Posts Tagged ‘The Cult’

25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Skylights have been making waves of late, especially locally. But then, the question of local success is, to what extent can it translate regionally, nationally, and beyond? Recently, there has been significant coverage of the band playing a brace of major shows (two due to such high demand for the first) at a large-capacity venue – in a village on the edge of York. Now, I applaud their DIY ethic, the fact they’ve sorted these Easter weekend shows themselves and sold them without press or PR or label backing. Recent years and moths have really shown just how far bands can go independently, with Benefits in particular really owning independence to the point that they’re selling out bigger venues nationally with no backing beyond word of mouth and Steve Albini.

Of course, there’s always an element of luck, but outside of the world of manufactured success, it’s largely down to whether or not what you’re selling has demand, and in Benefits’ case, the demand is there by the spadeful.

Skylights may not be as unique as Benefits, but they’re carving their own niche, and on the evidence of the first single from their debut album, they’ve clearly got game.

‘Outlaw’ packs that mid 80s post-punk Leeds sound with heavy hints of The Rose of Avalanche and Salvation, with a big dose of The Cult thrown into the mix. ‘Outlaw’ isn’t exactly a ‘She Sellls Sanctuary’ life, but the guitar break definitely takes some cues from the Bradford band’s major smash. If Editors and Interpol and White Lies spearheaded a new wave revival around the turn of the millennium, the latest crop of revivalist acts definitely offer something different.

The production balances pomp and haziness, the defining factors that allude to the ‘big’ sound of the 80s; it’s ultimately an amalgamation of goth, indie, and arena-rock, and some thirty-five plus years on, it’s a sound that seems to be coming back in vogue. Skylights have the sound absolutely nailed, and better still, ‘Outlaw’ says they’ve got the songs to back it. The future is looking bright for Skylights.

AA

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Yr Wyddfa Records – 25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest offering from Holy Coves (who hail from Holy Island, Anglesey, renowned for its long historical links with pirates) is a bold, mid-tempo stroller. Infused with psychedelic and stoner rock, above anything, it’s got arena-friendly anthem stamped all over it – although I don’t mean that as the insult it could be taken. Not everything has to be edgy to be any cop.

Popular doesn’t have to mean weak, watered-down, lowest common denominator, and sometimes artists are popular because they’re good, rather than in spite of the fact. And there was, after all, a time when U2 and Simple Minds both made decent music, and they were packing out immense venues long before they became pompous, overblown parodies of themselves. It from this seam of 80s upscaled sound that ‘The Hurt Within’ is mined: everything about it feels huge, effortlessly amalgamating The Cult and Bruce Springsteen and coating it in a smooth reverbiness.

Holy Codes may or may not have aspirations to be immense, but their sound most definitely is, and it’s got that big, spacious feel; there’s probably an equation that involves ambition plus songwriting and production somewhere, and if there isn’t, then someone should map the co-ordinates of ‘The Hurt Within’ and take it as a blueprint.

New enough to grab anyone with ears, nostalgic enough to appeal to the forty-somethings and perhaps even older, and solid enough to stand up in its own right, it’s hard to fault from where I’m sitting.

AA

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Chapter 22 Records – 4th of December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Dawn After Dark first emerged in the second wave of goth in the late 80s, at the point where goth intersected with indie and straight-ahead rock to create something altogether more digestible for the masses than the dark, shadowy stylings of the like of The Sisters of Mercy and The March Violets (and this isn’t the time for the goth / not goth debate here, and no-one needs to hear my position on it: I’m going for the short cuts to provide context, nothing more).

The Birmingham-based act were pretty active during this time, playing in the region of 150 UK shows as headliners and support to acts including Balaam And The Angel, Wolfsbane, Fields Of The Nephilim, and Living Colour, and releasing 3 12” singles on Chapter 22 (the label that also launched The Mission in ’86 and released their first two singles, ‘Serpent’s Kiss’ and ‘Garden of Delight’) before calling it a day in 1991. 30 years on, they’ve finally delivered their debut album, and as the title suggests, its emergence is something like a phoenix from the ashes, since they’ve lain dormant all this time save for a one-off show in their hometown in September 2019.

Those three singles – ‘Maximum Overdrive’, ‘Crystal High’, and ‘The Groove’ are all featured here, albeit rerecorded using post-millennium technology and mastering, slotting in nicely alongside seven previously unreleased songs. It’s ‘Maximum Overdrive; that kick-starts the 11-track collection and is pure Cult, which is no shock given the original as performed by a band who sported long hair, leather jackets and bandanas back in the day. This version is much more polished and much more dense than the original, and you get a sense that this was how they always wanted it to sound. It’s less manic, smoother, but it still basks in rock ‘n’ roll excess and wild solos flame all over.

I’ve always filed DAD alongside the likes of Rose of Avalanche, although it’s fair to say they’ve always had a rather harder edge, and this is pressed to the fore on their long-delayed debut album, to the point that on reflection they’re more ones to file alongside The Cult and Zodiac Mindwarp now (only without the preposterous excess of the Bradford hard rockers).

‘The Day the World and I Parted Company’ brings more gritty riffery, and sounds like Sonic Temple era Cult with a hint of The Mission thanks to the twisting guitar lines and all the hammer-on descending runs. It’s enhanced by some overloading chug in the rhythm department, although there’s an expansive psychedelic workout in the mid-section.

Apart from slower, more anthemic stabs like ‘When Will You Come Home to Me’, they focus on the bold rock riffing, and you can’t exactly criticise a late 80s rock band for sounding like a late 80s rock band – and yes, that is the sound of New Dawn Rising, a title that perfectly captures their history and belatedness of their debut. It’s like they’ve never been away, apart from the fact that they’re back sounding crisp, and dense and more 2021, in terms of production if not songs.

It’s a solid, ballsy, gut kicking debut that packs in back-to-back slabs of the kind of rock they supposedly don’t make any more… only, of course, they very much do.

AA

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31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Matt Vowles is the first to admit that he’s a little out of step with musical trends and ‘late to the party’ in forming a goth band in 2018.

Unlike some of us, he was around the music in clubs in the mis 80s, but spent over 30 ears doing other things, before, as he explains, ‘in 2017 I rediscovered my passion for this genre. I started listening again to those goth bands from the eighties. I was totally reinvigorated. So I put down all of my keyboards, picked up my guitars and started MY goth band, BLACK ANGEL. Now here we are: two albums later. People say BLACK ANGEL captures that sound and feeling from 1985. I love the process which is what is most important. This is what I do now. And as they say, the rest is history…..I guess I was just a little late to the party.’

Kiss of Death does very much capture the essence of the school of goth from the mid-to-late 80s, and the album’s pitch as being for fans of The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, and Bauhaus is pretty much on the money, although to my ear Kiss of Death is more Mission than Bauhaus, favouring as it does that grand arena-filling reverb and a layered but polished sound defined by a sturdy rhythm section and chorus-heavy guitars that spindle and twist their way. Then again, the album’s last song, ‘Black Angel’ lifts its bassline from ‘Bella Lugosi’s Dead’ and features a classic stony-voiced horror narrative segment, so maybe it’s a fair summary after all.

After a grand intro that echoes and swirls, the title track is in with a hard four-square thud of a drum machine, and welded it is a Craig Adams-style bass groove: nothing fancy, just that classic, metronomic strike-on-every-beat low-end. The lead vocals are menacing and low in the mix, and in the choruses it’s the female backing vocals that dominate and carry the melody. Incorporating the Sisters’ rhythm section circa ‘85, the Sisters’ bombast circa ‘87 and the melodical leanings of The Mission, it equally calls to mind contemporaries like Mayflower Madame. It’s quite telling that much of the album’s sound bypasses the 90s ‘second wave’ sound and instead hones in more on the chuggier, rockier side of the first wave – think The Cult’s Sonic Temple and The Sisters’ Vision Thing: and while there are synths present, they’re more augmentation to the guitars than to the fore.

‘Animal’ is Black Angel’s ‘More’, with a megalithic chorus propelled again by a relentless mechanised beat and a rush of layered backing vocals that border on the choral, but the synth elements hint at Depeche Mode, while ‘Alchemy’ comes on like The Sisters’ cover of ‘Ghostrider’ with its nagging bassline and blistering guitars, but laced with chilly synths.

‘Hurricane’ is more a cross between The Cult and Rose of Avalanche, while ‘Put Your Lips…’ is conspicuously ungoth, more a glam-goth rock ‘n’ roll stomp – again, more 90s Mission with a nod to James Ray’s cover of ‘My Coo-Ca-Choo’.

Lyrically, much as it’s an album about love, it’s a goth album about love, and as such all the familiar tropes about demons, goddesses and all the rest are present in abundance: it would be unduly harsh to criticise on this score, and Kiss Of Death is a truly solid contemporary trad-goth album.

AA

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