We’ve all grown up with the old adage saying you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but what are you supposed to do when that cover depicts the product a ritualistic slaughter? Though it’s a statement more typical of a black-metal band, it fits the vibe of Seattle’s Grave Babies, whose music is sometimes violent, sometimes ugly, and always bursting with the kind of passion that begets violence and ugliness.
Underneath a thick layer of lo-fi fuzz and distortion, band leader Danny Wahlfeldt builds his own tiny but bleak world in Crusher’s sixteen tracks; the album’s latter half has a trio of songs titled “Blood on the Face,” “Death March,” and “Haunted.” Recording the album himself, Wahlfeldt showcases a surprisingly multifaceted songwriting palate, channeling early industrial-punks just as well as Honey’s Dead-era Jesus and Mary Chain (while throwing in the occasional Southern-rap-inspired backbeat). The four instrumental suites also contain a musical mini-narrative, cycling between grunge-inspired blasts of guitar, sound manipulation experiments, and a profanity-laden diatribe from Wahlfeldt.
Crusher ultimately ends up being a mixture of dread and optimism, the haunted house darkwave of “Hate Repeats” clashing with the bright, larger-than-life synths of “No Fear,” complete with Wahlfeldt’s near-apocalyptic bellow. It’s a testament to Wahlfeldt’s songwriting strengths that he can make an album that feels both claustrophobic and weirdly communal, like he realizes the only way to survive the grimness of the world is for us to just power through it together.
Grave Babies’ Crusher is out February 26 on Hardly Art. Stream it below: