Album Review: Grave Pleasures - Plagueboys
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
You may remember Grave Pleasures from their Tone MGMT Stage headline show at Damnation 2017 or their slot on the Converge and Crowbar tour a year later; but what should be most remembered is how good their awesome 2017 sophomore album, Motherblood, was – and still is.
Formed in Finland from the remnants of bassist Valtteri Arino and vocalist Mat McNerney’s previous band, Beastmilk, the pair set about recruiting and in 2015 Grave Pleasures was formed. They released debut Dreamcrash later that year and Motherblood two years later, so Plagueboys seems like it’s been an age in the making, However, if you’re a fan of the band’s previous work, then the wait for this new platter will be considered time well spent.
In many ways Plagueboys is an album of two halves with five of the ten tracks exploring the more morose side of post punk, tapping into the existential angst of just trying to exist in the modern world. Disintegration Girl sets the tone from moment one with the neo-gothic synth driven post punk stylings of Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen.
Rainer Tuomikanto’s drums set the mood with dull metronomic hits, giving a platform for guitarists Juho Vanhanen and Aleksi Kiiskilä, to alternate between weaving clean patterns and fat chugs.
Tears on the Camera Lens, which bookends the album, adopts much the same angle, but intervening tracks like Lead Balloons, Conspiracy of Love and Plagueboys are richly textured explorations of the genre, with Mat’s morose vocal delivery perfectly encapsulating the stark, nihilistic imagery at the core of the whole record.
The slow yet powerful progression of Lead Balloons is augmented by cutting notes from the guitars and the incessant bass running through the title track brings with it an impending apocalyptic judgement. Conspiracy of Love, however, is probably Plagueboys’ most introspective moment as the passive acceptance gives way to hope and the guitars take flight, elevating the climax of the song.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – well, it is, but in a more musically upbeat way. Heart Like a Slaughterhouse is the kind of title you’d expect to see on a Christian Death record, but Plagueboy’s second song shows Grave Pleasures aren’t all about the melancholic. Driving rhythms and catchy riffs sees this as being the hook to the album in the same way Joy Through Death was to Motherblood.
Regardless of its dark subject matter, When the Shooting’s Done will have you tapping your feet along with its Eighties pop vibe as the chorus comes around; High on Annihilation eschews the end times message and embellishes its danceable beats with electronica and Imminent Collapse invites us all to dance into oblivion.
The blurb says Grave Pleasures take their lyrical inspiration from the works of Golding and Huxley, addressing those writers’ preoccupations with state control, unregulated technology and nuclear anxiety – cannot image why anyone would think those to be valid subject matter in 2023!
Society of Spectres is probably Grave Pleasures’ most caustic observation on this topic with driving riffs and a more urgent vocal delivery than anywhere else on Plagueboys and the vitriol is as real as the coming threat.
Yet again the Finns have created a musical platter harkening back to the supposedly terminal post punk genre, proving the sound and themes are as relevant now as they were at its glory days. They should be rightly taking their place alongside Killing Joke as harbingers of the apocalypse; considered to be like Cassandra, but she ended up being right all along.