Grave Pleasures – Dreamcrash


It has been said that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”. While I paraphrase The X-Files, there is nothing quite like an anti-hero with an existential crisis to detail that future in a chilling way. I am talking about singer Mat McNerney. Much was made the last few years of his band Beastmilk being the next great hope in underground music. They certainly acquitted themselves well over a demo, an EP and their full-length, the much-loved Climax (Napalm Records). Many bands have since picked up and jumped on the trend they started, bringing the romantic post-punk/No Wave (look it up) sound and style back in a heavy modern context. Few could do it as well as the masters. Of course such magical things cannot last and as the band gave way to lineup changes, and dissolved. What they mutated into is Grave Pleasures. While their début Dreamcrash has been out for a while in Europe, its proper release comes from Metal Blade on a more appropriate gloomy early November day.

Dreamcrash, in spite of the new players in the band is the spiritual child of Climax in many ways. The album plays with a sense of urgency and a dripping sexual swagger that makes you take notice on repeated listens. It is very consistent track after track and when you first hear it all the way through, it is a very satisfying feeling when you think of the progression from the old band to now. McNerney channels all of his energy to his rubber-voiced range, making some stunning melodic choices and killer phrasing per usual. It helps that his lyrics here are among his most biting, yet sad at the same time. Mat has all the dour charm that the Ian Curtis/Peter Murphy/Adam Ant wanna-bees all wish they had. At the same time his vocals have a deeply fragile psychosis about them, not unlike Roger Waters conveyed at his peak. Something tells me Mat would hate that I reached this comparison, but that is what is in my heart listening back to these tracks.


Grave Pleasures, photo credit: Mark Hutson

The music is the real equalizer on this album. Although my own jaw dropped at the thought of Linnea Olson (ex-The Oath) joining the Dreamcrash dream-team, her contribution is only part of the special equation. Juho Vanhanen (Oranssi Pazuzu) was the real difference maker in the writing. Together Olson and Vanhanen crafted beautiful menacing tracks, with layers of riffs and motifs that pop up unexpectedly. Songs like ‘Utopian Scream’, ‘New Hip Moon’, ‘Futureshock’, ‘Crisis’, and ‘Lipstick On Your Tombstone’ play like the soundtrack to the end of the world, or at least the end of your love life. If you were somehow in a group of people who were not ready for the sooth-Sayers’ words to come true about the apocalypse, this music would cut right through you.

In terms of originality, Grave Pleasures are not trying to reinvent themselves or music here, and so over time you do feel a sameness in the songs that takes this down a slight notch. However, in the view of the band re-imagining itself a bit and fulfilling their earlier bands’ glorious promise, they get full marks. Hopefully the apocalypse is everything they ever wanted and more.



Publicist UK – Forgive Yourself

Publicist UK forgive Yourself album cover 2015

Publicist UK’s sound is not what I expected to hear when first seeing internet headlines of a group featuring bassist Brett Bamberger of Revocation and drummer Dave Witte formerly of Burnt by the Sun and currently Municipal Waste (among 2,000 other bands). I’ve listened to Forgive Yourself (Relapse Records) three times already today and I’m still slightly surprised by the sound. The compositions here are lush, moody, and at more often than not beautiful.

It’s the kind of music that the cool kids on college radio play while wearing obnoxious hats and chastising Interpol for “selling out.” And I like it. A lot.

Rounding out this supergroup is Goes Cube guitarist David Obuchowski and Freshkills vocalist Zachary Lipez. If you, like myself, are a fan of lower voice ranges, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised with Lipez’s haunting baritone. It alters from BauhausPeter Murphy to Joy Division’s Ian Curtis while also summoning sounds not unlike Type O Negative’s Peter Steele. Lipez has sounded strong on Freshkills releases, but here he sounds fully committed to the performance.

‘Blood Relative’ and ‘I Wish You’d Never Gone to School’ are world weary and almost shoegaze in nature. Think Deafheaven, but without the black metal edge. Music that can maintain its dark heart all the while remaining tuneful and soothing. Even old man Morrissey would nod his stubborn head to these songs.

Acting as counterbalance to the gloominess is a heavy guitar chug that wouldn’t be out of place on a Helmet record on tracks like ‘Slow Dancing to this Bitter Earth’ and ‘Levitate the Pentagon.’ ‘Away’ closes out the affair while making good use of that heavier dynamic and even throwing in some of Witte’s famous double kick-drums without feeling out of place.

When I cranked this album on my laptop the last thing I expected was the musical equivalent of Joy Division on a collision course with Cave In, but what a lovely wreck it turned out to be.



NMBRSTTN (Number Station) – Energy and Entropy EP


Since forming in 2012, Sacramento’s NMBRSTTN have been fomenting their post-hardcore smorgsabord into something truly interesting and compelling. Building on their well-received debut record of a couple of years back, and with a couple of new line-up changes under their belt, their latest EP Energy and Entropy (Flossless Audio) suggests a more synth heavy and goth influence to the band’s artistic vision. They’ve added to their spark and arsenal and the result is very positive indeed.

Opening track ‘Folden Unicorn’ follows that well-worn path of quiet-loud-quiet so beloved of the post-hardcore scene. There’s lots of new wave energy running through the song. A big sonic landscape underscored by dramatic lyrical content that is equally political and personal, centred around the themes of change and transformation proves a riveting and invigorating start.

‘Diamond Heart’ suggests the band have been dipping into their goth record collection; at times it sounds like an outtake from the Cure’s 1989 masterpiece Disintegration (Fiction). It’s majestic in its sense of the forlorn and whilst the subject matter is presumably all about heartbreak, the music makes the pain deeply pleasurable.

There’s a post punk and dark rock mood pervading ‘Terror Row’; at any moment you get the idea that Joy Division’s Ian Curtis is going to make some ghostly appearance from the grave. Imagine Interpol getting absurdly angry and you’ll be part of the way there in understanding what the band are getting at.

EP closer ‘Heliotherm’, then, comes as a bit of an aural shock. It couldn’t be more different in tone to the bleak and harrowing sensibility of ‘Diamond Heart’ and ‘Terror Row’. There is a greater sense of optimism allied to the driven rock based, synthy soundtrack. I kept coming back in my mind to early 90s goth meisters Curve with their love of electronica, dark mood punctuated by a coda that simply screamed Cult of Luna. All of these are very good things as I’m sure you’ve already twigged.

As an appetizer for a second album, Energy and Entropy works superbly. If you haven’t discovered this band then this is a perfect hopping on point; it’s rich, layered and richly creative. NMBRSTTN might be magpie like in their approach but as any good chef knows, it’s what you do with the ingredients that really matters and on this evidence, I’ll be ordering a second helping. Darkly delicious.



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