The Sisters of Mercy – Floodland (1987)
The role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade was first published in 1991, just as my friends and I were finishing school. This seemed like a great new genre of RPG, so we shelved AD&D and donned trenchcoats, lit candles, drank vino, and became children of the night. Atmosphere was paramount. (Prior to the first game, we drove to Waverley Cemetery and watched the sun go down.) Game nights saw regular screenings of The Lost Boys, Near Dark or Interview with a Vampire, but the right choice of music was key. (I’ll wait til you stop laughing.) The Cure’s Disintegration was already on high-rotation those days, but we needed something more, um…vampiric. Ergo: The Sisters of Mercy. We immersed ourselves, venturing back to the origins of these Dark Lords from Leeds. First and Last and Always, Floodland, Vision Thing, Some Girls Wander By Mistake, we had their entire catalogue soon enough, and we were set. We scored our days with these apocalyptic, druggy dirges, and spent the weekends staying up late, feasting on pizza, junk-food, and the blood of the innocent. One of us even acquired Shot, the four-song video compilation for the (Floodland) singles: “This Corrosion”, “Dominion”, “Lucretia My Reflection” and “1959”, and man, we watched the hell out of that thing. Our main man, Andrew Eldritch, never looked cooler. Perennial shades. Unsmiling. Intense. His cinematic persona (along with Elvira-esque bassist Patricia Morrison) was the perfect talisman for our nocturnal plastic-fanged activities. It was like the Sisters knew they were being used as fuel for these games. It couldn’t have been more fitting if we’d commissioned them to write a soundtrack. The songs, the lyrics, the voice, the videos, the cover art (even the font)…their whole aesthetic appealed to us. And even now, when the moon waxes into full Sisters phase, and I feel that tidal shift in my veins, I reach for Floodland first. When the drum machine (Docktor Avalanche) kicks off “Dominion/Mother Russia” and the guitar starts slicing the beat, I still see Mr. Eldritch with his sword-cane and white suit, conducting his infernal business in deserted exile. Looking back, its no wonder they were labelled ‘Goth’, the imagery is undeniably clad in black. But the music shows a lineage from blues-based three-chord punk-rock and Berlin-era Bowie boiled down to its skeletal core, and cobwebbed with 80s synths. The beats are strong, the cyclic bass-lines lock you in, and the lyrics are great to sing. (Lines like: ‘We don’t doubt/ we don’t take direction/ Lucretia my reflection/ dance the ghost with me’ and ‘Sing, child, of right and wrong/ Gimme things that don’t last long/ Gimme siren, child, and do you hear me call?…Hey now/ sing this corrosion to me’ were poetry to us. Bloodletting balladry at its best.) So for all the apparent ‘Goth’ trademarks, I think Sisters were just a damn cool rock band. And despite the obvious ‘theatre of rock’ staging and presentation of it all, there is something convincing about the Sisters; as opposed to the mopey teens of Twilight or the carved-pumpkin clichés of the My Chemical Romance & Evanescence brigade. I would not be surprised in the slightest if Andrew Eldritch outlives us all. If vampiric rockstars do exist outside of Anne Rice, there’s no question that he is our prime suspect. Secretly watching countless waves of us come and go as our civilisations fall, and noting indifferently, in his ageless whisper: ‘I hear empire down’.
by Decoy Spoon