With respect to the greater history of death metal output from Barcelona proper it’d seem that a band like Graveyard could make a stamp on such a ‘scene’ by simply rooting themselves and remaining consistent for long enough. Caustic, Decapitated Christ, and Onirophagus surely highlight the current ‘modern but old school’ realm within but it is Graveyard who’re most recognizable today and this despite their common name. Were we to take a time machine back a decade to the release of ‘One With the Dead’ (2009) I’d probably never have guessed they’d outgro that characteristic Scandinavian guitar tone nor their unwavering love for old school Swedish death metal of the early 90’s variety but to be fair, they didn’t take any bold steps outside of that box for the first decade they’d been around. In fact I saw great potential and good taste ten years ago, basing my clairvoyance solely upon their cover of a song from ‘Tales of Creation’ that closed their debut but it was ‘…For Thine is the Darkness’ (2016) that broke away from the overblown HM-2 guitar tone towards a kick of Bolt Thrower, Aspyhx and semi-melodic black/death metal. It was a solid step beyond their previously established Nominon-esque sound and probably fit their Lovecraft inspired themes much better in the long run. Here we are back in the realm of eldritch horror three years later with ‘Hold Back the Dawn’ as Graveyard iterate upon previously introduced melodic dynamics without losing sight of their pure death metal vision.
If you’d approached ‘Hold Back the Dawn’ with only “Of Extant Cults and Living Terrors” for preview I’d say it might be somewhat surprising to be greeted by two fairly brutal songs (a la Vomitory) that open the album. This is all for impact of course and it isn’t long before the post-1993 era of Bolt Thrower takes over as the main driver for Graveyard‘s sound in terms of guitar leads and pace. Regular strokes of early Amorphis as well as some melodic black/death ideas stir things up along the way but at no point does the band stray too far from their previous album. To be sure I’m not suggesting a death metal band needs to ‘progress’ from their last point of interest, only emphasizing why this isn’t a rote release. Where I can say Graveyard have made a stride or two comes with examination of the riff/songwriting department where ‘Hold Back the Dawn’ often breaks through expectations with some solidly memorable riffs (“O Beast I Fear Thy Name”, “Hurled Into Damnation”, etc.) that take this ‘new’ sound and apply it to a higher standard.
As with any modern ‘old school’ death metal album the prerequisite for a loving relationship between record and collector comes with some appreciation for a reapplication of classic ideologies and in this sense Graveyard are secured within that space without ever coming across as a cheap retro band. There are some differentiating factors when looking beyond the Scandinavian influences upon the main songwriters here; I’d say Asphyx still plays a part in their sound and the heavier blasting sections of “Winds Like Daggers” and its Side B analogue “The Storm Above Port Sulphur” should please early-to-mid career Vomitory fans. The beauty of classically minded death metal upholds in that it doesn’t have to get much deeper than some expansion upon righteous influence to be enjoyable, valid and timeless in its appeal to established long term fans with the caveat that it’ll appear fairly rote to most everyone else.
I’m a fanatic for all sorts of death metal and particularly fall in line with the language of ‘old school’ death so, this is a fine addition to a solid discography from a notable Spanish death metal band. That said, I did not find myself returning to ‘Hold Back the Dawn’ too regularly beyond a handful of tracks already mentioned. I was conflicted on some of my favorite tracks, such as “Hurled Into Damnation” which is a bit ‘on the nose’ in terms of its semblance of the finer points of ‘…For Victory’ though it comes close to living up to that higher standard. You’ve have to weigh those sorts of values yourself, I came out of it with a generally positive impression but without a great deal of earned sentiment. Moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest “O Beast I Fear Thy Name” and “Hurled Into Damnation” as the most lasting tracks in my own mind.
All wandering spirits, departed. 3.75/5.0
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