By Ian Lemke
Mat McNerney of Grave Pleasures wields clichés like daggers.
“It’s like love and death being intrinsically connected.”
We have all been forced to think about such things, but from his lips it cuts yet deeper. The singer of the ex-Beastmilk rising stars approaches his successes and expectations with jaded humility, like seeing through a dead man’s glasses.
Comprised of McNerney, guitarist Linnea Olsson (ex-The Oath), percussionist Uno Bruniusson (ex-In Solitude), and bassist Valtteri Arino (also ex-Beastmilk), this Finland-based “super group” better resembles a support group for grieving lovers. All of the above bands released recent albums to wide acclaim and anticipation, before being cut tragically short. This provides McNerney with both the lyrical fuel and the “punk fire,” to channel mourning into magic.
Not only is Grave Pleasures’ debut, Dreamcrash, philosophically bound as a “breakup album,” the realization of life’s limits has coerced its authors to value all experiences of their new band.
“Once you realize that your relationship with somebody is utterly doomed, you start to treasure it a lot.”
The “love through death” concept is manifested further in the group’s new moniker, which extends as the offspring to Climax, Beastmilk’s 2013 post-apocalyptic odyssey.
“I wanted it to be a contradiction in terms…that we had with Climax, being both a sort of apocalypse and a pleasurable ending, if you like.”
The name holds more weight for McNerney however, who objected to Beastmilk as a joke name.
“It’s a bit of a fuck-off to a band name as a concept, (which) was kind of fun when we were thinking of this as an anti-band.”
Indeed, Beastmilk was never intended to reach the kind of renown that descended upon McNerney’s and former guitarist Johan Snell’s “bedroom project.”
“The way that we came together was really kind of against everything that we had been doing before… we had sort of made a conscious decision not to get top notch musicians, to think more about people that would play in more of a punk way.”
What they had done before, for McNerney, refers to his metal past in bands like Dødheimsgard and Code. This past made life difficult for Beastmilk in the beginning, because alternative labels “didn’t want anything to do with musicians that have played black-metal.”
This led to Beastmilk’s affiliation with Svart records, which ironically brought these prodigal sons back into the metal fold.
“They don’t have any PR people working for them who know anything else but metal, and so all the magazines it got pushed to are metal.”
This crooner isn’t complaining though, because it gives him common ground to stand on with his audience.
“I’m totally fine with that because the crowd that comes to see us is a crowd that I really enjoy talking to, hanging out with and being identified with.”
“They’re my kind of people.”
This phenomenon points to yet another communion of contrasts, one that is emerging as a trend in heavy music circles. Take a band like Deafheaven: “they’re non-black-metal people playing black-metal to non-black-metal people, and we’re black-metal people playing non-black-metal to black-metal people.”
McNerney laughs heartily at this bewildering scenario, before offering his analysis.
“I think people need different masks and different ways of having things packaged up to them that they can understand.”
To McNerney, such modes of understanding are more than theories; they comprise his whole creative existence. He shares some of his favourite contemporary philosophers: Slavoj Žižek, Robert Anton Wilson, and Eugene Thacker whose 2011 work In the Dust of this Planet is of particular influence for McNerney’s lyrics. Its central premise, according to McNerney, is “how we deal with our nihilism and how we deal with horror as a way to kind of understand the universe.”
Žižek’s writing also speaks, not only to Grave Pleasures as a band, but to the kind of concepts that unite people in dark or heavy music:
“What defines us are often the things we think are the most abhorrent.”
This notion connects the spaces between the shadows where McNerney walks: The morbid sentiment that binds the formerly isolated worlds of post-punk and black metal, of death metal and goth rock. McNerney goes beyond music fans, and accepts these views as metaphors for humanity.
“I think we’re as a species are kind of post-apocalyptic, we’re living with that (awareness of death) all the time and it’s how we’re all going to end up.”
But the real creative beauty comes not from the ugliness of the end itself, but in ones’ own interpretation.
“This sort of living with the end, living with the apocalypse and coming to terms with it.…
And getting some sense of happiness through accepting it and letting it in.”
Grave Pleasures’ Dreamcrash is available now. You can order the album at http://gravepleasures.com/.AB, Alberta, Dreamcrash, Grave Pleasures