Lights Out, the 18-months-later sequel to Graveyard’s stellar Hisingen Blues sophomore outing, finds Sweden’s hottest vintage rock export in soulful form, slowing down their jangly analog grooves and playing up the emotionality in the croon of guitarist Joakim Nilsson. They can still wail, as opener “An Industry Of Murder” or the well-picked single “Goliath” show, but they also woo, with the melancholic desperation of “Hard Times Lovin’” or the string-infused crescendo of “Slow Motion Countdown,” on which the sense of ending is strong even as the song begins.

Nilsson’s vocals are a focal point here, but the band behind him remains wonderfully dexterous, with fellow guitarist Jonatan Ramm, bassist Rikard Eklund and drummer Axel Sjöberg helping to shape the songs without being over the top or flashy on a technical level or sacrificing the natural feel Graveyard’s early-‘70s fetish requires. Hooks abound and remain memorable throughout “The Suits, The Law And The Uniforms” (taking the squares down a peg) and the more riotous “Seven Seven,” and though they may have grown out of the swamp gospel bombast that permeated so much of Hisingen Blues, what Graveyard have evolved into remains dangerous and more than capable of gnashing its collective teeth when need be.

It’s the context that’s different. See the political side of the lyrics to “Goliath” or “An Industry Of Murder” for examples. Graveyard are coming closer to drawing a direct line with their music, the angle moving into parallel, and Lights Out is an important step in the process that, ideally, will result in their attaining full maturity of style without sacrificing the raw edge that pulses under the surface of “Fool In The End.” Their third is in many ways their finest yet, easily one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2012, and the greatest threat it makes is that Graveyard are nowhere near done. Right on.

In A Word: Must

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