(2017) Grave Pleasures: Motherblood (English)

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Artist: Grave Pleasures
Album: Motherblood
Released: 29.09.2017
Label: Century Media


Gothic rock/post-punk posse Grave Pleasures seems to have become a cult name of sorts, as I recall seeing them (as well as the band’s previous incarnation, Beastmilk) mentioned in various magazines and websites, usually in a positive light. Despite all the hype, I only have vague recollections of listening to one or two of their songs until now, which makes me suspect that they didn’t leave a very lasting impression on me back then. Nevertheless, I decided to tackle the Helsinki-based group’s sophomore effort (third if you count Beastmilk’s Climax from 2013), Motherblood, the successor to 2015’s Dreamcrash.


Just a brief glance at the song titles – “Joy Through Death”, “Laughing Abyss”, “Deadenders” – lets you know what’s going on – gloom is the name of the game, and the influence of the likes of Joy Division, The Cure, and Killing Joke shines through, especially in Mat McNerney’s vocals. However, there’s also a punky, rocking edge reminiscent of Misfits that makes the music perversely upbeat, which is also reflected in the band’s name – it’s as if you were at an apocalyptic rave. The forceful opening track “Infatuation Overkill” demonstrates this duality well and gets straight into action. My favorite album openers either have a slow build-up or kick things off with a bang, and this tune fits the latter description down to a T. The problem here is that most of the songs follow a similar formula – dark and more or less fast-paced music with dramatic vocals – and become a blur because of the similar tempos and vibes.

Some songs do stand out positively: “Atomic Christ” breaks the monotony with its extended horror film-style intro and is a doomsday anthem done right, while “Falling for an Atom Bomb” is so groovy that it’s bound to make Goth ladies shake their assets on the dance floor, and “Mind Intruder’s” driving bassline, beat, and catchy melodies stick out. I keep longing for a quiet and brooding number though, because – to use a Cure analogy – I have a feeling these guys could make their own “Drowning Man” or “Faith” and pull it off if they weren’t so terrified of slowing down for a few minutes. More variety would also make the impact of the up-tempo numbers a lot more powerful. Additionally, one annoying detail in “Joy Through Death” is that the vocals seem to be just slightly out of sync with the music in the chorus, but maybe this is a conscious stylistic choice – who knows?


The fact that Motherblood manages to be dark yet rocking at the same time is commendable, but ultimately Grave Pleasures comes across as a rather formulaic one-trick pony. Instead of being a captivating dark thriller that virtually grabs your hand and forces you to watch it until the very end, this is the black-and-white flick on TV in the hospital waiting room that’s mildly intriguing, but hardly essential viewing. Motherblood’s sameness doesn’t get overbearing thanks to the album’s compact length, and none of the songs are bad per se, but a sizable chunk of the record basically floats by without leaving a big impression, other than, “Alright, but wouldn’t necessarily listen again.” Maybe I was let down because of the hype surrounding the band, but it looks like my initial impression of their music not being particularly memorable wasn’t totally off. I have to say I’ve heard music in a similar vein done better by others – both the big names from the 80s and some contemporary underground acts – and I think I’ll continue to stick to those groups.

Rating: 6½/10, 3 stars

1. Infatuation Overkill
2. Doomsday Rainbows
3. Be My Hiroshima
4. Joy Through Death
5. Mind Intruder
6. Laughing Abyss
7. Falling for an Atom Bomb
8. Atomic Christ
9. Deadenders
10. Haunted Afterlife