Grave Babies - Holographic Violence

by Gerry Hathaway Rating:4 Release Date:2015-07-24

Grave Babies hail from the musical melting pot of Seattle, delivering a brand of synthetic goth-rock that combines elements of early 80s dark-wave and post-punk. Holographic Violence is the group’s third LP.

Despite the emphasis on dark 80s atmospheres, the record has a definite angsty grunge vibe coursing throughout its 11 tracks. Heavily processed vocals, angular guitars, and sparse drum machines comprise the bulk of the album’s sound, with a hodgepodge of mechanized industrial samples filling the empty spaces.

Lyrically, Holographic Violence focuses on misanthropic and dystopian themes, painting a moribund vision of mankind’s near-future. Tracks such as 'Try 2 Try', 'Punishment', and 'Something Awful' are the bread and butter of the album, with slow-paced, melodic guitars, bass, and pop-tinged vocal melodies. Elsewhere, angrier tracks such as 'War' and 'N2 Ether' are dominated by grungy guitars and muscular rhythms.

While Grave Babies have their downtrodden hearts in the right place, the execution is not entirely musically satisfying for a few key reasons. The vocals are grossly over-processed and layered in an atonal manner that significantly undermines the emotional impact of the songs. While original goth groups like Clan of Xymox and Sisters of Mercy had an effective balance of throat versus effects, Grave Babies take it to an extreme.

There is also little percussive variation, with the drums machines sounding dry and overly sparse at times. The record lacks a consistent mood and perhaps could have benefited from denser pads or atmospheric bits, as there are lots of wide-open spaces all across the record begging for further embellishment.

Despite its shortcomings, Holographic Violence does sport a classic, chunky goth-rock bass guitar sound and the solid mixing and mastering helps deepen the available textures. Grave Babies have also succeeded conceptually, giving the record an apocalyptic vibe that sounds more relevant now than it did back in the 1980s. However, as a whole Holographic Violence will likely be an acquired taste due to its peculiar sound, even to fans of goth and industrial music. 

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