Bands who are jumping on the coat tails of the gloomier sounds of the eighties seem to be in vogue at the moment. There are a lot of people who never lived through the times getting in a froth about it all whilst those of us who did are more keen to sit back and take it all in without getting caught up in the hype and band wagon jumping quite so easily. Beastmilk (and there is no r in that name) are another canny signing to Svart who seem to have a huge wealth of bands who dip their toes in the past and are up for retro tripping. This lot however differ quite a lot from the other doom and flare shuffling worshippers on the label, although ringleader of this band Mat Kvohst McNerney also fronts Hexvessel, in my opinion the best example of the aforementioned folk on Svart. Of course bands like this are always going to attract that hipster element and Beastmilk are indeed getting the likes of Pitchfork and even The Guardian all het up about them as they are read about in coffee shops around Hoxton and Shoreditch. Luckily for us their recent UK show at Live Evil was not held in some trendy loft space and invaded by these repulsive types but the way things are going it certainly is not impossible. As for what an original Brit now living in Finland thinks of it all is anyone’s guess but I reckon it all has to amuse the ex-band member who formulated his career playing in the likes of Dodheimsgard, Code and other highly reverential black avant-garde metal acts.
The Goth word has been thrown around far too much in reference to Beastmilk and it is pretty obvious to anyone listening to debut album Climax and their 2012 Use Your Deluge EP this is a tenuous link The jangling guitar chords and upbeat galloping riffs that open up Death Reflects Us are much more post-punk and Matt at first sings in a fashion that reminds a little of Morrissey as much as anyone else. It’s gloomy lyrically in the extreme but musically it is full on harmonically and even has a joyous feel about it. Everything works as a compelling paradox in a way reminding a bit of the likes of O Children as much as anyone from further back in time. You could mention The Cure but not so much their gloomier tones as songs such as ‘The Wind Blows Through Their Skulls’ clatter down the tracks such as early output like ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’ listen to them back to back and you will hear exactly where I’m coming from.
Everything about this is very angular and pointy, it is music to dance to from the jangly Indie guitar tones to futurist hand clap and wailing dour trench-coat wearing vocal clamour. This is the sound of Joy Division and Echo And The Bunnymen and it takes me back into the grim Thatcherite headspace where I sat in a bedroom recording songs like this off John Peel and Janice Long radio shows trying to press the button at the perfect time and not get any of the DJ’s voice on the track. Times have certainly changed but the atmosphere that Beastmilk have evoked with these tracks are the reason that they ultimately succeed for me in a much more personal way perhaps than for all listeners. I keep hearing different things here but I guess everyone will. ‘Ghosts Out Of Focus’ for example vocally has me thinking of hits by early Simple Minds and Icehouse!
Songs are all delivered in a compact running time and trimmed of fat, the sort of radio, TOTP friendly times that may have got them airtime when music like this was perversely getting it rather than today where everything is far more vacuous and (non) celebrity obsessed. It’s a great collection of numbers too and one that is no going to have everyone finding their own favourites amongst them. Ok there are some odd Goth sounds lurking within the guitars there are some Bauhausian flutters out the belfry but they are as likely to merge with other disparate tones, ‘Love In A Cold World’ has some odd riffs that could have escaped out a Pixies song as it gets into gear.
There is one niggling feeling here though that stops me getting as fully on the dick of this (to coin a phrase) as others. As I think back to some of the classic albums of the era and wonder if this has the legs, the longevity and the staying power to be as classic an album as many of them over such a length of time, or is it more of a flash in the pan? I am going to err with caution and simply state that this is a solid debut but I think the band may have better stuff to come in the future than this. There’s definitely a strange attraction to it though!
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)