Hard rock — that nebulous and sprawling label that can mean everything or nothing at all, often simultaneously — is once again enjoying mainstream accessibility and relevance within taste-making circles. Along with albums like Baroness’ recent Purple and Hound’s Out of Space, Graveyard’s fourth offering, Innocence and Decadence, makes a great argument as to why.
Presenting a multitude of sounds, confidently at that, the Swedish outfit succeeds because it doesn’t set out to redefine the terms, but to stake its claim within the canon. On Innocence and Decadence, it is clear that the aim is mastery of the form, but it doesn’t sound like the band is checking items off a list. Throughout, vocalist Joakim Nilsson’s emotive delivery lends the proceedings a sense of hard-won authenticity.
Graveyard builds Innocence and Decadence on the tried-and-true foundation of blues-based licks, then proceeds to adorn the simple structure with turrets of synth (“Exit 97”) and ramparts of soulful R&B (“Too Much Is Not Enough”). As a result, Innocence and Decadence can be a shotgun shack or a sci-fi tower, gleaming on the horizon of an alien world. It’s often both at once, undulating between rollicking and doleful, shallow and pensive, but never so self-conscious as to forego indulgence in a hand-clap breakdown when the opportunity presents itself (“Never Theirs to Sell”).
Innocence and Decadence has more studio polish than Graveyard’s previous efforts, including the Swedish Grammy-winning second album, Hisingen Blues. When it works to the band’s benefit, this approach lends a glam-rock swagger. Fortunately, it mostly works, and when Nilsson implores the object of his affection to “stay for a song” on the album’s closer of the same name, listeners will want to do the same.