Newest Review: ... even with the volume turned down. Its so dark and heavy (dare I use that term) that the listener will be wanting to turn the lights up ... more
A Slight Case Of Being Misunderstood....
A Slight Case Of Overbombing - The Sisters Of Mercy
Member Name: sam1942
A Slight Case Of Overbombing - The Sisters Of Mercy
Advantages: The original alternative gothic band
Disadvantages: There are a couple of tracks that could have been left out.
The fact that two ordinary musicians with even more ordinary names, Gary Marx and Andrew Eldritch got together somewhere in very more ordinary Leeds sometime in 1980 would not leave us in any surprise. But if it was to be mentioned that they scraped together what money they had for one instrument, a guitar and somehow manage to devise an independant record label then perhaps we would be more inclinde to sit up alittle and listen more intently.
The reason why I have found it very hard not to write about this album is because once they found a bass guitarist by the name of Mr Craig Adams and the ever weird Doktor Avalanche on a drum machine in 1981 they immediately, (if not already knowing it) had created the most unique and creative bands within that decade.
There then followed a succession of records, both good and the not so good, a vast majority found on this album. As follows, the weirdest, most intriguing, more gothic than gothic, strangest noise you've ever heard. Loving it or hating it with venom, it has to be experienced, if never played again.
Released 1993, it was supposed to be a collection of singles, not quite thrown together but serious goths would own these tracks anyway. It was designed, one would imagine for trainee goths or ex goths (who'd missed the whole point) like myself. It was an album of the tracks that we all could recognise. True fans would argue that their best performances were probably live rather than recorded.
We open with 'Under The Gun', a promising title, and for any who are not familiar with goth rock, then this sounds to be a bit of a pleaser.
It opens with a solitary drum, followed by some solemn words of nothing short of something depressing. The track then opens out wide with long guitar notes stretched out far in the distant background. Our female vocal at this point could be either Terri Nunn or Ofra Haza. Either one, her voice accompanies Andrew Eldritch. They both haunt the listeners ears, and we find ourselves perhaps not listening to what we would recognise as Sisters of Mercy but more a slow rock 'love' song. It sounds alittle like Heart at times. The only point when we know its actually the band is a continuous deep voiced chant towards the end by Eldritch. The female vocal wails in the background and repeats a line. Its a strange way, I feel, to begin a Sisters of Mercy album. It could be enough to put off any listener. The track sounds too much like a ballad for it to be the soundtrack of this band. The single guitar at the intro could be The Cult. Sisters of Mercy are so unique in their imaginative sound, that this slow rock theme perhaps doesn't suit them. The drum beat with quick, light tapping of a cymbol is more at home with Richard Marx. The female vocal towards the end sounds more like Pat Benatar. As a firm once goth, this track doesn't do anything for me. Even so, the listener needs a few minutes to settle back with a sandwich and to cast a glance across the back cover, and this is the perfect track to do so....
'Temple Of Love' was released in October in 1983 originally. It actually was part of a single that incorporated two other songs; 'Gimme Shelter' and 'Heartland'. It would seem that we are listening to something more Anthrax in style. Eldritch sounds asthough he is completing the last three miles in a marathon. Even so, it was a incredible, rather frightening track that was released again in 1992 and this is the one the listener is exposed to next on this album. This is true Sisters of Mercy but it reminds of 'Wildflower' by The Cult, on the other hand its fierce and fast. The guitars are played to quickly they sound more like a crowd of violins on something not short of being illegal. Eldritch darkens his voice to something so deathly and unhuman like. Its a real gothic theme. Our female vocal throws her voice into angellic wails to create a beautiful scene through the darkness of the music that thuds into the listeners ears even with the volume turned down. Its so dark and heavy (dare I use that term) that the listener will be wanting to turn the lights up in the room. Theres a fantastic drum solo by the wonderful Doktor Avalanche with our female vocal still going for it in the foreground and the listener wonders if she might have trapped her hand in a car door. Its totally thunderous, and I defy any head not to want to start banging. Its a wonderful track to listen to when you are really p****d off with someone. This may be the track that was released in 1992, but there is still something very eighties gothic about it. Now the album feels like its starting to move and the listener feels an urge to wander towards his wardrobe for a item slightly more black.....
Track three is 'Vision Thing' opens almost as if its in the middle of the song, 'its a small world and it smells bad' it is full of fantastic lyrics and the listener will be wanting to follow the lyrics in the album cover and even start clapping. Its a track that even if one doesn't sway towards anything gothic, it will still be liked. Its powerful in its beat and the drums are given a hammering with a tamborine being slammed around in time. It has a good, catchy guitar riff which has a continuous theme from begining to end. Its boppy, and yes, full of dark, strange, morose lyrics but the beat of it is strangely happy and could be danced to. This riff with drums could just be played over and over again, never mind the vocals, they could have left these out and this track still would have scored. The Sister of Mercy took heavy goth rock and made it listenable, even enjoyable and mixed it with the eighties beat around at the time. They suitably took their place amongst The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Smiths and other good bands all contributing to the darker side of the decade. Its a pounding track with great riffs and drum sets, just don't be put off by 'twenty five whores in the room next door' being the first line.
Track four is the ever so Sisters of Mercy title 'Detonation Boulevard'. Again, sounds promising and we expect something alone the same perfective lines as 'Vision Thing', but, and it could be slide country guitar that will make the listener pull a strange face in dissolution. Have not too much fear. In fact, this really isn't the fearful themes we are now used to. Its 'Vision Thing' all right. On a budget with the same notes only in a different order. Andrew Eldritch sounds rather tuneful in this seemingly commercial, too much pop not near enough gothic style record. We are now simply not used to hearing Eldritch sing in tune and to be perfectly honest, he doesn't comfortable doing it. I adore his usual black, satanistic approach to his vocals. Its quickly over in the tracks time. Its certainly unmemerable and very mediocre particulary for Sisters Of Mercy standards. It originally appeared in 'Vision Thing' the album. I believe the female voice heard could be the short term singer, Patricia Morrison. She left the band after only three years in 1990, about the time when 'Vision Thing' the album was released. 'Detonation Boulevard' despite is promising title shows little to detonate, apart from the track itself. It is pretty cheerful in its sound compared to other tracks but it sounds more like a very poppy hit that might have been released by any old rock band in the hope of chart success.
'Doctor Jeep' opens as track five and we feel back at home with the band. What Sisters of Mercy where and still are very good at, is that fast, running pace of tempo. Music you could win a motor race to. I can only describe it as Billy Idol but minus the voice of Idol, who compared to Eldritch, was practically operatic. This track containts a perculiar synthesizer piece that repeats several times, and reminds the listener of something that might have once appeared on a A-ha track. Strange as it might sound, it actually fits amongst the whisperings of the word 'meanwhile' (we wonder) but it still lacks that thunder storm quality that Sisters Of Mercy can so well produce. It starts very well, lots of screaming guitar, Doktor Avalanche is really working up a Metallica sweat here. Perhaps, unlike one of the lines, 'Doctor Jeep plays on and on' the tracks does seem alittle short, but still is musically a perfect piece, but the lyrics continue to be about drugs, murders, death, black rain, more death, lost love, death and women who like to be paid for certain services. All, as you can hear is just perfect gothic rock like lace draped over heavy black cloth. You can't sing about blue birds and yellow dasies with this kind of music.
'More' and we see that Sisters of Mercy will try anything to darken the mood of their tracks. Our female vocal backing singers sound like two very powerfully voice large coloured women who are used to singing to the back row of a stadium without the help of a microphone. We have violins that play throughout the track like an instrumental backing to a horror film chase through midnight, dense woods in the middle of nowhere. We have the reverberating rock undertones that we now crave from this band, 'and I need all the love I can get' is this to stay alive through the track? The ending rolls into almost a gospel sounding vocal between our female voices and Andrew Eldritch without any other accompliment. Its the ending to our short horror movie, perhaps when the girl ifinally runs into the arms of the hero who happens to be standing the woods, perfectly still in the dead of night. Eldritch still lets us know that he hasn't quite quit evil for goodness at the very end,...he shouts, well spits actually,...'(all the love) THAT YOU CAN GET!'...... not a happy bunny.
Track seven is titled 'Lucretia My Reflection' its a wonderful title full of all things poetically gothic. This track starts with a plodding drum and a bass riff that sounds incredibly Depeche Mode. Its a very sultry track and is very effective in its useage of very little instruments. Eldritch's voice is a deep, emotional instrument in itself and really needs no help from any instrument at all to make it sound any more booming. Also in this track, he roars like a angry lion and capable of anything. Just by the rumble of this man's voice is enough to make you not want to meet him on a dark night. The track turns instrumental from middle to end and that accompliment synthesisizer sounds very much of Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark. It would seem that Sisters of Mercy took what was around them from their comtemporaries (respectively) and entwinted these elements into their own unique sound. It was Andrew Eldritch's booming vocals that sound more mechanical if anything, that made the band stand out. Thank God they left alone Stock Aitken and Waterman!!!! The listener can even pick out the distant and remote sound of U2 guitar style. The Doktor hits his drum machine with fanstastic timing and makes the perfect backdrop for this classic rumbling track.
Track eight is a track that managed number thirteen in the charts in 1988. 'Dominion/Mother Russia' has an incredible reverbarating drum machine continuous throughout this record. There is a female voice singing joint lead with Andrew Eldritch. We hear a sax being strangled in a twisted manner as the instrumental break. It reminds the listener of ABC having a bad day. It fails not to belong in the track, unbelievebly. Gothic rock music, one would think, sounds dated and old from a fashion that has come and gone. We are wrong. I see youngsters drooping around looking the exact same as I did nearly twenty years ago. This band are never dated. Even listening to this album now, one feels that there still is very much a place for Sisters of Mercy.
Hope the listener likes operatic choirs. Move over ELO, this is how voices are used at the begining of a track as a dramatic intro to 'This Corrosion'. The theme tune to all that was gothic rock. Its a fast, boppy track that incorporates electronic dance with the darker than dark Eldritch. The listener will clap along to the clappin on the track. The guitar break would be at home on a Pop Will Eat Itself album. The lyrics are perfect and simple and sty in ones head for a few years. We are introduced to 'Hey now, hey now now.' Our operatic angellic voices that take a turn to mimick hells angels (not Benny Hill) If one stripped this track down to its barest form, it could be a dead ringer for any dance hit around at the time. It held a place within the top ten of October 1987. It was the track that had me reach for the black nail varnish for the first time. It had everything. It was dancable, but just evil enough to imagine black witches and warlords dancing around a giant burning fire chanting in celebration of something. I even found pastel pretty boys with Nick Heywoode Haircuts and yellow jumpers tied around their necks in record shops buying this record. It was absurdly appealing to all. It almost brought music tastes together. It was a blissful moment for SoM fans and goths alike, when this track was heard. But, did I really miss the point? Did Sisters Of Mercy want to be popular in pop music? I remember being gothic was not a case of ebing liked or not, just recognised and I guess thats what we all got after this record was released. It has all the trappings of a good dance track with a fantastic bass line that will get any head nodding. Eldritch wails his message to his fans who understand while the others just keep dancing. It was the track that made 'Floodland', the album into a classic. After hearing this track, it might be worth mentioning that I have found out that Sisters Of Mercy (with the odd change in line up) are playing Las Vegas this year on Feburary 16.
What can we follow that with? Track ten is nowhere near the hammering, well created 'This Corrosion', but even so, 'No Time To Cry' still must have its place on the collection of hits album. What we are actually listening to now is a small snippet of very early Sisterhood. These next and last three tracks are; 'No Time To Cry' released 1985 and 'Walk Away' and 'Body And Soul' both released in 1984. 'No Time To Cry' starts with a beat is set up via tamborine and with early eighties guitar we are rocketed back into Depeche Mode hallucination time again. Its not a track that really stands out on its own from this album, unlike the others on this album who have their on high stools of excellence. Strangely, and more so for the newer listener, tow of these last three were from the album 'First And Last And Always', an album, perhaps even now is and was rated as being a classic. Probably of its time, and it was a time before gothic rock music really broadened its audience. These tracks have far more of a place in the electric, all synthesizer early eighties when everyone sounded the same. When listening to these tracks we are picking up on references to Visage, Ultravox and pre chart success of Human League. This sounds so electricfied like a OMD B-side. Even our satanistic lyrics that we now have to have, are just not there. Our drum machine sound flat and lacks the power and forceness that is the very driving force behind this terrifying band. The listener tries the next track for something that may take us back to the good old tracks, but even 'Walk Away' just sounds the same as the last. An awful Joy Division (and they done it better). When we flick back to the begining of this piece, we talk about humble beginings, and these show just that in these last three tracks. In the same token, these tracks might not be to anyone taste other than hardened fans today, but what they do reflect is the growth of a creative force within a hard working, determined band destined to be something bigger than they could have orginally imagined. We have heard it with many good, long lasting bands of that time (in the days when bands were a collection of people who actually played real, live instruments!) so, therefore we should be grateful for these dull, unimaginative tracks, for it is these that make us appreciate the tremendous work in the end all the more.
In short, this is a band that reserve the right for their place in British music history. They came and made their mark, the question is did we get the point? Some of us might have done, but as for the rest of us, it probably went stright over our heads. One thing is for sure; one word; Misunderstood.
Under The Gun
Temple Of Love (1992)
Lucretia My Reflection
No Time To Cry
Body And Soul
First published on Ciao 29 December 2005
Summary: A complete journey through the changing face of a gothic band