk not the Earth in their forbidden forms…”
“The Sea Grave” has nine songs – sorry, actually just nine, as three are short instrumental passages, all called “R’lyeh part1-3” – and it is even hard to pick up one, which would be the best from all, so tight and even is the whole material. Obviously Graveyard didn’t discover anything new, why would they? And they take a lot of influence from the old death metal scene – not only from the Swedish one, but also a lot from Autopsy (some doomier riffs have similar dark vibe to them), Bolt Thrower, Death, Morgoth and so many more… Each song has fantastic riffs, many of which have great hooks, so they will hit you hard, but you’ll memorize them right away, so catchy they are… But the music is well varied. There are some melodic themes, aggressive and brutal death metal, some slow, doomy stuff, but also some very fast parts… There’s everything… And the whole time the atmosphere is just eerie, dark and sinister, what created a wonderful, thrilling feeling. This is old school death metal I like most! For me it sometimes sounds like an album, which band like Entombed should have done many years ago… or Dismember, whose latest albums I like a lot, but I feel that they have not managed to compose so fantastic music ever since “Like an Ever Flowing Stream”. Just listen to those melodic themes, which Graveyard have played in many songs of their new album… you literally feel like this album should have been recorded 20 years ago and if it was then Graveyard would now be praised as a legendary death metal band. Take a listen to “The Nurturing of the Cadaver” or “The Visitations of the Great Old Ones”… ha, listen to any song from this LP, as none of them sounds weak. Another mighty example is “Cult of the Shadows Pt. II: I Am the Lord of Spirits”, which reminds me Tiamat from their legendary debut LP “The Sumerian Cry”, but it is “Of He Who Sleeps”, which shines most, with some excellent riffing and guitar leads, not to mention the drumming… actually I think that Graveyard has really taken their arrangements into the perfect shape now!
“…I command all wandering spirits to depart in peace…”
Finally I must say a couple of words about the artwork for “The Sea Grave”. I bet most of you will have the CD version (I hope none of you will try exploring the depths with lousy mp3??), so you won’t see it so well, but if you take a look on the cover of the vinyl version then you’ll realize how amazing that artwork is! Really, what Matthew Carr a’ka Putrid did here is something beyond my imagination. What an awesome piece of work, how detailed, with the great Cthulhu coming out of the depths, creating the storm on the sea and trying to sink that poor ship in the bottom left corner. It looks amazing and I can stare at it for hours, when listening to the album and reading the lyrics, as then the whole concept really makes sense. You’ll find some additional graphics on the back cover and in the insert, so Putrid did phenomenal job for the album. Once again I must say that I am not only totally pleased with the fact that such killer old school death metal bands have been formed within the past decade, but also they managed to bring the culture of using handpainted works for their covers, something I was so missing, when the lousy photoshop shit has flooded the scene… Now, all of a sudden, again I can see some killer illustrators, painting some amazingly looking covers. The scale of it is so huge now that it is just impossible to pick up my favourites, so many killer front covers there are… but it feels great! And now Putrid did this cover for “The Sea Grave” and I can only say: “well done! Please make a huge poster of it, so I can put it on my wall!!!!!! That poster from the LP version is too small hehe!”… Yeah, you may think I’m crazy, but I don’t care. I love when the killer music comes together with amazing artwork and design – and this is what I got with this LP! Highly recommended!
“…In his tomb at R’lyeh Great Cthulhu dreams…”
Standout tracks: “The Visitations of the Great Old Ones”, “The Nurturing of the Cadaver”, “Cult of the Shadows Pt. II: I Am the Lord of Spirits”, “Of He Who Sleeps”
Final rate: 96/100