Even without hearing a second of their music, there’s enough surrounding Grave Pleasures that it’s pretty easy to determine whether they’ll appeal or not. The name gives a lot away, as does their primarily Nordic heritage, but the kicker comes with the involvement of Jaime Gomez Arellano on third album Motherblood, mostly his production and engineering work on Ghost’s Opus Eponymous. And when actually listening to Grave Pleasures, all the pieces suitably fit together, an act that have the icy, demure presentation of their mainland European neightbours, but also the unashamed embrace of camp and flamboyance that pushes them into an area of true enjoyability.
And as is to be expected, Motherblood falls into all of those categories for one of the most ridiculous yet fun listens to come out this year. That might initially sound a bit strange for a gothic post-punk outfit with a vocalist pitched somewhere between Robert Smith and Bela Lugosi, but there’s such a refreshing levity and sense of humour that underscores Grave Pleasures’ sound and keeps Motherblood such a captivating listen. For the sort of love story at the end of the world that this album is (there are literally track titles here like Be My Hiroshima and Falling For An Atom Bomb), it’s a near-perfect atmosphere, and one that the band know how to make the most of. There’s such a sense of joyousness of all things that underscores tracks like Infatuation Overkill and the incredibly on-the-nose Joy Through Death, but at the same time, Doomsday Rainbows and Atomic Christ serve as the neutraliser to keep everything on an even keel. It’s definitely necessary to project Grave Pleasures as a band who definitely have a lighter side compared to stony-faced post-punk traditionalists, but to simultaneously allow them to totally stand out. There’s definitely the chance for this balance to skew though, which is what leads to some of Mat McNerny’s more hokey vampire impressions, but thankfully this is at least kept to an amount where it can be appreciated at least ironically, rather than it being outright annoying.
That’s probably the least accurate adjective to describe Motherblood as a whole, especially when considering how deeply ingrained in such a minimalistic style of post-punk production that it is. This isn’t an album preoccupied with flash or gimmicks, rather cranking up the basslines and piling on the lo-fi guitar fuzz to get the black, lingering style that makes this album sound like it was recorded in a cave in the best possible way. If you wanted to nitpick, it could be argued that it isn’t the most diverse of albums with its reliance on a rather narrow sonic palate, but when that alone includes the brighter tone on a track like Be My Hiroshima that mightn’t overtly come through but is noticeable all the same, Motherblood finds Grave Pleasures’ take on the genre to be a lot lighter and more accessible.
The purists may turn their noses as such obvious calls to pop and mainstream sensibilities, but Motherblood barely puts a foot wrong, even on an objective standpoint. This is just an overall excellent album that’s a push into new territory, and for as inessential as that may seem on the face of it, there’s longevity here that can’t be ignored. There’s been groundswell beneath Grave Pleasures for some time now to take the reins in terms of where post-punk is going, and with Motherblood, this is the most convincing piece of evidence for that yet.
For fans of: The Cure, Echo And The Bunnymen, Wire
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Motherblood’ by Grave Pleasures is released on 29th September on Century Media Records.