Although metal keeps splintering and evolving as we push on through the 2010s, a lot of bands keep reaching back to the early 70s for their sound and inspiration. (Do the math – that’s 40 years ago already!) All those decades later, and those groovy bonghit riffs and bone-scattered altars are as influential as they ever were, with the entire stoner and doom genres keeping the candles lit.
Now, here’s the curious thing about Sweden’s The Graviators, one of the latest to enter the occult/hard rock/stoner scene. Evil Deeds, their second release, is being marketed (according to the sticker on the cover – dig that fantastic illustration, too) to fans of Alice in Chains and Kyuss. Accurate, yes, and probably more recognizable than even-more-accurate forebears like Pentagram, Saint Vitus or Witchfinder General, but why not just say Black Sabbath? That’s who The Graviators (like their peers in Orchid and Green & Wood) are clearly taking their biggest cues from. Do kids today not know who that is anymore?
Regardless, Evil Deeds sounds like a devoted throwback to Master of Reality, mixed in with a bit of the experimental freedom of Sabotage or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Evil Deeds is packed with more shaggy riffs and crazed orgiastic solos than there are corpses in a plague-swollen graveyard, and the well-written songs vary from creepy doom to stoner rock. Minor difference between the two, of course, mostly to do with attitude and degrees of intended malevolence.
“Soulstealer” and “Evil Deeds” fall into the former category, and kick things off with fat, doomy riffs, burbling bass and deathknell churchyard organs. Easily my two favorite tracks. At the other end of the album, the 8-minute “Infidel” starts off as a steady swagger before breaking loose with a shambling jam, and mid-album epic “Presence” swings between dying-summer lament and heavy, axe-dragging doom before its astral, keyboard-fueled explorations. These proggy moments are nothing as expansive or unexpected as the samba/jazz breakout on “Sabbra Cadabra” or “Symptom of the Universe,” for instance, but they’re welcome all the same. In fact, I would have loved even more of it throughout Evil Deeds. As for the other tracks, they’re all solid and listenable though more straightforward. “Morningstar” and first single “Haxagram” have a gloomy swagger while “Forlorn” swing closer to more upbeat stoner-rock like Monster Magnet or Kyuss (okay, there’s the reference).
As for the vocals, you’ll hear Ozzy’s classic nasal sneer right away in Niklas Sjöberg’s voice, though he’s got an even more elastic range. When he cranks to a wail, it sometimes grated on my nerves, but that’s because I had the volume down and he was all I could hear above the burbling low-end – but shame on me for listening to this at anything lower than 11. That also brings up the matter of the album’s production, which I don’t think is as ball-shatteringly heavy or fuzzy as it could be. The Graviators‘ self-titled 2009 debut had a more snaggletoothed tone which fit the music better; Evil Deeds sounds great, but gives the impression of a well-groomed hellhound.
All the same, if you want another fun romp through the hazy days of the 70s, commit some Evil Deeds. It’s like a midnight bonfire in the woods that ends with everyone getting laid instead of a goat being slaughtered.
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