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Grave Robber: Be Afraid, be very afraid
By Sean Smith
Fort Wayne Reader
Larry Norman, 'the father of Christian rock music,' recently passed away, but in his lifetime he influenced everyone from Bob Dylan and David Bazan to Frank Black and Bono. In 1972, he famously quipped 'Why should the devil have all the good music?'
In the here and now, Grave Robber — Wretched (vocals/guitar), Dementia (bass) and Dr. Cadaver (drums) — are doing everything they can to even the musical score. The trio plays Christian punk music and while that might seem like an oxymoron, keep in mind that there is also Christian gangsta rap and, even, Christian death metal. Remember: Anything Satan can do, God can do better.
One listen to Grave Robber's music and you realize that they aren't playing it safe. This isn't Benny Hinn fronting The Sex Pistols. The lyrics aren't nearly as overt as you might imagine. These guys were raised on the same ragged, guitar driven tunes as any other modern punk band, but they play their version of it with a twist. The result is part The
Misfits, part One Bad Pig and all completely genuine.
While Grave Robber has only been fully functioning since 2005, the idea for the band was hatched back in 2002. Wretched explains, "In church one day, we were discussing how in Romans it talks about being dead and being dead to sin. Immediately following that, we took communion. So, being dead and eating flesh and drinking blood, symbolically, we thought, 'Oh, wow! We're zombies!' We were big Misfits fans and we were talking about doing a Christian Misfits band. We were friends with The Huntingtons, who are kind of the Christian Ramones, and we wondered if there was a way to be spooky and scary and if it would work and be acceptable. There was a lot of prayer behind it. Suddenly, all of the band members were in the right place at the right time and we decided to do it. But, I said I didn't want to do it until God said it was time, so we waited another year."
The wait was worth it. Dr. Chud, former drummer for The Misfits, came to town to do a show and Grave Robber ended up opening for him. Wanting to incorporate their love for horror movies, comic books and spooky punk bands, the band donned costumes, complete with masks, as part of their live show. "The imagery does have significance. There's a double meaning to everything we do," points out Wretched, "There are things in The Bible that are actually pretty scary and there's lots of blood, guts, gore, war and pestilence. We didn't really feel that was our goal to expose that, but we thought it would be cool in a Misfits sounding song. Really, it comes down to the fact that we were wishing there was a band like that and since we couldn't find one, we made one."
Things took off after that. They began writing more songs and released a five song demo, though that is long out of print. The band also released their version of 'Love Hurts,' a tune covered by everyone from Gram Parsons to Nazareth. Grave Robber's take on the song was pressed on 7" red vinyl and housed in a glow in the dark sleeve. They sold enough copies to cover the cost of licensing.
Eventually, they had enough songs to record a full length album. "Be Afraid" was recorded last year at Bushong Studios and was completed by October. The result is considered to be a demo at this point and while the album is available for download on the band's MySpace and at their shows, the fully realized version of the album will be released later this Spring on Retroactive Records, a label specializing in re-releasing albums by Christian metal bands of the 80s and 90s.
When the album is officially released it will be a remastered recording and sport brand new cover art, courtesy of the same artist who has created album covers for Manowar.
"The label hired him to do it and I have no idea what it will look like," admits Wretched, "But, I do know that there will be a bonus track. Angel, who's the drummer for Dope, did a techno remix of 'Rigor Mortis' that will be on the album now. We played a show with them and he's a big fan of The Misfits. So, when he saw us he thought we were great and a month later he told us about his side project, Team Cybergeist, and wondered if we'd like to have a remix for one of our songs on a compilation he is putting out on Toxic Shock Records. However, we retain the rights to the remix, so we're going to add it as a bonus track."
Another highlight of the upcoming year will be the band's appearance at Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, Illinois. They will be playing the Underground stage on the last day of the festival, which takes place June 30th through July 5th. Their performance will be the very last one of the event. "When As I Lay Dying finishes their set on the Main stage, there's only going to be one show and one place to go. It's the perfect spot," notes Wretched.
Given that the show will take place in the heat of summer, the fact that the band will be wearing their costumes will obviously cause some discomfort. "It's kind of gross, but funny at the same time. You sweat so bad that all of a sudden it's a relief, because you're in water and you're swimming inside of your costume."
Beyond releasing the album and playing Cornerstone and a steady number of shows throughout the mid-West, the only other major goal of the band is to find a full time guitarist. "I'd love to find a guitar player! First of all, when you say Christian you've taken the talent pool down to 1% and then you say, 'Oh, by the way, we're punk' and it becomes .000 something. Not to mention, we dress up in costumes and sing scary music. Finding that guy is going to be incredibly difficult."
It's nice to know that however hard the challenge to find a six string player may be, some things remain decidedly simple. Like the music of Grave Robber. "We do one thing and that's it. What it is is what it is. If someone said all of the songs sound alike, I'd say 'Thank you!' That's kind of the point."