Posts Tagged ‘The Sisters of Mercy’

Christopher Nosnibor

Despite having seen The Sisters countless times since their 1990 comeback at Wembley Arena, and despite their performances being spectacularly patchy (true also of their early years and even cult heyday up to ’85, if you believe the evidence of the bootlegs over the fans who were present but often under various influences) and often disappointing, I was still mega-revved to see the band that, when push comes to shove, will always rank as my favourite act of all time. I make no apologies for this.

The city’s half-deserted – which was also true of York on departure – even in rush hour in these COVID-19 paranoid times, but the O2 is packed with goths and lesser goths of all ages, shapes and sizes.

I’m here as a paying punter, and I’m here on my own, and manage to see almost none of the many people I’m connected with via social media who are also present as I hunker down in my usual spot in the front row by the speaker stack to the left as facing. I’m determined to guard it so fiercely, I adopt the resolve of the Birmingham NEC ‘92 gig: no beer, no nipping off for a pee. Pee trips can take 15 to 20 minutes in venues like this, and the beer is dismal and expensive, so screw that, although the three pints I had in a pub up the rad beforehand begin to press harder about halfway through the set.

Having not had much time to investigate beforehand, A. A. Williams is something of an unknown quantity beyond being a purveyor of ‘doom gospel’. Going on the presentation and first few bars, I was expecting her to be an addition to the bracket occupied by Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle, but as the set progresses, it’s apparent that Williams is less given to pushing the weightier end of things. She leads her band – a standard enough rock set-up with a second guitar alongside her own to fill out the sound and add depth and texture – through a proficient and suitably dark-hued set. But without any significant dynamics, sonically or in terms of performance, it all feels a little flat, samey, and contained, lacking in drama. I want MORE!

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A. A. Williams

The Sisters do give us ‘More’, and lots more besides, and while ‘More’ is reserved for a blistering hit-filled encore, the set packs plenty of bangers and more energy than we’ve seen in some time, elevating this well above what’s become something of a standard semi-obligatory exercise in merch-pedalling and showcasing a new song or two.

Having watched the latest new songs ‘Show Me’ and ‘Better Reptile’, aired on the mainland leg of the tour a few months ago, countless times already, to the extent that they’re both etched into my brain, am I keen to hear them for the first time properly? Hell yeah. But that doesn’t blunt either the anticipation or the thrill, and while there’s no ‘Better Reptile’ tonight, the buzz of a set that launches with a new song is cerebral and physical but not necessarily one ready articulable in words. After an atmospheric intro, ‘But Genevie’ slams in and is an instant classic, and better still, the mix is crisp and clear and Eldritch’s vocals aren’t only up in the mix, but he’s singing up with a vocal strength that’s not been displayed in far too long.

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The Sisters of Mercy

While he doesn’t sustain it throughout the entirety of the set, reverting to the subsonic grumbling, growling thing he’s become prone to over the last decade for many of the songs – and at times very much to their detriment – there are moments where he really does go all out, not least of all on an extended ‘Flood II’ that has to be up there with any performance since their return to the live circuit in 1990.

The standard of the new songs – with ‘Show Me’ being aired along with ‘I Will Call You’, ‘Black Sail’ and instrumental number ‘Kickline’ – is up there with the reinstated ‘rash and Burn’, and it’s elating to hear – although the elation is tempered by the eternal frustration of a continued lack of studio activity.

The vintage cuts – ‘First and Last and Always’, ‘No Time to Cry’, ‘Marian’ are played at breakneck speed, but instead of feeling throwaway or like they wanted to get them over with, as has been the case on some previous outings, they feel energised and urgent, and their brevity leaves room for an extended ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’ in a hit-packed encore which saw the band really cutting loose with ‘More’, ‘Temple of Love’, and ‘Lucretia’ before wrapping up with ‘This Corrosion’.

After 18 songs performed by a band on renewed form, not to mention a rare showing of ‘I Was Wrong’ (a personal fave) we can probably forgive the absence of ‘Vision Thing’.

Writing this after the fact, in the knowledge that it proved to be the penultimate show of the tour only heightens the appreciation of the event. The later-day Sisters shows may be divisive in fan communities, and it’s a fact they can be variable, but this home outing proved that on a god night, the Sisters have still got it.

Christopher Nosnibor

8th November 2019

The bio bit tells me that ‘NAUT is a 5 piece dark rock band from Bristol, whose shared love of classic rock and metal, alongside reverence for the post-punk pioneers of the late 70s and 80s makes itself known from the start. Their songs switch from raw tribal tom beats to uplifting anthemic synth in a moment, but always stay danceable and perhaps most dangerously, catchy’.

Fan comments on their bandcamp shed a little more light on their sound, observing the band’s ‘unique ability to recreate the original sound and feeling of 80’s uk goth rock. Sisters, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, the Rose of Avalanche, early Nephilim…’ and their offering ‘the perfect mix of Post Punk with old school Goth Rock… Killing Joke meet The Wake & Love Like Blood.’

It’s no secret that I’m a rabid Sisters / Lorries / Nephs / KJ fan, but it’s equally documented that I consider most of the bands who’ve taken them as influences are generic and derivative, and that includes the mid-late 80s acts like Rose of Avalanche who traded in diluted forms of blueprint-based accessible alternative rock. This means I’ve no idea who The Wake or Love Like Blood are, but judging by the referential monikers, I probably don’t need to.

The EP’s title track kicks things off with a classically ‘gothy’ rhythm that’s dominated by a quickfire snare attack and defined by spindly guitars, trebly and awash with chorus. And talking of Chorus, it does boast a strong, hooky chorus, and there’s real energy behind it, which pushes it over the line from template-based to credible and sufficiently possessed of a band identity while still very much drawing well-studied inspiration from their precursors.

‘Spirit Horses’ steps down both the tempo and the individuality, and there’s a chord progression that’s lifted straight off The Sisters’ ‘Marian’, but the third and final track, which slows the pace further to a sluggish mid-tempo resembles ‘Blasting Off’ era Lorries, and works remarkably well with a looser feel but a grainy greyness that brings a certain weight.

On the strength of this outing, Naut are at their best when they go deeper and darker, and if they continue to evolve their songwriting in the directions demonstrated here, there’s a good chance they’ll break out beyond the trad-goth scene and into wider alternative circles.

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NAUT

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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muet

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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Japan Suicidie - KI - copertina WEB

Rob Holliday’s been pretty busy the last fifteen years, what with playing as a member of Marilyn Manson’s touring band, first on bass and later on guitar, as well as working extensively in the studio and live Gary Numan and The Prodigy, not to mention a three-year stint with The Mission. To say he’s been in demand would be an understatement, but inevitably, the day-jobs have left little time for the real work. And so it is that his band, Supher, finally deliver their second album, the follow-up to 2003’s ‘Spray’, which saw them tour as main support for The Sisters of Mercy and build a substantial following before moving to a back-burner.

Opportunity has afforded Holliday the chance to put Sulpher back to the forefront of his activity, and No-One Will Ever Know, released in August, is a belter: hard-edged but bursting with tunes, it picks up where ‘Spray’ left off.

With the band in the early stages of an evolving European tour, I welcomed the opportunity to toss a few questions in Rob’s direction…

AA: You came together around the turn of the millennium, and made considerable headway then… obviously, you’ve done a lot in the intervening years, but why bring Sulpher back together now?

RH: It was never a question of whether we would bring Sulpher back – we were working on material every chance we had when our schedules worked out – I was constantly touring with The Prodigy and also Marilyn Manson so it was difficult but we finally managed to get the album finished so here we are.

How do you feel the music scene – and, dare I ask – the industry has changed since the band first came together?

It’s changed massively with all the social media craze – it seems to run the world which is kind of bizarre to me really, I really don’t get it – everyone now can feel like a rock star if they have followers online even if they’re fuckin useless really – I also blame x factor.

Tut tut!!!! you will be punished on the day of reckoning!!

The new material’s been getting a fair bit of attention, in terms of YouTube streams and so on. Were you in any way daunted about your comeback and how it would be received?

We never really saw it as any sort of comeback , just a continuation.

Do you ever worry about being considered something of a ‘throwback’ act?

Not at all, we make the music we maker and if anyone likes it then that is just a bonus.

Most so-called supergroups aren’t actually that super. Sulpher probably qualify as a supergroup, but don’t fall into the common trap of delivering less than the sum of the parts. What’s the secret, and how does the band operate?

Myself and Monti have worked in the studio together it seems like forever lol. He’s fast and on it with regards to programming and getting ideas down that we both come up with.

We may start with a loop and place parts around it – or I may come in with a vocal melody or guitar line or riff whatever you wanna call it , then it progresses from there – we don’t have any set format, and we work off each other really well – we’re both not afraid to be honest about how we feel about how something is sounding, good or bad.

Given your other musical commitments, what’s the drive to be this band?

Well this is us – this is our thing. Totally ours Our baby, our heart and soul and it’s a lot different than playing another person’s creation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to play in such high profile bands that myself and Monti have – but at the end of the day it’s like family and blood and blood overrules anything. It’s from the heart.

Sulpher

You’ve all played some huge venues, both as Sulpher and in the other bands you all play in. How does it feel playing extremely intimate spaces on this tour?

I quite like it – intimate – loud as fuck and chaotic and all in close range. So beware!

What new / contemporary acts excite you?

Well I’m not sure – I’m stuck with all my old favorites like Slayer , Fear Factory, The Cure, Killing Joke, Ministry, Deftones, Bring Me the Horizon are cool also but I guess they’re not new anymore – I’m stuck in the past!!!

What plans are there for Sulpher after this tour?

We’re doing some German dates in December and then want to get on a support tour with some bad ass act in the new year, the management are in discussions currently regarding that, so we wait with baited breath and we hope to see you all out at our shows wherever and whenever!

No-One Will Ever Know is out now.

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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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13th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Being a Sister of Mercy is a long way from being a full-time job, an even Andrew Eldritch must have a lot of time on his hands these days. Ben Christo isn’t one to sit idle, though, fronting Night by Night between 2008 and 2015, before founding Diamond Black the following year, as well as working alongside Raymond Watts on Pig’s Prey &Obey.

With their second single entitled ‘Ghost in the Glass’, it all hints at something that’s a bit, well, stereotypical goth, you might say – something The Sisters have always tended to avoid, despite being saddled with the somewhat ignominious tag of being the godfathers of the genre. But you’ll not find any bats or graveyards or introverted moping in the Sisters’ back catalogue, and thankfully, Diamond Black are more about the hard edges of polished steel than the soft feelings of doomed romanticism and despair.

‘Ghost in the Glass’ is built around a very contemporary Sisters-like guitar riff, a driving rhythm and spindly lead line creating a distinct dynamic tension. The guitars are up-front and pack some grit and heft, making this a more overtly ‘rock’ proposition, but the first point where Diamond Black clearly depart from The Sisters is in the live drumming, which, tight as it is, gives a freer feel.

The second and perhaps most obvious point of departure is in the vocal style: singer J.I.Turunen is Finnish and brings a quintessential mainland Europe rock delivery: strong, but clean and melodic. Proper singing, if you will. If it carries echoes of classic 80s rock, it equally suggests that their biggest audience lies cross-channel, rather than domestically. This isn’t a criticism, not least of all because I must confess to having a soft spot for Andreas Bruhn’s solo album – and this, with its punchy rock attributes, is way better.

The production’s expansive, but doesn’t detract from the forward thrust of the guitars and the result is a song that’s simultaneously widescreen and punchy. The bottom line is that Christo has a knack for a chunky riff and a decent tune, and it’s great to hear some of them being recorded and released. More, please!

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Diamond Black