If I burst anybody’s bubble here, I’m sorry. Despite the spooky cover art, album title (Be Afraid) and, uh, the band’s name, Grave Robber’s brand of ghoulish cool is more along the lines of the Munsters’ hot rod than, say, Saw IV. This is great news if you like your punk rock spiked with a little arsenic and a healthy dose of dark humor.
Be Afraid kicks off, predictably enough, with a spooky ambient soundscape dominated, natch, by a droning organ on “The Exorcist.” A subterranean voice intones what could only be construed as a garbled curse that forces your hand to turn the volume knob all the way to the right as soon as “Skeletons” kicks in. This high-speed, Misfits-fueled tune sets the mood for the rest of this assured, great-sounding album (expertly recorded at T.T. Bush Studios). It’s chock-full of great Goth-punk, with enough cheekiness to let you breathe a little as you tiptoe through the bone yard, and a little whiff of vintage Jane’s Addiction-esque vibe is thrown in for good measure. Upping the hilarity quotient, “Burn, Witch, Burn” brims with a Danzig-meets-Spinal Tap feel, while Grave Robber’s unrelenting chainsaw guitars are offset by cartoonish content; it’s easy to picture a mosh pit surrounding a hapless figure being burned at the stake, as vocalist Wretched warbles, “You’re guilty by a mile / your mouth is filled with bile.” Say what you want about that couplet, it rhymes.
“Rigor Mortis” features a few new-wave-y touches amongst its stuttering monster beat, while massed “whoas” and a hearty refrain of “Rigor Mortis” drum the song’s title into your head repeatedly, a la Judas Priest. The breakneck tempos and super-tight arrangements never let up as Wretched gives you his best Danzig/Rob Halford throughout Be Afraid. The violent pace is broken up briefly by the leg-dragging, lumbering instrumental, “Golgotha,” then it’s back up to speed (apparently Starbucks has opened a new joint in one of the local graveyards). “I Wanna Kill You Over and Over Again” is not only a contender for Song Title of the Year, the song is also an unholy amalgam of old-school rock n’ roll and blatant morbidity, and, if that’s not enough, the chorus is insanely catchy (“I want to kill you over and over again / my friend”). Even though these guys (Nameless on guitar, Maggot on bass, Dr. Cadaver on “doom tubs,” and all contributing what the liner notes refer to as “Vokills”) clearly want to dispose of us in the most cruel and horrifying manner possible, you can’t help but pull for ‘em.
For more information, shamble over to www.myspace.com/graverobberpunk). (D.M. Jones)
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