Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
There aren’t many bands whose last output was some 25 years ago that can pack out a venue like the Roundhouse not once but two nights in succession. The Sisters of Mercy are not however your average band going through the motions on the nostalgia circuit. They offer up a show for the original dyed in the wool fan base, the casual knowledgeable fans who want to know what the fuss is about and a healthy selection of younger fans who are channeling the music the band plays as the soundtrack for a new generation. It’s a great mix and also explains why the band continue to fill out one of the best mid size venues in the nation’s capitol.
It would be too easy to place the Sisters along side the darker, gothic led bands of the 80s but the majority of them have gone by the way or are, as noted above, living off the nostalgia circuit, often looking like pale imitations of themselves some 30 years later. Not so the band, who along with The Mission helped shape a sound and style unlike anything else and gave a generation of teenagers something to help them express themselves. The Sisters of Mercy took their approach further and added the theatrical components as well, working with the likes of Jim Steinman to create some of the most anthemic dark rock songs that we would hear in the latter part of the 80s. Combine the sound with commander in chief Andrew Eldritch’s skinny physique, black leather outfits and mirrored shades and you had a bona fide rock star in front of you on Top of the Pops every week.
Fast forward to present day and the band attract some fascinating supports and acts that make metal fans sit up and take notice forcing them to reevaluate the sound and style that TSOM bring to the table. It’s a table that can see the band sit comfortably with the heaviest and I for one would love to see TSOM play a festival like Bloodstock Open Air (hell, they already played both Hellfest and Wacken Open Air recently) because they are, simply put, the perfect fit.
The 2019 shows at The Roundhouse saw dark progressive metallers Amenra open proceedings and they too bring something unique to their shows. This is a band that describes their influences as “the last music on earth, called up from out of the ashes of its ruin”. Cheerful stuff then and not necessarily the music you want on in the background when the Vicar pops round for a cup of tea and some cake!
Lead singer Colin H Van Eeckhout is an enigma. A frontman that faces not the front but the back of the venue. It forces the audience to watch the band as opposed to the singer which is a unique approach but strangely Van Eeckhout’s approach is no less intense and theatrical even if we hardly ever experience him preforming head on.
The lighting, thunderous rhythms and overarching sense of doom and trepidation played out perfectly by the technical progressions of the band make their set no less theatrical than what would follow. If anything the lack of dry ice and the clever back lighting with white lights added to the sense of mystique as it created dark shadowy pool that it was all too easy to fall into, mesmerised by the performance taking place on stage.
Not what you would normally expect to come out of Belgium but a huge and welcome surprise nonetheless.
The Sisters of Mercy
The Sisters’ output sounds as good now as it did 25 plus years ago. It is a mark of just how much they defined a certain sound that their material can stand shoulder to shoulder with many modern bands and in a lot of cases still surpass them. Rock music with the added element of dark theatrical embraces the whole set. Given there are only the 3 core members moving around on stage, Eldritch and guitarists Ben Christo and new member, Dylan Smith, who replaces Chris Catalyst up front, the sound, presence and atmospherics make for an immense, engaging show.
Thanks to just three albums plus numerous singles helping the band forge their place in music history, any set list would easily entertain the fans who clearly know everything the band has to offer. Eldritch is well known for his dislike of the music industry and the lack of new material is probably down to having been burnt previously. Thankfully he is again touring regularly, carries with him a strong, faithful, following and they make these nights feel as special as the band do.
The band appear with mirrored panels above then, covered in cloth to begin with which nearly got stuck for the duration until someone brought on the ‘big stick’ to dislodge it. Cheers all round and then of course the dry ice begins to billow out and the opening riff to 1990’s More kicks in.
Slices from all eras appear throughout the night. All of the big cuts from both Floodland and Vision Thing being performed with less bombast and more of a metal edge to them which at the end of the day explains the appearances at major metal festivals like Hellfest and W.O.A.
There’s even unreleased material, tracks like We Are the Same, Susanne which still warrants and official release, may never have one and is known by most fans as the band have had it in their set for some time.
After just over an hour, the band disappear but the encore presents solid gold for long time fans. Lucretia My Reflection gets everyone dancing with Eldritch and results in them screaming back the lyrics about “hot metal and methedrine” with the widest of grins. Temple of Love and This Corrosion will always make the crowd go wild and this show was no exception. One classic from the early days of the bands (whilst also being one of the last studio tracks to be reworked and released in 1992) and one from that glorious time in the late 80s where everything had to be bigger than before and This Corrosion did it so well at the time. Nowadays, the bombastic is tempered with crunchy musicianship from Ben and Dylan and the difference is spectacular. If Andrew Eldritch could just find an honest backer to get the band to put some new material out, there is a killer metal album waiting to be unleashed upon the world. For all we know, it may already exist but until the industry becomes (according to Eldritch) less corrupt, we will probably never know.
I wonder how many were still singing “Hey now, hey now now” in their heads as they headed home? I know I was.
Doctor Jeep / Detonation Boulevard
Crash and Burn
No Time to Cry
First and Last and Always
We Are the Same, Susanne
I Was Wrong
Lucretia My Reflection
Temple of Love