The Graviators – Motherload (Napalm Records)Monday, 19th May 2014
Sweden’s Graviators seemingly have one objective: To take listeners on a sonic odyssey to the days of yore (the ’70s) when bands like Black Sabbath were laying the groundwork for metal, all while experimenting with myriad sounds and styles that lent an eminently harrowing quality to the music, standing in stark contrast to today’s subgenre-riddled scene wherein new bands must seemingly adhere to one branch of metal with the ardor of a crusader or face ostracism. While calling the idea novel may be overstating the case, these lads have delivered an authenticity to the approach this time around that makes Motherload a must-listen and a testament to the power of exceptional songwriting.
With the analog production and expansive song structures—each track is nothing short of a journey unto itself—the Graviators excel at transporting listeners 40 years into the past, invoking the sounds of Sabbath, Rainbow, and even Pink Floyd in a unique combination that might fool the uninformed into thinking this album is actually a remastered artifact. “Eagles Rising” and “Corpauthority” deliver an overwhelming Master of Reality–style heaviness whose low end borders on seismic disruption, while “Leif’s Last Breath” captures the mysticism of Ritchie Blackmore’s riffing. Frontman Niklas Sjöberg bridges everything together with an inspired performance that frequently hinges between Ozzy Osborne and Roger Waters, relying on the latter style in the album’s more ponderous moments, and provides refreshingly varied lyrical content, covering all and sundry from the fantastical (“Bed of Bitches”) to the socially relevant (“Drowned in Leaves”).
As mentioned, many of these tracks are sprawling, reaching into the eight- to nine-minute mark and beyond. But gone is the pitfall of previous Graviators efforts where some songs lacked a natural flow from passage to passage, jarring the listener. These pieces still take sharp twists and turns, almost morphing into whole other songs, but do so much more naturally with each passage appearing as an intuitive extension of the preceding one. So while the band’s emulation of ’70s acts might not be strictly original in concept, their new-found stylistic mastery makes for a powerhouse of a record.