Sunday, September 15, 2013

Classic Album Review: Sisters of Mercy - Floodland (1987)

Floodland was the Sisters of Mercy’s second and penultimate album, and it has to be considered one of the most essential Goth-Rock releases of all-time.

For the band itself – pretty much limited to vocalist/guitarist Andrew Eldritch and bassist Patricia Morrison by this stage – Floodland represents an almost perfect peak, sandwiched as it was between the raw, red-blooded approach of the band’s exceptional debut, First And Last And Always, and the over-cooked, metallic, bombastic nature of the final Sisters full-length effort, Vision Thing, from 1990.

The most striking thing about this album initially is the increased reliance on synths and electronics, something of a move away from the guitar-based dynamic of its predecessor. Though in saying that, Eldritch’s guitar playing was pivotal to achieving what has become the quintessential “Goth” sound, and it does remain a core element here; it’s merely that it isn’t anywhere near as predominant or immediately obvious as it was on First And Last And Always.

Backing vocals also play a significant part in adding to the atmospheric, almost epic, sweeping feel of Floodland; vocal support coming from the likes of the New York Choral Society (most notably on ‘Dominion/Mother Russia’) and a multitude of others (on ‘This Corrosion’). No surprise really, given that these are the two tracks that had major production input from one Jim Steinman – see Meatloaf and assorted other “big” sounding production.

While ‘This Corrosion’, ‘Dominion’, and ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’ were extracted from Floodland as singles, all peaking inside the UK Top 20 at various points during 1987 and 1988, it is the less heralded album tracks like ‘1959’, ‘Flood Part 2’, and (especially) ‘Driven Like The Snow’, that left the biggest impression on me – at the time, and again when revisited recently.

In 2006, as with the other Sisters of Mercy albums, Floodland enjoyed a makeover and a reissue, the updated edition containing four additional tracks; two B-sides – ‘Torch’ and ‘Colours’, the sublime full-length version of ‘Never Land’ (at around twelve minutes, as opposed to the 2.46 minute version on the original album), and the live favourite, ‘Emma’, a Hot Chocolate cover of no little repute, a track that for my money showcases Eldritch’s vocal at its most melodramatic. Awesome stuff.

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