“Digging up the dead with a shovel and a pick – it’s a job, it’s a job…” Yes, Tom Waits knew it. It’s a hard task. Just like being in a Death Metal band originating from a neighbourhood that does not have the benefit of a hyped scene, rolling up your flannel shirt sleeves and working your way step by step to be the household name of the whole continent is. But that is just what Graveyard from Spain have been doing in past decade. From the humble beginnings of their debut “One With the Dead” in 2009 (or even the game opening EP “Into the Mausoleum” a year before) they have been on a path of constant progress and development. When they launched their second album, “The Sea Grave” in 2013 the world was all of the sudden collectively woken up to their potential, but the real rise to Death Metal stardom took place with their third effort, namely “…For Thine Is the Darkness” in 2016. That particular piece was as close to a modern Death Metal classic as it simply gets. I liked the band before, yes, but have loved them ever since. After their third opus was out they have been regulars in every big mainland Europe metal fest and their fan base has been only steadily growing. It’s is more than safe to say that their fourth full album – entitled “Hold Back the Dawn“, by the way – will be Graveyard‘s most anticipated record to date. All of the sudden they are no longer usurping the throne, but rather defending it. A household name in European Death Metal, like being said already.
So, where does Graveyard stand in 2019 then? At first one must say that they are still Death Metal as fuck. From the top to the bottom and from the very first note to the very last dying groan. Rich with those slightly deranged leads and washing machine gone mental drumming, but also balanced with more eerie atmospherics and moshable, Thrash Metal type of riffs. Not too far from “Heartwork“-era Carcass (but only accompanied with guttural growls, rather than a venomous gnarl) “Hold Back the Dawn” pushes the red “meltdown” button of Metal down to the very end of it. “Winds Like Daggers” opens up like Death Metal version of Nifelheim, and “Hurled Unto Damnation” reminds us of their ability to write a convincing Doom riff whenever they feel like it. Doom vs. Old School Death Metal dynamic has been a regular in their works in the past already, but this particular tune is simply underlining the legacy. The most “Graveyard sounding” tune in the album? Could well be. Whereas previous two albums were divided in “chapters” with instrumental interludes, “Hold Back the Dawn” has a more ordinary structure to it. Eight tunes of Death, with no salad or extra mayo on the side. Direct, straightforward, less “art” and more Metal. This makes “Hold Back the Dawn” come across definitely more compact, but maybe a bit more similar sounding a record too? The problem with trademark things is that when you remove them, people will always miss them. Just like in this case here.
Yet, if there is a particular something that makes Graveyard the band they are, it is their habit of infusing traditional Heavy Metal riffery into a Death Metal maelstrom. It is not the interludes, cover art or the guitar tone, even all of them have always been following a certain tradition. No. The Graveyard way is how the melodies pick the riff underneath it and carry it ever onwards. Or how they change a blastbeat to gallop every now and then, leaving the punters going nuts in the pit. On the latter half of “Hold Back the Dawn” they seem to have gotten even bolder with it than before. It sounds to me as if there is as much Running Wild in the mix now as there is Bolt Thrower. An occasional shift towards an Iron Maiden gallop and harmonies, or some of the lead guitar melodies coming across like Blind Guardian even, “Hold Back the Dawn” is a living, breathing thing. Far from the one trick ponies typical in this genre of music. Turbulent music, but still enjoyable in a perfect Heavy Metal manner. The unholy trinity of a malt beverage, rude antics and loud music – it is all here and the final track of the album – “Madre de la Noche” – being the prime example of it all.
So where do they stand? Well… Graveyard might not be able to take you by surprise in 2019 like they have done in the past, but they still seem to be able to deliver a stand-out Death Metal record without even having any trouble in doing so. It is clear that there is not such a quantum leap in delivery happening anymore (as there has been with each and every new album in the past), but there is no shortage of brilliance here either. They have achieved an impressive levels of quality already, so there is simply no need to improve that much anymore. I’m convinced that “Hold Back the Dawn” will be a regular thing in my playlists for the whole remaining year and if there is any justice in the Metal cosmos it should be that for every denim, leather, and bullet belt oriented person on the globe as well. Underneath the sonical darkness of Lovecraftian mythology (their prime lyrical direction) beats a honest Heavy Metal heart, and the pulse of it cannot be ignored. You just need to sit down and pay attention. Remove the Death Metal moss and undergrowth to find it. This particular aspect makes Graveyard a special name in my black book of greatness, and even “Hold Back the Dawn” is rather an incontrovertible declaration of where they stand now than a huge leap forwards, it is still very much a job very well done. Rock solid and undisputed in every sense. Enjoyable, recommendable, but maybe a little bit more predictable than the ones that came out before it.
Rating – 4/5
Have a listen for yourself.