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.
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.