Friday, December 31, 2010

The Atrocity Exhibition (Plunder the Tombs, 2010)

A very happy new year to all of you who’ve visited Plunder the Tombs during its first four months of infancy.

And so, look what we have for you to kick off the new year – a free compilation documenting all (well, almost all) of the archeological discoveries so far uncovered.

To be honest, I’ve never tried doing something like this before, and hope like hell the download actually works, but I’m actually really happy with how this turned out, especially with regards to immortalising those bands whose back-catalogues have been long deleted.

Obviously, a number of other artists included here do have material that is still available, and nothing would make me happier than for folks who download this and discover bands that appeal to them to go, seek out, and buy more of those artists’ material.

What more can I say? I’m pleased as fuckin’ punch with this, and I think you will be too.
The thought occurred that some of you in the old school might actually want to run off hardcopies (rather useful to play in the car if nothing else), so I’ve put it in a 2 CD format.

What’s more, there’s even cover art and a track list to go, with production generously provided by Living Horus and featuring imagery by Jean Delville, one of my favourite artists of the Symbolist movement – just print it out, fold in half and presto – instant CD Cover!

With 26 tracks, there's a lot of bands represented here, ranging from some towering giants of the genre, right through to others who've been sadly lost in the mists of time, but there's a lot of variety here and I like to think there is genuinely something for everybody. Lets see, we've got Bone Orchard, X Mal Deutschland, Into A Circle, The Vyllies, Danielle Dax, UK Decay, Belfegore, Danse Society, Kukl, Children's Hour, Diamanda Galas, Sex Gang Children, The Sisters of Mercy, Clair Obscur, Gene Loves Jezebel, 45 Grave, Ritual, Blood and Roses, And Also The Trees, Burning Image, The March Violets, Ausgang, Cold Dance, Specimen, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Kommunity FK - a fine assortment indeed!

Don't be shy - download, listen and tell me what you thought.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Specimen – Batastrophe EP (Sire Records, 1983)

It would be easy to ridicule Specimen if one was to approach them from the point of view of a serious music critic, but to take that stance would be to completely miss the point.

There was nothing profound or deeply artistic about Specimen, they were purely and simply a goth party band who made an artform out of campy tackiness with androgenous sexuality set to overdrive.

The origins of Specimen are to be found in Bristol in 1980, formed by vocalist Ollie Wisdom and guitarist Jon Klein. They soon relocated to London where in 1982 Ollie launched the now infamous Batcave club (a story that will have to wait for another time, although interviews with Jon Klein suggest that Specimen viewed the band and the club as different legs of the same dog). Seeking to make Specimen the house band, Ollie put the hard word on a club patron  Jonny Melton, later known as Jonny Slut, to play keyboards for them. As Jonny tells the story:

First week I went to The Batcave I thought it was brilliant…I went the second week and was approached by Ollie Wisdom who said, ‘Do you want to join our band?’ I said ‘Oh, I can’t play anything!’, He said ‘That doesn’t matter, you’ve got nice hair’” (Gothic Rock, Mick Mercer – Pegasus Publishing, 1991). The rest is history.

Jonny did indeed have very nice hair, and his legacy to the scene, if not musical, became the prototype of what has retrospectively become known as the “deathhawk”, and he overcame his self-confessed musical inadequacies by putting guiding stickers on the appropriate keys of his keyboards.

Jonny Slut with deathhawk 
in full flight

Specimen meanwhile had a quite substantial catalogue of songs, as revealed by posthumous compilations like Azoic (Jungle Records, 1997) and Warm Wet Clingfilm Red Velvet Crush (Cleopatra, 1997), but released surprisingly little during their original existence, The Batastrophe EP and a handful of  singles and 12”s being their entire output.

The Beauty of Poisin (sic) and Returning From a Journey 12", both through London Records, 1983

Although Specimen's most defining statement of intent was 
indisputably the decision to release the Returning 7" in this distinctive format:

Feeling the decline of the Batcave style of Goth, Ollie attempted to transport the band to America, but Jonny Slut apparently didn’t want a bar of it and the original line-up split in 1985: “after Sharp Teeth Pretty Teeth (7”, The Trust, 1985), I just knew I didn’t want to go to San Francisco. Fuck knows what would have happened if I’d been out there broke, at the mercy of… Ollie, or what ever.” (Gothic Rock, Mick Mercer – Pegasus Publishing, 1991). Jon Klein went on to join Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Jonny Slut (in a career remarkable for someone who “can’t play anything”) popped up in KLF, Adamanski, Diskord Datkord, Sadodada, Atomiser and as prime mover and shaker for London Club Nag Nag Nag driving the UK arm of the sadly short-lived Electro-Clash scene.

Meanwhile, Ollie Wisdom ended up DJing raves and dance parties, a tale which leads us into anecdote corner when somewhere around ’97 my housemate’s brother actually found himself DJing alongside Ollie at a dance party in Perth. Absolutely astonished, I asked him if he knew who Ollie Wisdom was and discovering he had no clue about Ollie’s  Goth past (or for that matter, his even more oscure punk tampon-wearing past with The Unwanted), played him Syria. They guy evidently had a sense of humour and in the middle of Ollie’s set snuggled up next to him and suggested he “turn it up up, turn it up up up!”  Ollie was apparently less amused and turning to him with a withering look of doom informed him; “You’re… very… fucking… funny.” But I digress….

Specimen did eventually reform – initially with Jon Klein as the sole remaining original member, and released Electric Ballroom on Metropolis in 2007 with some minor contributions from Ollie and Jonny Slut. The entire original line up reformed the following year and released Alive at The Batcave on Eyes Wide Shut Recordings.

 Considering all the early Goth bands that seem to be reforming, a 2008 interview with Jon Klein makes for interesting reading:

Q: “Many of the bands that began back then with you are still around, either in their same band sense or doing solo careers. Recently Bauhaus released a new album "Go Away White" after 25 years. What’s your opinion? Do you think it is only nostalgia or is it like a music life-force growing and maturing constantly?”

Jon Klein: I like it when bands are able to survive. I haven't had the time to really penetrate the Bauhaus album that thoroughly, though the last show I saw in London a year or so ago was really powerful. I don't think it's only nostalgia. For sure there's some nostalgia, it's only natural (music can glue itself into memories the same way that smells can) ....but I just saw a really great band do a great show. Some people I'm sure do it for the attention, some for the money, but many do just because they have to make music..... it's just what they are and they do.... yes maybe a musical life-force.”

What more can I say? Specimen were simply tremendous fun. A complete and devastating rebuttal to those who attack Goth of being all depressing and suicidal. To accuse them of being all style in lieu of genuine substance is best left to the Grinches and while I’m on the subject, Merry Christmas to ya all!

Track Listing:
  1. The Beauty of Poisin
  2. Syria
  3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  4. Returning From a Journey
  5. Tell Tail
  6. Lovers

The Batastrophe EP is reproduced (in a fashion) on both the Azoic (Jungle Records, 1997) & the Warm Wet Clingfilm Red Velvet Crush (Cleopatra, 1997) compilations. One has to suspect some bizarre and dark collusion has occurred here since both were released in the same year, and both have almost identical track listings, but with Azoic containing the 12” versions of early songs, and Warm Wet Clingfilm Red Velvet Crush containing the 7” versions. Both compilations end with two live tracks. In the case of Azoic these are “Wolverines” and “Azoic”. On the Cleopatra version these tracks are “Ooze” and “Warm Wet Clingfilm Red Velvet Crush

Line Up: Ollie Wisdom (vocals), John Klein (guitars), Jonny Melton /aka: Jonny Slut (keyboards), Jonathan Trevisick (drums), Kev Mills (bass, backing vocals)

And last but not least, a brief interview with Jon Klein and Ollie in which Jon's hair and nose vie for supremacy:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kommunity FK – The Vision and The Voice (Independent Project Records, 1983)

Another trip on the Way-Back Machine, this time to Los Angeles 1978 where we find a young man, Patrick Mata becoming increasingly disenchanted with the LA punk scene. Heavily influenced by Bowie’s “Berlin period” and Dadaism, Patrick’s frustration with having no bands really reflecting what he and his clique were into led him and his girlfriend into developing a band of their own, despite their self-confessed modest musical abilities.

The plan seems flawless, until the duo discover they can’t find a venue that will give an outfit so far removed from the mainstream LA punk scene and so immersed in “doom and gloom” a gig, or for that matter, the time of day. Concluding that the LA music establishment is in fact one huge community fuck, the group adopt the name “Kommunity Fuck”, but coming to the realisation that this is even less likely to attract gigs, swiftly abbreviate it to “Kommunity FK”.

Exactly how the group’s fortunes were turned around remains a little unclear, suffice to say, that gigs did eventually come and Kommunity FK managed to enshrine themselves as one of the biggest names in the history of LA Deathrock, eclipsed only by 45 Grave and Christian Death.

The Vision and the Voice would eventually emerge in 1983 as Kommunity FK’s debut album, at once sorrowful, dreamlike and fueled by anger, it remains comfortably seated as one of the cornerstones of American Deathrock. Taking its name from the writings of occult mystic Aleister Crowley (the title relates to Crowley’s "Liber CDXVIII" for those who take an interest in such things), the cover art consisted of a collage by Patrick Mata, itself entitled “Kommunity Fuck” and proudly displaying a big red phallus as its centre piece.

Opening with the confrontational (but now more true than ever) “Restrictions”, the album moves through both the aggressive and the introspectively mournful, with the early and much more hardcore-influenced “Fuck The Community” as a mid point before we reach the climactic finale of “We Will not Fall” which would effectively became both the band’s signature tune and a rallying cry to the Deathrock subculture.

Some fans were especially dedicated...

Although Kommunity FK would only release one more official studio release during their original incarnation (Close One Sad Eye – Independent Project Records, 1985), it’s not commonly realized that a live album from this period is also available (Kommunity FX: The Krypt, Los Angeles,CA, 1984 – Invisible, 2006) which comes highly recommended. To the best of my knowledge, the wee beasty was never physically pressed and is only available by download. iTunes and, (depending of which country you have the dubious fortune of residing in) Amazon both have it.

The story of The Vision and the Voice doesn’t end there however. Re-released on Cleopatra in 1994, this reportedly unauthorised re-release on CD inexplicably changed the track order, completely destroying the flow of the album. What’s more, they apparently found Patrick’s art collage with its Swiss Alps orgy and big red cock far too hot to handle and added insult to injury by completely replacing the cover art with something much blander.

The next and this time, apparently official, re-release came via Mobilization Records (2006). Mysteriously, they opted to retain the Cleopatra version of the track listing. They did however return to the original cover art but feeling terribly coy, made a feeble attempt to conceal the now fabled “big red cock” by superimposing the album’s title over it. Honestly, around 50% of the human race have got one, and most of the rest have at least seen one – what exactly is your problem?

I’m not quite sure what it is about right now, but it seems to be quite the time for comebacks. Kommunity FK are back too and accompanied by a splendid CD, La Santisima Muerte (Kommunity PM  Records, 2009). The cover art is once again a Patrick Mata collage. I notice he has very wisely avoided any penises this time around, but for those who found the Aleister Crowley reference to Vision and the Voice interesting, an investigation into the origins of La Santisima Muerte (residents of Mexico excepted) should blow your tiny minds.

Track Listing:
  1. Restrictions
  2. Bullets
  3. Incompatible Disposition
  4. Tribulations
  5. Unknown to You
  6. Fuck the Kommunity
  7. To Blame
  8. No Fear
  9. Nothing Yet
  10. Anti-Pop
  11. We Will Not Fall

Later re-releases on CD have tracks appearing in a different order. The Mobilzation Records Version (2006) also includes live versions of “Tribulations”, “Unknown to You”, “Restrictions” and “To Blame” as bonus tracks.

Line Up: Patrick Mata, Sherry Rubber (both apparently doing pretty much everything. Other musicians may have been involved, but whether they were actual members or hired guns is less clear. Better info is welcomed.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Clair Obscur – La Cassette Noir (Self-released, 1982)

For a band almost unnoticed outside of French arts circles, Clair Obscur has been a surprisingly prolific outfit over the many years of their on again-off again existence.

Much of their later material from throughout the late 80s and 90s remains easily obtainable through the wonderful world that is teh internetz. However, exposure to the experimental neo-classical music of their albums of this time, although beautiful in their desolate ambience, could well leave the novice listener wondering what this could possibly have to do with Goth? 

More mysteriously still, what possible connection it could have to the band’s frightening reputation for performance-art stage shows involving simulated rape, toilets and audience participation?

The answer involves, as that great prophet Kylie Minogue would say, “a step back in time.”
Formed in Creil in 1981 by Thierry Damerval and the brothers Demarthe, early Clair Obscur was a much darker entity that bore little resemblance to what would eventually follow once the band began recruiting classical and jazz-trained musicians into its ranks. Nevertheless, the band was always coming from the more performance oriented end of the spectrum. thinks this is the original cover - I could be wrong, but intuition 
& production quality suggests that the inferior b/w print 
is actually the original release and this is the tape that was re-released 
by Pleasantly Surprised in 1985. I stand to be corrected. 

La Cassette Noir was Clair Obscur’s first official release following on from a demo tape the previous year. We are greeted with the ominously thunderous “Sequence” before moving swiftly into the oppressive threat of “The Last Encounter”. “Blume”, the compelling “K.G.” and war-dancesque “Pessimiste Combatif” follow with a trio of short atmospheric pieces closing the experience.

If The Black Cassette is reminiscent of anyone else, then The Virgin Prunes would most readily spring to mind although the comparison is a superficial one. Evidence of the hand of Joy Division and Bauhaus at work are also evident here although not perhaps as markedly as on the 1981 demo tape.

Atmospheric” is the operative word in describing this terrifying yet gripping example of art-house post-punk. If one was hoping to be dragged onto the dance floor with black hole like force then La Cassette Noir is going to disappoint (Although later singles like the unforgettably titled Smurf in the Gulag (Cathexis Recordings, 1986) may well delight in this regard).

Clair Obscur had something of penchant for re-recording/re-interpreting 
certain songs throughout their career, in some cases multiple times. "Blume" and 
"The Last Encounter" are cases in point. The versions below are much later 
(and tamer) versions than those which appeared on La Cassette Noir. 
You can hear the originals on the band's Myspace site - I'd post them here, but sadly 
Myspace and Blogspot appear unable to play together nicely.

The only damp squib on the otherwise outstanding La Cassette Noir is indisputably the reverse recorded Revol Dub which with a bit of manipulation with Audacity software turns out to be “Bad Lover”, one of the lesser tracks from the band’s earlier demo tape played backwards. The result really doesn’t add anything to the experience and in point of fact is basically irritating, so one has to ask what possessed Clair Obscur to think this was a good idea? 

Were they trying for weirdness purely for the sake of being weird? Or were they trying to cheaply pad out the tape to something approaching full-length? Or were they in fact poking fun at the then nascent obsession of the religious right with backwards Satanic messages supposedly hidden in rock music? (No, I really couldn’t make this shit up if I wanted to. If you’re too young to remember that ludicrous debacle, go here ).

Whatever their intention, the result does little save annoy the listener. Let us not forget that the item in question was a cassette; the only way to deal with Revol Dub was either to endure sitting through it (the longest track on the entire tape BTW) or to fast forward and attempt to guesstimate where it might end – obnoxious by anyone’s estimation.

If one can overlook this though, it matters little, because La Cassette Noir is both essential and excellent listening for anyone with a genuine interest in early Goth. The band would follow through with two brilliant if more accessible self-released singles Santa Maria 7” (1983), Dansez 12” (1984) and then the live album The Pilgrim’s Progress (All The Madmen Records, 1986). All are highly recommended and happily Kruptobolo has placed what is in effect downloads to all of the band’s back catalogue on their blog.
Go. Go now.

“From the most tribal cold wave to chamber music, from industrial music to dance music (unless these two are synonymous), their musical approach is eminently atmospheric and embraces a surprising variety of styles, giving birth to iconoclastic scenic transcriptions.”- David Sanson

After an absence of new studio material for 11 years, Clair Obscure are back too, shedding the neo-classical influences with the relatively accessible We Gave a Party For the Gods and the Gods All Came (Optical Sound, 2009). Fans of the more danceable facets of Einsturzende Neubauten or left-field electro like Askii Disko will find much to appreciate here. It too is recommended.
The official site suggests that earlier this week, the band released We Gave Our Music to the Gods and the Gods Remixed it (Optical Sound, 2010) – something to look forward to.

Track Listing:
  1. Sequence
  2. The Last Encounter
  3. Blume
  4. K.G.
  5. Pessimiste Cambatif
  6. Revol Dub
  7. Vivant
  8. Hibernation
  9. Kriegs Opera
La Cassette Noir was later re-released as an untitled cassette (Pleasantly Surprised, 1985) and again in its entirety as an LP along with the Dansez 12” (self release, 1984) as Play (Cathexis Recordings, 1988).

Recent pics suggest that Clair Obscur's contemporary 
performances may have restrained themselves considerably:

But back in the day, one suspects their live 
performances must have been rather confrontational:

Line Up: Christophe Demarthe (vocals), Thierry Damerval (bass), Nicolas Demarthe (guitar)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sex Gang Children – Song And Legend (Illuminated, 1983)

Oh why Lordy me!
It’s been absolutely years since I last listened to this, and now I can’t stop listening to it. The Song and Legend album stands as an excellent illustration of how listening to the original album is often a much more rewarding experience than best-of compilations. Thumping tribal drumbeats, Andi’s screaming strangled cat vocals, and lyrics that clearly demonstrate how at this stage Goth had so much more to offer artistically than homogenous rock songs titled after girls whose names had an odd tendency to end in an “a”. And yet, in the midst of this off-the-wall aggression lurks the delicate violin-driven “Sebastiane” prophesising the dark-cabaret style that the band and Andi’s solo material would later prove so instrumental in developing. All this and a brilliant album cover and logo to boot. (On later pressings the gold font would be replaced by white which proved substantially easier to read, but also substantially less impressive.)

Sex Gang Children started out life as Panic Button before changing their name to one which Andi’s mate George O’Dowd (later to attain pop fame with Culture Club as Boy George) had previously rejected as having limited commercial potential (One can only speculate at the level of outrage a mainstream pop band called Sex Gang Children with a single entitled “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” might have generated).

As a support band for early scene leaders UK Decay they swiftly climbed the ladder to become one of the movers and shakers of the early scene. The undeniable power and catchiness of their first single Beasts (Illuminated, 1982) seemed to ensure big things were to follow, yet Song And Legend would prove to be their only full length release studio album during their original existence. 

The Beasts 7" providing what would 
later become Sex Gang's defacto logo

Although they would break up the following year, numerous compilations and live albums have since appeared, and following their reformation in 1991 a renewal of studio output, their most recent being the download-only Salamun Child EP (Song & Legend, 2009).

In the meantime, Andi has released a substantial body of solo work, Dave formed the criminally under-rated Carcrash International with former members of Christian Death, and Rob joined the relatively obscure Aemortii Crii who would later provide members to The Sisters of Mercy and All About Eve. In a bizarrely incestuous move, Rob’s replacement on drums was Nigel Preston (Formerly with Theatre of Hate) who quickly moved on to Death Cult only to be replaced by Death Cult (and former Ritual) drummer Ray Mondo. Stranger still, Song and Legend was produced by Tony James (later on guitar with The Sisters of Mercy), featured backing vocals from Neil X and Boy George’s squatting mate around this time was Martin Degville, all of whom would go on to find fame three years down the track as Sigue Sigue Sputnik, all of which serves to underline just how incredibly convoluted kinship relations in the UK 80’s music scene often were.

Track Listing:
  1. The Crack Up
  2. German Nun
  3. (Chant)
    State of Mind
  4. Sebastiane
  5. Draconian Dream
  6. Shout and Scream
  7. Killer ‘K’
  8. Cannibal Queen
  9. (Abyss)
  10. Kill Machine
  11. Song and Legend
  12. (Dream Reprise)

The CD re-release (Cherry Red, 2005) also contains alternate versions of “Shout and Scream”, “Sebastiane” and “Song and Legend” as bonus tracks.

Line Up: Andi Sex Gang (vocals), Dave Roberts (bass, Spanish guitar, backing vocals), Terry MacLeay (guitar, backing vocals), Rob Stroud (drums).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cold Dance – Medusa 7” (Xcentric Noise Records, 1985)

Easily the best thing about starting a blog project like this one is when I stumble upon something I missed the first time around that despite its obscurity turns out to be brilliant and happily, Cold Dance are one of these, sounding pleasingly like a more laid back English version of X-Mal Deutschland.

 I must admit that my conception of UK geography is not my strongest suite, but I get the impression that Hull, despite having given the world the extremely influential Throbbing Gristle, may not be exactly the hub of the artistic world.

Nevertheless, Cold Dance emerged out of Hull in the early to mid 80s, although one gets the impression they weren’t all that keen on the Goth association.  They released two singles through Xcentric Noise, the first being No Glamour In Industry (1984) and then followed up with Medusa (Xcentric Noise, 1985).

For some reason, a download of Medusa is substantially harder to find on the net than its predecessor and a Google search on “Cold Dance” presently returns an irritating number of links to Katy Perry. But never fear! Let me save you some trouble:

I suggest you download it quick smart before this one too gets taken down – the page also has some very nice Skeletal Family stuff too – now never let it be said I don’t ever do anything nice for you :-P.

Track Listing: Medusa 7”
  1. Medusa
  2. Petrified
Other than that, available information on the enigmatic Cold Dance is rather limited, so I guess I may as well simply pad this post out by including No Glamour in Industry as well.

Track Listing: No Glamour In Industry 7”
  1. Choice
  2. Influence
  3. Then + Now

Indeed, so thoroughly has time forgotten Cold Dance, that I can’t even locate a picture of the band. Their Facebook page does however contain a number of pictures of their fans, most of which appear to have been snapped in the girls’ loos, leaving one to speculate upon whether the photographer may have had an odd proclivity for loitering.

I thought these two had nice hair so in the absence of the 
actual band, I guess they can go here.

Line Up: Diane Dubois (vocals), Stuart Hodgson (bass, synthesizer), Kevin Hunter (drums), Tim Arundell (guitar), Tim Harrison (additional percussion).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Diamanda Galas – Masque of the Red Death Trilogy (Mute Records, 1986-1988)

I interviewed Diamanda way back in 1992 as part of a two hour documentary spanning her career up to that point during which she vehemently denied having ever had anything to do with the Gothic movement or subculture, claiming that she thought it was something “bored kids do and that gothic had more to do with Edgar Allan Poe or something”.  The obvious contradiction that here we have a trilogy of albums collectively named after Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” aside, this seems disingenuous at best, her image on album covers and in live performances of this period, her thematic approach to her art during this period and  in some cases the musical direction of certain pieces tells a quite different tale.

There really is no-one quite like Diamanda, an artist who believes her multi-octave voice that ranges from the demonic to the spectral was given to her as a weapon for the destruction of her enemies.
I doubt I can word things any better than Tim Holmes writing in the liner notes for Plague Mass (Mute Records, 1992);

 “Nervous-system shattering, harmonic shards echoing through the vaults, choirs of Diamanda’s blathering demons and madonnas”
Commencing her solo career with the terrifying electronica of Litanies of Satan (Y Records, 1982), The Masque of The Red Death Trilogy would see the conjunction of Diamanda the artist with Diamanda the AIDS activist, a project given added impetus after the disease would claim Diamanda’s brother shortly after recording had commenced.

The trilogy kicks off with the extraordinary and compellingly weird electronic soundscapes of The Divine Punishment (Mute, Records, 1986), for the most part taking its lyrics from Old Testament biblical scripture, specifically Psalms, Lamentations and Leviticus. Skillfully turning these texts on their head, perhaps most dramatically in “This is the Law of the Plague”, Diamanda employs them to become an ironic and damning mockery of those who would insist AIDS to be the wrath of God visited upon homosexuals and drug users.

Let’s begin with this little clip, in which Diamanda ably and conclusively demonstrates that she absolutely never ever had any connection whatsoever to Goth…honest to God, cross my heart etc etc. (I have absolutely no idea why Youtube has this labeled as the non-existent track “Saint of the Pit” since it’s actually “We Shall Not Accept Your Quarantine” from The Divine Punishment.)

Track Listing:
The Divine Punishment
  1. Deliver Me From My Enemies
I.                    This is the Law of the Plague
II.                 Deliver me From my Enemies
III.               We Shall Not Accept Your Quarantine
IV.               EXEAOUME [Deliver me]
V.                 UIATI O QXOS?
VI.              Psalm 22

2. Free Among the Dead
            I. Psalm 88
            II. Lamentations
            III. Sono l’ Antichristo


The electronics are largely abandoned by the second installment of the trilogy, Saint of The Pit (Mute Records, 1986), replaced instead with a lush if extreme operatic style as Diamanda explores the bleak psyche and self-consciousness of the HIV positive through the charnel-house verses of French Symbolist poets Baudelaire, Nerval and Corbiere. A new version of EXEAOUME [Deliver Me] from The Divine Punishment also appears here and would later resurface as “The Ring of Fire” on the soundtrack to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Columbia, 1992).

Track Listing:
Saint of the Pit
  1. La Treizieme Revient (The Thirteenth Returns)
  2.     EXEAOUME [Deliver me]
  3.      L'Heautonimoroumenos (Self Tormentor)
  4.     Artemis
  5.       Cris D’ Aveugle (Blind Man’s Cry)


The final part of the trilogy You Must be Certain of the Devil (Mute Records, 1988)
returns us to the reality of AIDS in Regan-era America using both contemporary rock and gospel styles to direct scathing criticisms and accusations at the homophobic stance of both conservatives and the religious right. A surprisingly accessible album for Diamanda, including pieces like “Double Barrel Prayer”, “Malediction” and “Birds of Death” that would prove musically far closer to what is generally understood as Gothic Rock than anything she has released before or since.

Track Listing:
You Must Be Certain of the Devil
  1. Swing Low Sweet Chariot
  2. Double Barrel Prayer
  3. Let’s Not Chat About Despair
  4. Birds of Death
  5. You Must Be Certain of The Devil
  6. Let My People Go
  7. Malediction
  8. The Lord is My Shepherd
 Upon the release of You Must Be Certain of The Devil, the entire trilogy was repackaged as the boxed set Masque of the Red Death (Mute Records, 1988) with The Divine Punishment and Saint of the Pit appearing on the same CD. More importantly, the trilogy was reworked into the massive live work known as Plague Mass (Mute Records, 1992), arguably the pinnacle of Diamanda’s career. At once epic, terrifying and compelling, the tremendously powerful Plague Mass would see Diamanda performing stripped to the waist and covered in blood and ultimately denounced by the Italian Government of the day for blasphemy against the Catholic Church.

Diamanda’s works since have generally been far removed from anything resembling Goth, but both awesome and far ranging from pieces for piano (The Singer – Mute Records, 1992, Malediction and Prayer – Mute Records, 1998, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty – Mute Records, 2008) spoken word & experimental (Vena Cava – Mute Records, 1993, Shrei X - Mute Records, 1996) and even alternative rock in collaboration with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame (The Sporting Life - Mute Records, 1994). Although currently having severed ties with Mute Records, Diamanda continues to release new material as MP3s via her official website.

I saw Diamanda perform at the Perth Concert Hall back in 2002 with the cycle of work that would eventually be released as Defixiones – Will and Testament (Mute Records, 2003), an spectacularly awesome performance that I’d just kill to see again.
But you know what? For an artist who swears blind she never had any association with Goth, there was more blue/black hair dye in that audience than I’ve seen anywhere in a very long time.

“Listen, man,
It may soon be time
For you to guard a dying man
Until the angels come
Let’s not chat about despair
If you are a man (and not a coward)
You will grasp the hand of him denied by mercy
Until his breath becomes your own.”

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Burning Image 1983-1987, (Alternative Tentacles 2004)

Of course, the term “Deathrock” for most people most readily conjures up images of outfits like 45 Grave, Christian Death and Kommunity FK.

 Burning Image rarely get a mention, and indeed have been largely lost to memory. It must be admitted that in many ways, the band must bear some responsibility for this by virtue of their sole release when they were originally around being the self-released Final Conflict / Burning Image Burning 7” (1984) of which only 200 copies were pressed. Perhaps not the ideal way to immortalize oneself.

Insert from the Final Conflict / Burning Image Burning 7"

Confinement to the phantom zone of obscurity could easily have resulted, but for the interest of one Mr Jello Biafra Esq. who championed the band, allowed them many opportunities to open for The Dead Kennedys during the 80s and ultimately  released this compilation on Alternative Tentacles with essentially the same cover art as the original 7".

As compilations go, this is something of a strange one, not least because the title is slightly misleading with the last three tracks recorded after Burning Image’s reformation in 2003, but also because the strength of songs like “Prey”, “Time is Running Out” and “Shadows” serve to illustrate how relatively weak the songs on the 1984 single were. Really – why would anyone self-release their weakest songs as a single? Nevertheless, the compilation does make available not only the long lost single, but also all the demo tracks the band recorded over five years of existence.

Liner notes might be useful here – I don’t have a hard copy, and one suspects that the tale may be very revealing –  did they started out as a hard core band before merging into Deathrock? It would certainly explain much if we were to assume this compilation to be chronological. Certainly, hardcore punk origins would go a long way towards explaining both Jello’s interest and the (unusual for Deathrock) socio-political leanings of the lyrics.

Burning Image appear to have broken up or become dormant or some such not too long  after their now highly collectable 7” was released, but their website is a little scant on details. Like so much old that is new again however, they’re back, releasing the reportedly more hardcore Fantasma (Alternative Tentacles, 2009). Considering the almost totally different line-up, attempts to self promote themselves as "the band that wouldn't die" do seem like something of a stretch, but sooner or later, I’ll probably get around to tracking it down.

Track Listing:
  1. Time is Running Out
  2. You’ve Changed
  3. The Lower Walks
  4. The Final Conflict
  5. Burning Image Burning
  6. Love Mask
  7. Hives
  8. Prey
  9. Shadows
  10. The Image
  11. Gargoyle
  12. Anytime, Anywhere
  13. Temptation

Line Up: Joe Sparks (vocals, guitar), Moe Adame (guitar), Tony Bonanno (bass), Paul Burch (drums). Tracks 11-13 were recorded after the 2003 reunion / reboot and feature a different lineup.