Merely by chance, I was asked to review The Graveltones debut album, Don’t Wait Down, back when I was writing for another website. With one listen, I was sucked in with their dirty, grungy blues rock, dumbstruck at the lack of bass guitar and it held together so well. Since then I’ve seen a few two piece bands perform and the lack of instruments didn’t do them any favours, making me question the longevity of such projects.
Yet here we are, less than two years later and The Graveltones are back with their second full-length offering. Armed solely with a guitar and vocals in the shape of Jimmy O and the drums of Mikey Sorbello; Love Lies Dying is every bit as good as the debut.
Instantly, with album-opener “World on a String”, there’s a feeling of picking things up where the duo left off, easing fans old and new into their world. Featuring a bombastic bluesy riff from Jimmy O as he snarls his lyrics, you could easily be forgiven this came from the debut. The opening riff is more infectious than a primary school full of germs. Meanwhile Mikey Sorbello pounds his drum kit in his inimitable way, wanting to hammer it into submission.
The feeling of familiarity continues with “Fancy Things”, driven by Sorbello’s goose-stepping rhythm as Jimmy O tears into his vocals, shrieking and wailing, twisting his mouth around the lyrics. It’s the perfect summation of The Graveltones’ unique sound and would serve as a great introduction for new listeners.
Two songs in, the familiarity is stripped away and the duo kick you into new territory while retaining their identity. “In the Throes” and “I’m a Ghost” sound like Led Zeppelin at their edgiest. At moments, Jimmy’s guitar work is as chunky and bluesy as Page, his vocals whooping and leaping before reducing to a melodic quality.
Meanwhile with “Kiss and Fuck Off” and “Come and Find Me”, we’ve got a couple of bona fide hard rock tracks. The former is possibly their grittiest song to date. On the other hand, “Big Money” is a sombre effort as the verses amble to their finish line before shifting gears for a shaking, raucous breakdown. Similarly, closing track “Together Again” is tender and low-tempo number, stubbornly refusing to lift its head from a pool of wallowing self-pity. It’s a great way to end the album, as if a balloon is being deflated slowly.
Much of the appeal of The Graveltones comes from their unabashed, dirty blues rock and roll and with the new album comes growth. Most of the dirt has been cleaned off for a cleaner sound but it’s unmistakeably The Graveltones underneath that layer of grime. The blues influences are still present with Led Zeppelin bubbling away on the backburner. Dark and moody, the album kicks and screams like Kevin the teenager, albeit in a far more polite and friendly manner with songs like “Running to You” and “Never Gonna Let You Go”.
There’s a greater sense of consistency with the new album, as if the Aussies got their head down and were determined to make the record that would put them on the map. The pair are playing tighter than ever with unbridled aggression on their up-tempo numbers, building on the foundation of the debut.
As I’ve said before, 2015 is shaping up to be full of brilliant follow-ups to stellar 2013 debuts. Not even at the halfway mark, The Graveltones is the latest to prove my theory correct. Love Lies Dying is the perfect follow-up, more of what made them so endearing yet managing to show growth. Two piece efforts may not have a short shelf life after all.