Posts Tagged ‘The Mission’

21st June 2021

Black Angel emerged four years ago, and released Kiss of Death in July of last year – an album that brought together Matt Vowles’ years of experience from being in and around the goth scene to recreate the spirit of 1985.

This time, Vowles and co have come out with a concept album for their third outing, which is ‘inspired by cinematic classics such as ‘Dracula’ (Gary Oldman-1992) and ‘Interview with a Vampire’ with contemporary inspiration on tracks like "Alive" and "Give It To Me’" from the modern aristocratic sophisticated vampires in ‘Underworld’.

The album’s concept, the blurbage explains, is ‘to take you on a journey. The record starts out with an introduction to set the tone and to put you in 10th century England. As our protagonist embarks on his pillage through the town, we hear screams from the villagers as they run for their lives. He’s the Prince Of Darkness and causes chaos and mischief wherever he goes’.

There’s a fine line between artistry and pretence, theatre and corn, and despite the concept that veers towards an amalgamation of all the clichés of goth distilled into a dozen tracks, Prince of Darkness once again nails that vintage goth sound, with ‘Alive’ melding the energy of early Mission with the mechanised drumming of The Sisters to create a swirling cyclone of tripwire guitars and gloom with a glint of joy.

The energy is sustained across the bulk of the album, and the vibe is very much a muscle-flexing dominance, delivered with a big, ballsy swagger: there’s a hefty whiff of testosterone and a barrel load of rock god posturing going down here, but it’s delivered with a knowing nod ‘Live to Love’ is a proper old-school rock ‘n’ roll stomper with a smoky vocal growling and grizzled over a piston-pumping beat and a wonderfully insistent bassline that nags away at a repetitive motif. It’s got that level of grab that immediately makes you want to stick the whole album on repeat, especially after ‘Turn Around’, which pushes the quiet / loud dynamic with a searing guitar line that’s right in the vein of The March Violets – it’s that flangey reverby chorus thing.

Vowles has some depth, and range, too – on some tracks, like ’Call the Night Part II’ he showcases a grainy croon reminiscent of Mark Lanegan, and it’s heavy timbre is well-suited to such expansive epics, and then again, on ‘Secretly’ we see a more soulful, even tender side, and ‘My Love’ goes all out for the heart on sleeve grand gesture. It’s theatrical, but at the same times feels emotionally sincere, and while the melody bears similarities to ‘The Scientist’ by Coldplay, it sounds like it’s being sung by James Ray, and it’s quite moving in a brooding, gothy way.

Throughout, the songwriting is solid, with guitar hooks galore and a taut rhythm section that forges that classic goth groove. There’s a clear lineage from its predecessor in that Prince of Darkness is very much old-school goth delivered with a subtly contemporary twist, but it sounds and feels more confident, more ambitious, and not just on account of its embracing an overarching concept. Prince of Darkness is the sound of a band really hitting their stride, and achieves the perfect marriage of concept and execution.

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12th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Released digitally last autumn, Para Lia’s Gone With The Flow gets a ‘proper’ physical release this month. The second album from the German duo, consisting of René and Cindy Methner, has already drawn comparisons to Dinosaur Jr, Arcade Fire, and The Mission, as well as referencing in the press release – the hearteningly specific – ‘early Editors’.

It all makes sense with the blistering opener, ‘My Muse’ – a post-punk influenced adrenaline shot that showcases some wild soloing that somehow manages not to sound wanky. See, I’m not one for guitar solos myself, but find that J Mascis’ best efforts are enough to reduce me to tears. ‘Kassandra’ hits that spot: it’s a cutty post-punk revival effort that’s got the pomp of The Mission, complete with the wordless backing vocals Julianne Reagan delivered to absolute perfection on songs like ‘Severina’, and topped with an absolutely melting solo that twists, turns and weeps all over it. I should probably be tired of this by now, but when presented with just the right blend of nostalgia and quality

They don’t always pull it off: ‘Riders on the Dike’ is more ramshackle punk-folk with a ragged vocal delivery reminiscent of Shane Macgowan that simply doesn’t quite sit, and ‘Time and Again’ follows a folksier bent that grates a shade, feeling slightly forces and off-track despite some soaring harmonies from Cindy.

But it’s more hit than miss, as the slow-burning ‘Fools’ brings swathes of mournful strings to the post-rock tempest that swells as the song progresses, and the tense jangle of ‘Fire’ evokes the spirit of 1985, not just instrumentally but with its thick production, where the bass and guitar clump together, cut through by a sharp-topped snare sound.

‘Kaleidoscope’ is every bit as shimmeringly layered as the title suggests, and notes of New Model Army and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry are present as they drive a forward trajectory with an insistent rhythm section and some choppy guitars pinned back in the mix. Last track, ‘No Time for Butterflies’ combines psych-hued 60s pop, folk, and 90s alternative to forge a pleasant and exhilarating finale, and if there’s little about Gone With The Flow that’s overtly ‘new’, it’s a unique combination of older forms rendered with real style and some solid songs.

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33.3 Music Collective – 27th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Beauty in Chaos’ ever-shifting lineup sees more evolution for the fourth single of their latest album, Out of Chaos Comes… a set of remixes with even more guest artists contributing. Originally featured on The Storm Before the Calm in summer of 2020, the track, composed by Michael Ciravolo – who’s credited not as the core member but the curator of the Beauty in Chaos project – with The Mission’s Wayne Hussey.

The story goes that ‘Along with BIC producer Michael Rozon, Ciravolo set out to strip down the ominous tone of the original especially for this remix release. After hearing Wayne’s wife Cinthya’s rendition of The Smith’s ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’, the idea emerged for her to sing this new version along with Wayne’. This is actually one of three versions of the song which feature on the album, and it very much does date the dark, brooding vibe out and replace it with something altogether more smoky and sultry.

And so we have six minutes of sedate – and sedated – seduction, stripped back and slowly blossoming into a melodic chorus. The accompanying video highlights the low-level lighting mod it evokes, and finds Mr and Mrs Hussey showing off some quality rugs as well as some nicely contrasting outfits.

Quippy comments aside, this is a subtle explorations of contrasts which also tips a nod to the lyrics, and very much highlights the light and dark and shadowy hues evoked by the song. Rendered as more of a pop ballad by the remixing, the chaos is very much calmed to emphasise the beauty, and it works well.

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Beauty in Chaos feat. Cinthya Hussey (single cover)

SPV Records – 2 October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s easy to forget just how absolutely massive The Mission were at their peak, packing out headline shows at Wembley Arena, Finsbury Park, and Reading Festival.

There was a time when Wayne Hussey looked like being the new Bono. Or something. And now he’s gone and done Band Aid for goths, with a rerecording of ‘Tower of Strength’ featuring a truly immense roll-call of luminaries from the gothier end of the alternative / post-punk scene to raise funds for covid charities around the world.

The press release reports that alongside Mission frontman Hussey, the project involves Andy Rourke (The Smiths), Billy Duffy (The Cult), Evi Vine, Budgie (Siouxsie and The Banshees), Gary Numan, James Alexander Graham (The Twilight Sad), Julianne Regan (All About Eve), Kevin Haskins (Bauhaus, Love & Rockets), Kirk Brandon (Theatre of Hate, Spear of Destiny), Lol Tolhurst (The Cure), Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), Michael Aston (Gene Loves Jezebel), Michael Ciravolo (Beauty in Chaos), Midge Ure (Ultravox), Miles Hunt (The Wonder Stuff), Rachel Goswell (Slowdive, The Soft Cavalry), Richard Fortus (Guns N’ Roses, The Psychedelic Furs, Love Spit Love), Robin Finck (Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan, Guns N’ Roses), Jay Aston (Gene Loves Jezebel), Steve Clarke (The Soft Cavalry), Tim Palmer and Trentemøller, the latter of whom has provided a remix of the new recording.

Having properly got into The Mission by hearing ‘Tower of Strength’ during the weekly top 40 (I was 11 and my exposure to ‘alternative’ music had been quite limited at that point), the song has a certain special place on a personal level, and the likelihood is that it’s the same for many fans. Reworking a classic is risky, potentially an act of desecration or sacrilege (referential word-choice half-intended).

The EP contains four 2020 versions in total, with the regular single version, a radio edit, and three remixes.

In term of the instrumental backing tracking track, the single-version sound very like the original, only with some additional extraneous details and the meat where the bass and extra layers kick in stripped out. Meaning it’s ok, but while one of the major criticisms of The Mission has ben that they lean toward the bloated and bombastic, the fact is that was always a part of the appeal. But overall, it’s nicely done: the guest contributions, both instrumental and musical weave into one another pretty seamlessly, and there are no instances of any one person stealing the limelight with their overstepping delivery of a line. There’s no ‘tonight thank God it’s them instead of yoooouuuu’ moment, and this feels very much like a collective, collaborative, egalitarian effort, and I almost feel as if I could give it a virtual hug for that.

The nine-and-a-bit ‘Beholden to the Front Line Workers of the World’ mix comes closest to the basking, expansive glory of the original. It’s a song that’s meant to just keep going, and this version does just that.

Trentemøller goes technoambient with his reworking, and kudos for breaking the mould, and double for the fact that it works. It’s all in the strings, of course. The Albie Mischenzingerzen remix is drummy but doesn’t seem to bring quite as much to the party.

It might not quite pack the power of the original, but it’s not far off: the people playing on it are worth hearing, and it would be churlish to criticise a release made with such positive intentions. In bleak times, Hussey and his pals aren’t only a tower of strength, but a beacon of humanity, and it’s a powerful thing.

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ReMission International (cover artwork)

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.

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Metropolis Records – 22 March 2019

So often, less is more. All we know if muet is that ‘muet is the sound of American noir. Sonically defiant art rock sung under the shadow of a long brim hat. Deliberate dissonance and heartbreaking melody are stitched together beneath sodium light with tales of the tragic, the romantic, and the bizarre. The band features Steven Seibold, Daniel Evans and Vince Mcaley, who have all enjoyed moderate success in various post-industrial and punk bands. based out of Chicago’.

I may have mentioned before that I broke free of mainstream music by route of 80s goth, so I have something of an appreciation of hats. Actually, that’s something of an understatement, as I’ve been an avid hat-wearer for large portions of the last 27 years. Muet is the sound of doomed romanticism and hat-wearing, a meshing of the gothier end of the post-punk spectrum with more contemporary takes on the same: because for all of the referencing and influence, the likes of Interpol and She Wants Revenge very much filter the past through a post-millennial lens.

The album’s first chord is a single, echoing strike that could almost be a sample of the opening note on ‘Marian’ by The Sisters of Mercy, and then a mechanoid drum and solid , square bass groove rumbles in, holding down that c.85 Sisters vibe… but the nagging, trebly guitar that chops in is more Gang of 4 via Radio 4 ‘Leather Jacket Perfume.’

There’s a heavy sleaze vibe that permeates every aspect of the album, with song titles like the aforementioned ‘Leather Jacket Perfume’, ‘Weirdest Sex’, ‘Her Dad’s Car’, and ‘Muscle’, but there’s equally a considerable amount of brooding and melancholy, conveyed by atmospheric, echo-drenched, minor-key guitars picked and spun.

‘Reach out and Murder’ features some wild, bending post-punk guitar and a thunderous rhythm section and kicks out a riff reminiscent of Department S’ ‘Is Vic There?’, whole the chorus has something of a Cooper Temple Clause feel. ‘on2u’ combines swagger and groove with a dash of early 90s Mission wrapped in a haze of psychedelia

One thing that comes across strongly is the emotional depth ploughed into each of the songs. Yes, there’s an element of stylisation which is part and parcel of the genre form, but there’s a conviction that resonates and it’s unmistakeably genuine. Moreover, muet has range, and doesn’t focus excessively on any one theme or mood, while maintaining a stylistic cohesion. It’s a proper album, and a damn fine one at that.

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Christopher Nosnibor

No bones: Santa Sangre was one of the standout albums to land with me last year. The perfect amalgamation of dark-edged 80s synth-pop which took its cues from Depeche Mode and A-Ha, and gritty guitar-driven post-punk, it felt contemporary while also joyously retro. Having found myself in the late 80s (circa ‘87/’88), when the goth of the early/mid 80s was finally cracking the top 40, and could be heard on R1 on a Sunday night and even on Top of the Pops. At a time when pop was altogether darker anyway (I recall, aged 8, seeing Killing Joke perform Love Like Blood’ on TOTP and being rapt), I find myself right at home with this.

For the recording of their third album, the Italian quartet made the journey to Leeds, the heartland of the 80s post-punk / goth scene and equally a hotbed for its postmillennial revival, to work with Matt Peel, perhaps best known for producing Kaiser Chiefs and Eagulls, at The Nave Studios. And all of this shows, and the band have very much continued to embrace their influences to deliver an album that’s both taut and atmospheric.

KI perhaps lacks the immediacy of its predecessor, but that’s no bad thing. This means that instead of kicking in with lasers set to stun at the opening, ‘Dance for You’ makes for a fairly low-key entrance, a thrumming sequenced synth bass and Curesque sweeps overlaid in misty layers, the vocals low in the mix and twisting together wistfulness and melancholic desperation.

It isn’t until the second song, ‘Empire’, that Ki really hits its stride and immediately expands the band’s sonic palette: a yawning shoegaze blur that’s part Ride, part Curve, but filtered through a Jesus and Mary Chain mess of treble noise and driven by a thudding four-square bass, it’s a mid-pace squall of density – and it’s this that really kicks through the driving ‘Fury’, which combines drifting, fractal guitars with a pulsating bass, driving drum track and darkly desperate vocal. It’s the Sister’s circa 84, it’s early Mission, it’s brilliantly crafted, capturing the spirit of the retro zeitgeist.

‘Kanagawa-oki Nai-ura’ broods like all the brooding over droning organs and glacial synths underpinned by a murky funeral rhythm section, replete with dolorous bass before a crunching guitar glides in and

‘Mishima’ slips into dream-pop territory, again taking obvious cues from The Cure – which is no criticism. Is it wrong to chuck in references to early Interpol and Editors? I’ll say no: this is music cut from the same post-millennial post-punk cloth. It’s no longer about uniqueness, but how well influences are assimilated, and here, Japan Suicide show enough capacity for crafting a tune that their stylistic appropriations are more than acceptable.

‘One Day the Black Will Swallow the Red’, which lifts its lyrics from a piece of writing by artist Mark Rothko , with its thumping beat and chunky bass underpinning a wash of hazy guitars, and moody but driving ‘The Devil They Know’ make for a strong finale to a solid album that has ‘grower’ written all over it.

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Solemn Wave Records – 6th December 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

We’re inching into winter and again my inbox seems to be getting darker and gothier in its content – or perhaps it’s just my SAD-attuned headspace. Either way, this is one extremely welcome arrival.

As a prelude to the album ‘Black Light, White Dark’, Evi Vine have given us ‘Sabbath’ as a single release, featuring The Cure’s Simon Gallup on bass, along with guitar by Peter Yates of Fields of the Nephilim. It’s a slow burner, and it’s epic and then some: fully nine brooding minutes of slow, smouldering atmosphere and hauntingly evocative melodies which burst into dazzlingly kaleidoscopic curtains of sound.

It’s one of those songs that lures you in with its grace and delicacy: Evi’s nuanced, emotionally rich and moving vocal, reminiscent by turns of Jarboe, Chelsea Wolfe and – perhaps at a short stretch – Julianne Reagan (she can swoop and soar, and I suspect her choice as backing singer by The Mission is no coincidence) is alluring, ethereal, simultaneously creating a sense of vulnerability and otherness. And as the sonic storm swells into a dense and richly-layered mass, the effect is intensified, until finally, the surging sound is all there is… nine minutes simply isn’t enough. Allowing the hypnotic bass and deliberate groove to take over and transport me downstream as the guitars build and build, deeper, louder, more and more, until I’m drifting, I find this is a song to loop, and loop…

The six-minute single edit is even more not long enough, and probably isn’t short enough to get much radio play either – even though it absolutely deserves all the audience it can reach. The fact mainstream audiences aren’t likely equipped to handle the intensity is their loss, but also a sad reflection on things. Because this is music to embrace, and be blown way by.

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Evi Vine

Metropolis Records – 8th June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

After an eternity on mute and with Raymond Watts seemingly in a creative wilderness, the PIG renaissance continues apace with the emergence of Risen less than two years after The Gospel and last year’s remix EP Swine & Punishment, as well as four digital / or tour-only releases off the back (bacon) of The Gospel. Risen finds Raymond Watts on fine form as he unleashes porcine pundemoneum once more.

As the press release proudly proclaims, ‘the Lord Of The Lard calls on Ben Christo, Z.Marr, En Esch, Tim Skold, Marc Heal, Phil Barry, Mark Thwaite, Anita Sylph & Emre Ramazanoglu & gets to work on bringing glam to the damned’. It is a hell of a lineup, and pleasingly, Risen is a hell of an album. It’s actually a lot less overtly glam than The Gospel and finds PIG at their eclectic best.

‘The Chosen Few’ opens and hints at a return to the darker industrial grind of Sinsation and Wrecked. But while it’s a mid-tempo slow-burner, this being PIG, it’s not only got poke, but layers: hints of gospel lace the chorus, and it builds through a sinewy lead guitar break to a towering churn, with orchestral strikes and strings adding to the sense of drama. It’s impossible to declare anything to be truly ‘vintage; or ‘quintessential’ PIG: Watt’s project has always been built on hybridity and eclecticism. But against its predecessor or releases like, say, Pigmartyr, which were more direct, paired and back and rock-orientated, Risen draws together all of the divergent elements – from classical samples to battering technoindustrial antagonism – from the beginning of the band’s career onwards. Strings bolster up-front metallic guitars and thumping disco beats, and the sleaze is amped up to 11. As such, it’s all going on on Risen, and it’s something to see PIG rebuild the momentum and exposure they achieved in the mid-90s having benefited from association with Nine Inch Nails.

It’s the electro aspect of Pig’s sonic arsenal that leads the swaggering groove of ‘Morphine Machine’, which echoes the ham-glam of The Gospel. The opening chords of ‘Loud, Lawless & Lost’ sound very like The Yardbirds’ ‘For Your Love’ before swerving into a lift of Bowie’s ‘Fame’. The nagging, clean guitar and funk is sort of perverse in its presence, but this is a PIG album, and anything goes. There’s always been a tongue-in-cheek element to Watts’ approach to both lyric-writing and composition, his infinite wordplay and musical intertextuality and hybridity representative of a postmodern playfulness, and it’s on display in full force here. Moreover, Watts dominates every bar with his JG Thirlwell-esque throat-based theatrics.

‘Truth is Sin’ plays the slow-burning anthem card to good effect, while allowing Watts space to spin infinite spins on clichés, and elsewhere, the solid chug of ‘The Vice Girls’ and ‘Leather Pig’ comes with instant hooks that are hard to resist.

PIG have always been about the remixes, and quite (but not entirely) unusually, have been given to chucking remixes of previous prime cuts onto new albums: as far back as 1992’s A Stroll in the Pork, Watts &co have been slipping remixes and multiple versions, and five of the fourteen tracks on Risen are remixes, while ‘The Cult of Chaos’ first appeared on the Prey & Obey EP.

None of this makes their discography any more navigable, but and it’s often difficult to describe any ‘new’ album as being entirely ‘new’, but again makes Risen entirely representative of the PIG oeuvre. And this is perhaps the most welcome addition since their return. Praise the lard indeed.

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