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Blessure Grave - Judged by Twelve, Carried by Six

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Artist: Blessure Grave

Album: Judged by Twelve, Carried by Six

Label: Alien8

Review date: Mar. 25, 2010

For the life of me, I was sure that Blessure Grave was ripping off some early ‘80s post-punk band. All the characteristics are there: prominent, fuzzy bass lines, simple electric guitar melodies, propelling rhythms, splintered synth vamps and subversive vocals. But the exact parallel, I have yet to pinpoint. Even after digging through my copy of Simon Reynolds’ comprehensive Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, no specific name leaped out at me. Which means one of two things: 1) My knowledge of the era in question is not thorough enough to namedrop with exactitude, and 2) Blessure Grave has found a way to epitomize a rather varied movement of music without directly plagiarizing one specific approach.

Despite my efforts, T. Graves and Reyna Kay’s music is doomed to be continuously referenced via namedropping. Like the more mainstream-oriented Interpol before them, the goth-rock offshoots of post-punk are the easiest soundcheck to make: Joy Division, The Cure, Killing Joke, March Violets, ad infinitum. With a cavernous room sound and T. Graves deep-throated, despondent vocals fore-fronting bloated analog synthesizers and pinging guitar melodies, Judged by Twelve, Carried by Six is heartily in the goth-rock genre. Luckily, it most resembles the early days of the style, pre-make-up and suffocating mopery.

The best representation of their sound is “In the First Place.” A punchy tom and snare rhythm introduces the song and is quickly joined by a simple bass line chug and a five-note guitar melody. The vocals kick in as the fuzz bass jumps to the fore of the mix providing an extra layer of crunch. Offsetting Graves’ scratchy baritone is Kay’s voice, higher-pitched but equally angst-ridden. “As a punishment / continue to hurt me / soon enough I’ll forget / what it’s like / to have a heart in the first place,” Graves croons during the chorus. Like most goth from the era, the melodramatic and mournful lyrics match the overall vibe of the track, but they lace it with enough pop sensibility to keep you nodding in hypnosis. The 1984 underground is mimicked well.

The problem with Judged by Twelve, Carried by Six is not in the resurrection of this particular style, one which they admittedly pull off very well. It’s that the above description could be used for nearly every one of the 16 tracks. Graves and Kay work aptly within the genre’s framework, but they make no efforts to extend the boundaries. It’s an interpretation rather than a reinterpretation. The album clocks in at over 45 minutes; it only takes half that before the sound begins to stagnate and repeat itself.

The 7”, 12” and tape releases that have helped spread the word about the band since their inception in 2008 played much better to their strengths. The dingier, resonant analog sound of magnetic tape and vinyl not only completed the nostalgic trip, but the conciseness of the releases provided their strongest ideas without the dilution of having to provide an album’s worth of material. Judged by Twelve, Carried by Six remains a quality effort regardless, and certainly a promising label debut. Hopefully they can find a way to truly embrace the essence of their forbearers in the goth realm and take to heart post-punk’s experimental and forward-thinking creed.

By Michael Ardaiolo

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