Goth music has always been a scene obsessed with the past. By nature it came from a literary concept of macabre themes. Many of the bands that started this movement have actively pushed back, famously Sisters of Mercy for example. This month two bands that were there in that early pre-goth era paving the road for the decades, creating a new wave of splintered darkscene sounds. I love in both cases, these are not fan service records standing on the name of their past. They are fresh new ideas, forged in the skill and intensity that decades of releasing albums provide. So let us discuss the latest offerings from The Cassandra Complex and Christian Death.
The Cassandra Complex – The Plague – Rodney Orpheus and The Cassandra Complex have been entrenched in the concept of what we would later call “goth” music since before we had a word to describe it. They have toured with and played festivals with the biggest names in the scene. Starting in 1985 releasing 7 full albums and 3 live albums the last of which “Wetware” on Metropolis Records in 2000. 22 years we waited for a return with “The Plague” to burst forth with a ferocious new energy. Early releases like “Grenade” were thick with an aggressive political message. I fell instantly for this return of piss and vinegar spirit blended with fine blade refinement. A razor edge between emotional concept and ability. Although these are new songs tackling modern concepts of a post capitalism world, the album serves as a greatest hit record. Drawing on individual styles that run the range of their history. It doesn’t forget the tongue firmly in cheek humor, using wit to mock the face of power.
The Plague | The Cassandra Complex (bandcamp.com)
Released May 6, 2022
Rodney Orpheus: vocals, vocoder, synthesizers, drum machines
Andy Booth: guitar, keyboards
Volker Zacharias: guitar, bass, keyboards
Axel Ermes: synthesizers
Produced by Rodney Orpheus @ Magic Library Studio, London
Cover Art by Antony Johnston
Standout Tracks: This is not an album of singles. No fractured thoughts of refracted light touching unrelated ideas. This is a record of intent meant to be played in succession. I must stress the importance of reading these chapters in order to understand the story. To say particular songs didn’t grab hold of my lapels and shake me with staggering force would be unjust as well. I will call out three.
Hotline To Elvis – Opening the album with this blistering gallop of southern twang guitar and hooved pounding bassline. Living in Kalamazoo MI I remember the Elvis hotline. It is often forgotten that bizarre conspiracy theories were not new ideas. When people want to believe something, no matter how absurd, they found a way. I love how Rodney takes on just enough southern lilt to summon the shaking spirit of the King. I blast of fire to set the scene.
Speed Of Sound – Ok, this is that track. A swelling ballad that captures a relatable experience that just hits different. The heart grasping hook of this bassline, Rodney’s genuine and tragic delivery with a Lou Reed poetry in blue collar hues. I must have played this track 20 times. I feel myself well up for every single one. A modern classic.
Old Boys Network – This song is about a collision of sounds and fierce satirical rebuke of the men in power which permeate and destroy every aspect of life. This synth line is a bouncing frenzy and Andy Booths guitar lines crackle with LA punk chaos. Rodney keeps the effect of clarity and grey pastel while spewing forth a Dead Kennedy’s rant.
Overall this is a triumphant return, an band that has earned the freedom and skill to treat their fans to a fearless and personal glimpse into the human experience in a failing system. It is my sincere hope that this is a path back for younger new fans to one of the bands that paved the way for the modern darkscene.
Christian Death – Evil Becomes Rule – The most recognized name of the American Proto goth scene from Los Angeles “Evil Becomes Rule” marks the 20th studio album in a legendary career. In our recent interview Valor told me about EBR being a continuation of 2015 The Root of All Evilution. It would be easy to appeal to longtime fans, putting out similar albums in a fan friendly style. Some artists have wonderful careers doing just that. This has never been the Christian Death way. Always slicing the edge in every incarnation. Evil Becomes Rule took me to a new place I never expected. A shadow psychedelic blasphemy of triumph blending world beat Dead Can Dance and roaring power of Judas Priest. Maitri’s vocals are highlighted like never before and cast a sinister ritual of power.
Evil Becomes Rule | Christian Death (bandcamp.com)
Valor – Lead vocals, guitars, violin, cello, piano (inside and out), keyboards, percussion
Maitri – Lead vocals, bass guitar
Pao – Drums
Stand Out Tracks: It is so hard use objective judgement for a song writer I have this much respect for. I will try my best to pick a few favorite tracks that struck me hard and made me revaluate the idea of what Christian Death is.
Elegant Sleeping – This track is a stalking wolf in a swirling forest mist. Maitri delivers such a delicious snarl to split the space between the dervish guitar rhythm. The break down sails right off the rails in a savage cacophony of chaos. A blistering and explosive avant garde.
Beautiful – There are other singles on this record. This one just rings out with such beauty and clarity. The chorus hooked me in hard, I kept hearing it in my mind wherever I went. Cobra strike guitar lead, dancing beside a merciless chant of longing. The organic crashing drum sounds really find their form. This single is such a penetrating reminder of how complex and emotive Christian Death are. Shout out to this gorgeous video as well to bring the concept into stark relief.
Who Am I part I – Another aspect of CD has always been a clear understanding of the power of pageantry. Drawn bow strings and the call and answer dialog vocals of Valors Bowiesque glam dueling with Maitri’s storm winds challenge. Crashing contrasting voices meeting in the middle to erect a swirling tower. A final crescendo on this journey through past and future.
Overall: I am left astounded at Christian Deaths ability to always be growing, always raising a challenge. I saw the first night of the tour in Chicago and was overwhelmed by the presence they create. Valor and company are excited for this record. That enthusiasm bleeds into every word and note. Seek out a chance to witness this live, there just aren’t as many true rock stars in the world anymore. You still have a chance to see one in an intimate setting.