Grave Pleasures - Motherblood album review
Apocalyptic party starters return to their glorious ground zero
Metalheads are a surprisingly fragile lot. When Grave Pleasures released their debut album, Dreamcrash, in 2015, a huge number of people thought it was fucking great. Another bunch of people were still too upset about the demise of the band’s revered earlier incarnation, Beastmilk, to contemplate embracing a new musical dawn with similar enthusiasm. Beastmilk were phenomenal, of course, and had a much better name. As a result, when Dreamcrash didn’t quite hit the same ecstatic post-punk heights as 2013’s widely adored Climax, tears were shed and death knells were prematurely sounded.
The good news is that Beastmilk diehards can now stop boo-hooing into their Bauhaus box sets. Put simply, the second Grave Pleasures album is much, much better than the first and proves beyond doubt that the absence of two fifths of that original line-up was not the reason Dreamcrash received such a mixed response.
The key to this return to blazing top form is twofold: firstly, these are simply much better songs than anything found on Motherblood’s predecessor; secondly, and most importantly, that glorious, magical rush of dark sexual abandon that made Climax such an addictive thrillride is back in vast, bewildering quantities. That much is obvious a few seconds into tooth-rattling opener Infatuation Overkill. To some degree, Grave Pleasures do still sound like a turbocharged, metal-tinged Joy Division, but thanks in part to Mat McNerney’s tremulous bellow and a razor-sharp refrain, they now sound far more like, erm, a turbocharged Beastmilk.
Both Doomsday Rainbows – quite possibly the most goth song title of all time – and the explosive, instantly memorable Be My Hiroshima sound like future classics, their infectious momentum, suffocating barrage of guitars and giant, grimly inspirational choruses hitting the mark with lethal accuracy. For students of the post-punk era, Falling For An Atom Bomb sounds like an outtake from agit-rock legends Gang Of Four’s 1981 album, Solid Gold. For everyone else, though, it’s another killer song for broken-hearted misanthropes with a swivel-hipped groove that just won’t quit. Even more irresistible is Atomic Christ, which begins with some unhinged psychedelic poetry before erupting into the mother of all existential hoedowns. Plummeting into oblivion’s drooling maw has never sounded more appealing. Both Deadenders and Haunted Afterlife are possessed with the malevolent, twanging spirit of psychobilly, albeit filtered through a prism of snarling psychodrama, and both will make you want to run straight through a brick wall. Motherblood is that kind of record. Even the closing song There Are Powers At Work In This World, which spitefully robs this party of a hopeful conclusion, gets the balance between mad-eyed exhilaration and troubled emotional depths exactly right.
If there is a downside to this unequivocal triumph, it’s that there isn’t a great deal of variety on offer here, but then when you can make people feel like they’ve been plugged into the mains, why would you do anything else? Grave Pleasures do it 11 times on Motherblood and that’s no kind of anti-climax.