The number of retro bands coming out of Sweden over the past several years has been remarkable (to me, anyway). Per capita, the country is practically awash with sleaze rock, traditional metal, and classic stoner doom outfits all clamoring to bring the sexy, fuzzy sounds of decades past back to the forefront of heavy music popularity. Among the crowded field of doom-worshiping groups is The Graviators, who bestow upon us their second album Evil Deeds. Sheathed in deliciously occultish artwork by Vance Kelly, Evil Deeds is a satisfying album of Sabbath-inspired metal - with a bit of hidden treasure. More on that later.
The Graviators' sound is largely familiar ground for even casual fans of the first wave of doomy heavy metal, and more so for those enraptured by recent artists such as The Sword. Monumental riffs delivered without haste by Martin Fairbanks and bolstered by Johan Holm's bass guitar are the nuts and bolts of Evil Deeds. The tritone, that diabolical interval established as a requisite element of doom metal by Black Sabbath, is of course present here but used sparingly. "Soulstealer", "The Great Deception", and the title track navigate these familiar waters with ease, while "Morning Star" ups the ante with a very catchy, galloping riff. "Häxagram", with its ultra-fuzzy riffs and fairly mesmerizing solo, deserves a bit more attention, but things start to become really interesting for Evil Deeds as frontman Niklas Sjöberg begins experimenting with vocal melodies.
Sjöberg's style is not outside the norm when it comes to these retro doom outfits - a variation of an Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant mashup. With the backing vocals of "Häxagram", Sjöberg heralds a shift in The Graviators' sound from one of predominantly "inside the box" doom to a more expansive, exploratory take on the style. The next track, "Presence", introduces guest musician Petrus Fredestad's bold Hammond organ contributions as the song presents a distinct Led Zeppelin quality (coincidence, given the title?). Tempos range a bit wider during this song than its predecessors, alternating between uptempo passages and mellow, bluesy interludes. As the song begins to wrap up, The Graviators create a lush atmospheric mix of meandering solos and spacey synth touches. "Forlorn", while not as rife with experimentation as "Presence", nevertheless offers up a warm escape with a tantalizingly mellow interlude replete with delicate keys and muted guitars.
Although the strengths of Evil Deeds don't fully emerge until the waning stages of the album, the incorporation of elements not normally heard in retro-doom releases is what The Graviators can capitalize upon to outpace their peers. Even if the trend is approaching exhaustion, and in my opinion it is not, Evil Deeds has just enough of a fresh perspective to warrant further investigation by proto and retro fans alike.
|4||The Great Deception||4:44|
|8||A Different Moon||4:09|