Grave Babies - Crusher (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Grave Babies

Crusher (2013)

Hardly Art

Let's face it. Goth music is awesome, but as a genre it's dead. Death rock is awesome, but as a genre, it is mega-dead. Garage rock is awesome, but as a genre, it's way past dead. Hardcore is awesome, but it's mostly dead, with a few exceptions. Yet quite bafflingly, Grave Babies, which take elements from all of those genres, are very much alive. Their debut Crusher leans on the hallmarks of all those genres without ever fully succumbing to the trappings of any one, and in turn, is one hell of a multifaceted record.

The record is anchored in the distanced, wailing of Peter Murphy and Christian Death. As the band trounce forward with a loud, buzzing march, vocals moan over top in a lo-fi texture, making them sound like ghosts calling through a portal. But, where most goth bands would slow down the tempo to the ones heard on In the Flat Field, Grave Babies rev the sped up to a hardcore tempo. Doing so gives the music a rugged threatening feel, as well keeps the songs energizing. For all except the very best goth music, the songs wear the listener down with the slow tempo and eventually become exhausting. By contrast, Crusher for the most part launches forward while maintaining its b-movie meets satanic-rite texture and makes the songs invigorating, despite their tales of woe, suffering and unholiness.

In part, Crusher stays interesting throughout because Grave Babies adhere to a sonic template, but throw in eccentricities that highlight the album's death dirges instead of detracting from them. Album closer "Prostitution" has guitars that clank like metal sheets while the band double up on vocals so many times they sound like an unholy mass. It fades out with a massive thumbing that alternatively sounds like coffins being slammed shut or drums used in a voodoo summoning. "Blood on the Face," in a very Ink and Dagger-ish moment, combines blown out tribal beat loops with a haunting synthesizer to create a sound that sounds like everything in the world is going wrong, but in the best possible way.

The album's main other precept is its willingness to combine the haunting, broad tones of goth music with the rawness and imprecise striking of San Francisco revivalist garage rock. I don't think that's been done before and it's remarkable how the two mesh together. By combining the ragged, sloppy riffs of garage rock with the minor scales of death rock and darker music, the band create a haunting sound that also rocks the hell out. That's not an easy feat. Goth, death rock, garage and hardcore might be dead, but their combined progeny is thriving, be it in an unholy mass.