Grave Pleasures – Dreamcrash

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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.

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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.

7.0/10

KEITH CHACHKES

Lucifer – Lucifer I

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Gaz Jennings fancies his Occult Doom at present. Last year’s largely well-received Death Penalty project is followed by another female-fronted band of sinistras, this time headed by former vocalist of The Oath, Johanna Sadonis. Initially Lucifer I (Rise Above) sounds as if Black Sabbath have gone more up-tempo, and recruited Agnetha Faltskog to the mic, though with eerie harmonies flying through the dancing, patchouli-scented riffs of opener ‘Abracadabra’, the feel of ‘Goat Doom’ is still here if not quite the density.

There’s a curious tone to Sadonis’ voice, often laconically delivered yet soaring then swooping with a powerful, aching beauty. The brief harmonising in ‘Purple Pyramid’ is delicious, the odd sparse area lit up by The Wizards’ (Jennings’ pseudonym here) growling riffs and those siren-like pipes. Lighter moments may divide opinion, tripping close to a Folk-rock feel not unlike some of Cathedral’s stuff, yet they display welcome variation; the oft-faster than expected pace lifting the mood despite the plaintive voice and subject matter.

‘Sabbath’ finally, and rather aptly, shows us some serious weight, the thus-far barrelling journey slowed, that voice piercing the leaden, eastern-tinged riffs with a pleading agony. Whilst it’s easy to point out Sadonis as the star of the show, Jennings’ mastery of his instrument is supreme yet so subtle it’s almost unnoticed, taking each track to different characters of a story. This is reined in and directed superbly by Andrew Prestridge’s stunning drums: the bare minimum of flourish, just perfect inclusion and timing. All the ingredients fit together perfectly with the effortless switches and dual leads of the drugged-out pain in ‘Morning Star’: whilst the wonderful ‘Total Eclipse’ and ‘A Grave for Each One of Us’ flick from dreamy seduction to a rampant, roaring pummel and back in an instant, Dino Gollnick’s squirming bass underpinning Sadonis’ honeyed notes and coating some feverish riffs.

Full of more beauty, urgency and omen than Death Penalty could muster in one track, with a perfect blend of depth and air, this is a great first listen and improves with each successive experience. Wicked, in the original meaning of the term.

 

8.0/10

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PAUL QUINN

 

 

‘Find The Real’: Johanna Sadonis of LUCIFER

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Johanna Sadonis of LUCIFER, by Burning Moon

While preparing to launch her second band and release her second debut album in as many years, Johanna Sadonis, formerly of The Oath and now of Lucifer, spoke to Ghost Cult about the authentic sound of Lucifer I and why the music of yesteryear is at the core of her bands’ identity.

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Lucifer I (Rise Above) has a very authentic, organic, warm 70’s sound to it. Was it difficult, in this age of Pro-tools and plug-ins to find place that would allow you to record in an older style way, and someone skilled enough to do it?

“I didn’t look in the places you would normally look for a band that plays rock and metal. I was working at a record store and there was a guy who plays session bass for a lot of different bands and he said he had to go to the studio to record something with guitar player from The Swans for a side project. He came back with 4 or 5 songs and he played them over the big system in the record shop. And I said “It sounds amazing. It sounds like a 1960’s Serge Gainsbourg record!”, so I asked how on earth did he do this in one day, and he said the guy they recorded with (Ingo Krauss) was a true wizard!”

“He actually used to run Conny Plank’s studio, the old hero of the Krautrock scene, and he told me it was full of vintage equipment, so I asked for the contact. It was good to take it out of the context of going to one of the normal metal studios.”

“It was a good thing to do. He did an amazing job and we were able to record live. You don’t have clicks so you have an organic flow to the music, and it can be a magic trick to have that. So, we went to an old studio with all this vintage equipment, and it sounds so much more organic, and you’re able to record live and you hear the little flaws. It’s not over-produced because that would take the life out of it.”

 

Occult rock is a very “in” scene to be involved in. Why do you think this is, and do you associate with the other bands coming from a similar vibe?

“I’m sure it’s popular for similar reasons. People realise where the real gems are lying. It’s hard in rock and metal to reinvent the wheel and (when people try to) there have been such abominations of style and sub-genres that have been looming over the last couple of decades that have been quite horrible, you know? Also the horrible productions…”

“You look, and you have to return to the roots. But a lot of bands do that, bands that have been around for a long time, maybe during the 90’s they had a horrible phase trying out other stuff that was in fashion then, but now they return to their raw roots, because they realise where it’s at.”

Ha! I always think of Paradise Lost when you talk about bands doing things like that. I loved the earlier stuff, then they took some musical decisions I didn’t like, and I lost touch, though I’m pleased to hear they’re supposed to be heading back to their earlier sound…

“I guess you have to do that if you play music for a long time because you don’t want to repeat yourself. But, hopefully after you make a horrible album you return to what’s right! But everyone does it – even Sabbath with the last album tried to re-invent the old feeling. Whether it worked or not is another question… Or Danzig, the last album is much more back to the roots and to a raw production.”

“I don’t compare Lucifer to other contemporary bands, even those in the same genre although I am friends with many of those bands. I respect their stuff, and we look back to the old influences. I’d rather have a band looking up to those old classics than trying to copy the copy of a copy.”

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What is the attraction of a musical style and aesthetic that is older than you are?

“It’s part of a long journey. Being a metalhead for more than 20 years, and going through various different phrases I started with classic metal, of course, but then I went really into death and black and doom. But then when you get older and you start to open your mind a little more, you start to dig more into the historical paths of music.”

“When you’re a music nerd, you start digging, and I came to realize all the bands were based on these classic bands that have been there for 50 years, and you examine why have these bands been here for all this time. Why are Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep classic bands and so good? If you’re a music lover or musician you hear all that and it’s all genuine.”

“So, here I am, at this stage in my life and I have the taste of a 56 year-old man, you know!”

It’s weird, isn’t it, when you come round to listening to the same music as your parents did…

“Exactly! My Dad listened to Deep Purple, and my Mum was into rock n’roll. When I was 13/14, I thought this is not cool! You don’t want to listen to what your parents listen to, because you’re brought up with it. It’s not something you can find your own individual space, because your parents are there too. For me, it was Metallica and Danzig when I was 13. Later on you grow up and you realize “Oh shit! It’s amazing what my parents listen to! Give me all your records!!””

“So, now I listen to my parents records!”

 

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STEVE TOVEY

Introducing… LUCIFER

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2014 saw the spectacular rise and burning fall of The Oath, a critically acclaimed (oc)cult NWOBHM / retro act, with the duo going their separate ways almost as soon as their self-titled debut (Rise Above) was released. A year on and Johanna Sadonis (vocals) is speaking to Ghost Cult from her home town of Berlin about the launch of Lucifer, her new phoenix from the flames, and their debut album, Lucifer I (Rise Above).

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Lucifer’s debut album Lucifer I, is out less than a year after The Oath separated. Were these ideas you had in mind for a second Oath album?

“No, I just had a lot of ideas and a lot of energy, so when The Oath disbanded and died I was sitting there with empty hands. I thought about everything I had planned for The Oath and thought, no, I’m going to take this energy and channel it right away instead of being frustrated about it. It took me a few weeks to leave one thing behind and decide to go on. The ideas weren’t there before. If The Oath hadn’t disbanded, that would have been my band, and not with these ideas.”

“It wasn’t my choice for things to happen this way, but it turned out, in the end, to be a really good thing for me. As much as I loved The Oath, Lucifer has come even more so to be my thing, so now I’m even more passionate about Lucifer.”

 

You turned to Gaz Jennings (Cathedral/Death Penalty) as a writing partner…

“I’d been in contact with Lee (Dorrian – former Cathedral frontman and Rise Above head honcho)  all during The Oath falling apart, and he was someone I was seeking out to speak to – and he said “Hey, why don’t you ask Gaz, because he really likes The Oath”. Garry’s crazy, he plays so much guitar and has so many riffs piling up so I asked, and he said yes straight away.”

“I love Cathedral. I saw them for first time over 20 years ago, when I was 15, so we started writing and I gave him ideas for the types of riffs. I gave him certain songs as references, like “How about you make a song that sounds like a ballad from Scorpions In Trance album, or how about a Technical Ecstasy Sabbath kind of song.”

“I gave him suggestions, and he came back with riffs, so we could structure the songs together.”

 

While there are similarities across the two bands, there seems to be a much stronger 70’s rock bent to Lucifer, less of the NWOBHM influence that was prevalent in The Oath…

“After The Oath split up, I sat down and formed the concept in my head, so it was planned for Lucifer to be different to The Oath.”

 

“I really loved The Oath for what it was, and there is a common core to the sounds, particularly in terms of the influences; Black Sabbath being the main influence for me, for Garry (Jennings), also Linnea (Olsen – The Oath)’s favourite band.”

“But, the two differ so much in their guitar playing. Linnea, she had a more punky, raw, Motorhead kind of style that fit really well with the NWOBHM thing we were doing with The Oath. Garry’s playing is more complex, heavier on the doom.”

“I didn’t want to repeat The Oath as I felt the best thing in a situation like this is just to do something new.”

 

 

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STEVE TOVEY

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucifer Releasing Lucifer I on June 16th

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Lucifer (ex-The Oath) will be releasing their debut album titled Lucifer I on June 16, 2015 via Rise Above Records. The band recently added Garry Jennings (ex-Cathedral/Death Penalty) as co-songwriter and studio guitarist.

Lucifer I Track Listing:
01: Abracadbra
02: Purple Pyramid
03: Izrael
04: Sabbath
05: White Mountain
06: Morning Star
07: Total Eclipse
08: A Grave For Each One of Us