|Musical Style: Horror Rock||Produced By: Tim Bushong|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 40:11|
I find that Wikipedia provides the most accurate definition of shock rock: “an umbrella term for bands in many different music genres which combine rock music with elements of shock value in a stage performance”. Alice Cooper and Kiss, of course, set the standard for shock rock in the 70’s and proved inspirational for acts that followed in subsequent decades such as Marilyn Manson, GWAR, Slipknot and Lordi. At this point it must be asked what inroads, if any, has the Christian metal scene made in the area of shock rock? Well, Stryper might have been shocking to some – at least back in the day – but could hardly be classified as shock rock (not unless you find yellow and black spandex offensive). Guardian, as I am sure many of you recall, dressed in futuristic style body armor and played an innovative form of “space metal” back when it first started but hardly ever scared anyone. The Christian band that has done the best job of capturing the spirit of the shock rock genre – and scared a lot of people in the process – is Fort Wayne, Indiana based Grave Robber.
As one might image, the most "shocking" quality to Grave Robber, a band whose name references Jesus’ return as true “grave robber”, is its image. Each member of the group, for instance, dresses in a brown costume spattered with red paint while wearing a zombie-like skull mask. But everything proves symbolic. I will let Grave Robber further expand upon the matter: “The brown and red paint on the costumes symbolizes the blood of Christ covering our “dirt” and sin. The zombie-like masks that cover our faces symbolize our earthly flesh, or our sin nature, which is daily fading away as we push into our Savior.”
Musically, what we have in Grave Robber is a melding of punk and hard rock with occasional Goth and melodic metal moments thrown in. Think Rackets And Drapes, The Misfits, Alice Cooper, Type O Negative, GWAR, Kiss, Danzig and Rob Zombie. Be Afraid, the group’s 2008 Retroactive debut, is bursting with energy – most of its compositions are up-tempo – and features songwriting of an infectious variety. Just check out the aggressive sounds of “Skeletons”, “Bloodbath”, “Buried Alive”, “Schizofiend” and “I, Zombie”, five chainsaw guitar driven tracks standing out with their catchy chorus hooks and non stop momentum. The more melodic based direction taken on “Rigor Mortis”, “Screams Of The Voiceless”, “I Wanna Kill You Over And Over Again” and “Army Of The Dead” prove equally laudable.
While Grave Robber demonstrates its ability to compose a quality composition, what is there not to like here? Well, with the band placing such a heavy emphasis on a punk influence, a certain amount of musical depth can get lost as a result. Too many songs, for instance, border on the simplistic or end all too briefly in coming in at around the two minute mark or less. It would have been interesting if the band had pursued a more metal based musical direction- all the while approaching its art from the greater technical standpoint in the process. When considering the quality of the songwriting here, the results could have been killer. Another point of contention is the “whoah-oh-oh” backing vocals that make their presence felt on many tracks, a particular that can border on the distracting at times.
Grave Robber consists of Wretched, Maggot, Nameless and Dr. Cadaver. Wretched fills in on “vokills” and “shovel” (what the guy does with a shovel is anybody’s guess). I take it that “vokills” refers to lead vocals. As a “vokillist” (don’t you just love these play on words?), Wretched brings a clean but muscular and haunting voice that fully complements the groups melding of hard rock and punk. Nameless handles all guitar duties. Nameless? I don’t know about you, but if the Miami Dolphins of the 70’s can have a “no name” defense, then it makes perfect sense for the guys in Grave Robber to employ a “nameless” guitarist. It works for me. It must be noted that Nameless delivers an avalanche of rhythm guitar but provides for no lead guitar- which is too bad because there are numerous tracks on Be Afraid that would have really stood out if imbued with some sizzling guitar leads. Maggot fills in on bass and Dr. Cadaver doom tubs (tell me you know what a doom tub is) respectively.
One has to commend Grave Robber for the tasteful manner in which it melds horror rock with biblical imagery (the lyrics here are surprisingly well thought out and put together). Subject matters addressed include judgementalism, abortion, the second coming, the resurrection and putting to death our old nature.
Instrumental “The Exorcist”, driven its distance by eerie keyboards and a church organ, would not sound out of place on a horror movie soundtrack.
“Skeletons” delivers everything that makes Be Afraid successful: big guitars, big hooks, big energy and even bigger attitude. Lyrically, the song seems to focus on how pointless it is to carry around unresolved anger:
A wolverine in my veins
The eyes of a wolf in my head
I’ve thought it so I’ve done it
My despising heart makes you dead
I’ve already killed you
You just don’t know it yet
Anger is hatred is murder
But I have skeletons in my closet…
“Burn Witch, Burn” slows the pace down – if only just slightly - with its melodic based approach (the guitars end up a bit less pronounced on this one). Of note, the song finds the bands trademark “whoah, oh, oh” backing vocals making their first appearance. "Burn Witch, Burn" deals with judgmental attitudes:
With a plank in my eye, I will see you die
For the wound that is the thorn in your side
You have done wrong, for that you must be hung
Shoot the wounded and bury the witch among the dung
Introduced to a scream, “Bloodbath” takes off to more of the backing vocals in question before immediately launching into its aggressive and driving chorus. A hard rocking environment is established the rest of the way, the song standing out with its abundant hook and lyrics touching upon the second coming:
He’s coming for you
And your children, too
You won’t be able to resist
You’re next on His list
“Rigor Mortis” ranks with the better material on Be Afraid. The albums longest piece at 3:54, “Rigor Mortis” gives rise to a melodic based vibe in combining a catchy chorus (driven by pounding drums as the rhythm guitar drops from the mix) with initiative of a tireless capacity. I would describe “Rigor Mortis” as a synonym for the evil one:
He’s the black form haunting my dreams
He’s the memory that no one else sees
He’s the remnant of a black past I hate
He’s the vampire I fear I can’t escape
“Buried Alive”, another pleasantly entitled track, opens quietly before diving into a riotous chorus delivered in near hardcore-like fashion. The song later slows to some almost doom based riffing before moving on to narration supported by an edgy rhythm guitar. This one is not for the faint of heart.
And neither is “Screams Of The Voiceless”. Don’t you just love these song titles? Musically, the song actually settles things down a bit in putting in place quite the melodic environs. As a matter of fact, I am almost tempted to say that “Screams Of The Voiceless” comes across commercial in capacity – similar to “Rigor Mortis” there is a great hook here – bout would not want to step out of line. Abortion is the subject matter to “Screams Of The Voiceless”:
You don’t have a voice
But mommy has a choice
To let you live or die
Baby, baby, don’t you cry
It’s murder in the first degree
But she’ll walk away free
Her nightmare’s lingering
About an angel with a broken wing
“Golgotha”, all 1:29 of it, is a cacophonous instrumental that serves to set the stage for the track that follows, “Reanimator”:
“Reanimator” maintains the upbeat heading with its non-stop exuberance and hook action. Combining a smooth sounding feel with a heavy dose of backing vocals, “Reanimator”, as its title implies, talks about the resurrection:
Spent three days in the bowls of hell
Snatched the keys from the devil himself
Rolled the stone and conquered the grave
Demons tremble at His name
“Schizofiend” begins to an instrumental introduction that almost borders on all out metal. As the song reaches its first verse, the bands energy takes over and impels things with abandon until a chorus on the sweeping side of things is achieved. Nice use of cowbell on this one.
“Dark Angel”, another shorter track at 1:48, gets underway to ghoulish laughter underscored by a pronounced bass line. Soon kicking into high gear, the song rushes the rest of its way at a near speed metal clip as it provides a discourse about the “dark angel” in question:
How you have fallen to the depths of the Earth
O, Son of the Morning, no chance for return
Your wings were torn, your song replaced
How the mighty has fallen, a Father’s disgrace
“I Wanna Kill You Over And Over Again” delivers one of those catchy hooks that will remain in your head for some time. Providing a nice change of pace with its mid-tempo impetus, “I Wanna Kill You…” borders on the radio friendly – do I dare say that? – with its infectious chorus and overriding energy. The song actually talks about putting to death the old nature:
The old man in me must die
(Bring it on, bring it on)
I will terminate, exterminate
(Bring it on, bring it on)
I will eliminate you from Earth
The raging metal of “I, Zombie” starts to the sound of knocking followed by breaking glass and a scream. A drum solo ensues before the song takes off, roaring ahead with an overflow of initiative on its way to a chorus repeated four times in tenacious fashion. Aggressive but catchy, “I, Zombie” ranks with the albums heavier pieces.
“Army Of The Dead” starts to a ghoulish voice that gives way to a drum solo. Immediately launching into its decisive chorus, the song grooves ahead as Grave Robber provides a creative discourse on the army in question:
Rising nightly; oh, so frightening
A ghastly image to behold
Your dead are walking and slowly stalking
Towards the city down the road
Obviously, this one is just for fun.
Closing things out is “Rigor Mortis (Team Cybergeist Remix), a “dance” remix of “Rigor Mortis” complete with programmed drums and swirling keyboards.
In summary, Be Afraid is a very good punk metal album: its songs are extremely catchy, lyrics well put together and the bands energy bordering on the infectious. If you happen to be a fan of this genre of music, then by all means pick up Be Afraid (and add twenty points to the final grade in the process). Those who follow straightforward metal and hard rock – and might otherwise ignore anything punk inspired – should find a lot to like here as well (keep the grade at 75% but approach with an open mind).
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Exorcist” (2:09), “Skeletons” (1:50), “Burn Witch, Burn” (2:43), “Bloodbath” (1:44), “Rigor Mortis” (3:54), “Buried Alive” (2:16), “Screams Of The Voiceless” (2:55), “Golgotha” (1:29), “Reanimator” (2:40), “Schizofiend” (2:54), “Dark Angel” (1:48), “I Wanna Kill Your Over And Over Again” (2:36), “I, Zombie” (2:43), “Army Of The Dead” (4:11), “Rigor Mortis (Team Cybergeist Remix)” (4:19)
Wretched – Vokills & Shovel
Nameless – Guitars
Maggot – Bass
Dr. Cadaver – Doom Tubs