Portland – Nothing screams Goth like Grave Babies. The eclectic four-piece stopped at Mississippi Studios in Portland Monday night in promotion of their upcoming album Holographic Violence due out July 24th. Their lo-fi, distorted sound has garnered them comparisons to The Cure and even a darker Jesus and Mary Chain. Grave Babies have continued to tweak their sound since their beginning exploring various methods to advance and change it, all while adhering to their Goth roots. With song names as taboo as “Eating Babies” off 2009’s Deathface and the title track “Fuck off” on 2012’s Gothdammit, Grave Babies revels in their shock factor. The band doesn’t just shock though; they play with careful precision and dedication to their genre. Their live show is a reflection of the despondent tone of Goth, of a reality as bleak as it is authentic.
Grave Babies was born five years ago, and masterminded by front man Danny Wahlfeldt. With the additions of Mark Gajadhar on drums, Bryce Brown on bass and Claire Haranda on keys, they have a wealth of talent propelling their new release. Branching out from Seattle, the band’s original line up joined Skrot Up, a Denmark-based label for their debut album, Deathface. After signing with Hardly Art, Grave Babies released 2013’s Crusher and have remained on the label ever since. Wahlfeldt’s aptitude for distortions and redefining grunge post-punk has served the band well since their 2009 start, but Holographic Violence promises to create an atmosphere even more sinister and more critical than what they’ve produced thus far.
Ironically, Mississippi Studios’ usual dimness was illuminated by bright white lights that shone on the band throughout their set. The lights constructed a stark forefront for their dark musical setting. As an audience member, you couldn’t help but notice the gloominess the band naturally carried with them. With Haranda and Brown dripping in black and Wahlfeldt and Gajadhar dripping in sweat with furious concentration, the band was visually representative of their sound. Playing songs mostly off their new album, every element was succinct live—the frenzied, powerful drums, edgy distortions, heavy bass tones and Wahlfeldt’s drawn out, growling vocals.
Grave Babies’ latest release, “Something Awful” made an impressive appearance in their set, highlighting a more relaxed and new wave approach to lo-fi. The vocals sound distant compared to the opposing keys and guitar which created a lingering ambiguity regarding the “something awful” that the song aims to elucidate. Wahlfeldt is more Robert Smith than Kurt Cobain on the track, devastatingly realizing that, “if we can’t move on / I can’t either” as smoke enveloped the stage.
Another off of Holographic Violence, “Eternal (On & On)” focused on the spherical nature of existence, using heavy distortions, antsy and repeating keys and moments of eerie almost-silence that eventually resort to an impending fade-out. Grave Babies don’t shy away from the existential. In fact, they are more prone to facing it head on. The Goth genre has gained a new sense of solace in Grave Babies’ ability to convey the inevitable melancholy of human existence. The Grave Babies have also found a beautiful way of producing that melancholy .
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