Equinoxe Records – [Release Date: 14.06.13]
Just when you thought Goth had shrivelled up, died and gone to meet its maker in Valhalla, it’s time once again to dig out that white face paint, strap a spiky dog collar to your neck and resurrect those black Doc Martens because rumours of Goth’s demise are, as the old cliche goes, somewhat premature.
Named after a short story by science fiction/horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, Sweet Ermengarde is a neo-gothic rock band hailing from Bochum, Germany and Raynham Hall is their debut album – and, despite some initial misgivings, it’s a rather fine piece of work.
I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for the guitar sound of goth – the heavy chorus/delay effects always moved me in mysterious ways – and this album is just chock full of that classic atmospheric, ethereal sound.
Modelling themselves on the classic goth bands of the late eighties such as Fields Of The Nephalim, Sisters Of Mercy and particularly The Mission, the band have, with a couple of caveats, made a great job of carrying the torch onwards into the twenty first century.
There are thirteen tracks in all, but four are the dreaded ‘hidden tracks’ – three of which are of almost complete silence (more of which later) and the fourth is absolute bollocks so it’s perfectly safe to switch off after nine…
Seven of the tracks are what you would call ‘classic’ goth with those fabulous guitars, pounding bass-lines and a vocalist schooled at the Hussey Eldritch Academy.
Things get underway with ‘Near Dark’ – its insistent, surging guitar figure a taste of the joys to come, followed by the delectable ‘Kisses’ whose chiming guitars push it close to the album’s highpoint.
The true highlight however, comes with ‘A Promise To Fulfil’ – its riff to die for and spooky similarity to the Mission’s ‘Beyond The Pale’ take it into the ‘very special’ category.
The band do put their bums in the custard though, and it’s unfortunately on the last two tracks – ‘Necropolitan Rest’ sounds as if it’s almost taking the piss out of the genre by sounding like an ultra-heavy Boris Pickett doing the ‘Monster Mash’ and ‘Part Of Me’ which heralds the arrival of occasional death-metal growling vocals and is completely overblown – even by goth standards.
Perhaps switch off after seven…
Up until the final two ‘real’ tracks this is as good a goth rock album as you could wish to hear with everything in its right place and no real sense of it being mere pastiche or even a tribute to the halcyon days of the late eighties.
By the way, Raynham Hall, in case you remembered the name, is where that famous ghost ‘picture’ was taken of ‘The Brown Lady’ descending the grand staircase – this might explain the three silent ‘hidden tracks’.
Review by Alan Jones
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