If no one told you otherwise, you’d probably assume from the artwork of Princess Of The Morgue that Violent Pastels were a group of 20-something males, whose burning desire (and inability) to get laid had led to them recording a bunch of shitty pornogrind and being placed on several police watch lists. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Instead, Princess Of The Morgue is the work of one Emma B, who has followed up her previous demos with an album of storming metalpunk/crossover; not that you’d know it was a solo endeavor from listening to it. Princess Of The Morgue is an energetic, punishing listen, comparable to the classic likes of DRI and Cro-Mags, and sure to get you solo-moshing in your room.
As you’d expect and hope for crossover like this, there’s not many moments of calm or relative respite. As soon as the opening sample on “Sweet Lady Vengeance” is concluded (“worse than murder… worse than genocide… is sexual perversion”), you’re thrown head-first in to a maelstrom of catchy riffs, searing solos, and pounding drums. There’s no real subtlety to the record, and nor should there be with this style of music. The songs race by, full of hardcore energy and drive, with occasional breakdowns helping to keep things interesting and (relatively) varied. As that might imply, there’s no attempt to reinvent the wheel here, and Violent Pastels are clearly comfortable in their chosen style, but there’s no feeling of monotony or a lack of inspiration. Instead, the 12 tracks on Princess Of The Morgue are a prime example of crossover done right, sticking to the core sound of the genre without ever sounding tired or dated.
Whilst all the tracks are strong, there’s definitely highlights. “Kitty Tactics” is an utter stormer, and I can’t get enough of the strong bass sound on it, whilst the chorus is an absolute joy. For me, it’s the best track on the album, and has come on a long way compared to the version on the first demo. The bass lead during “Mold Patches” is definitely worthy of praise, too. The more mid-tempo “Swallow Your Universe” (originally on the Glitter & Lucifer demo) is another favourite, especially the beat-down section halfway through that leads in to a glorious solo. It’s worth noting that many of the tracks on Princess Of The Morgue originally appeared on Violent Pastel’s Kitty Tactics and Glitter & Lucifer demos, and the extra time (and improved production) on those songs has really paid off. It’s also worth highlighting that, whilst the drums are programmed, you wouldn’t know it from the production. They sound fantastic, as do the guitars and bass.
One thing that took me a little time to decide on were the vocals; they’re pretty maniacal and deranged, and whilst I’m convinced now that they suit the music well and that no other approach would really have worked so well, it did take a little while for me to reach that conclusion. Likewise, the porno-gore-loli cover is sure to offend some, but there’s a gruesome playfulness to it that suits the music on Princess Of The Morgue pretty well. And it sure as hell makes a nice change from the typical skulls, pseudo-political, and beer imagery that adorns the covers of what feels like 99% of crossover and metalpunk records.
That playfulness and sense of fun is what really makes Princess Of The Morgue stand out among a sea of other crossover records. The Bandcamp page for the Kitty Tactics demo states “I made some songs for fun. This is fun. I like fun things.” and that still seems to be the mindset for Princess Of The Morgue. There’s no denying just how enjoyable this record is, and that’s exactly how I want my crossover to be. And odds are that if you’re in to the likes of Iron Reagan, Toxic Holocaust, or Municipal Waste, then you do too; and as such, Princess Of The Morgue will be just what you’re looking for. Word is that a live line-up is forming for gigs; I hope that’s true, as these songs deserve to be heard live. But until then, they still sound pretty great in your room, as you get your solo-mosh on.