"Carrion Screaming" (Album, 2016)
Stupido Records/Occult Whispers Records
Along with this new (vinyl only) release, I was very kindly sent the whole Silent Scream back-catalogue which I was previously unfamiliar with, and while previously an overly-polished production, strangely over enunciated vocals (perhaps as a result of singing in a foreign language?), and a very clear debt to the vocal stylings of a certain Mr I. Curtis had pushed them into Editors territory (a good Editors, but still), this new release has a decent amount of grit and grime to it. The guitar is still a little bit too polite for my tastes (but given that my tastes run to howling feedback and headfuck riffage, this may not be a difficulty for other listeners).
Despite being housed in a Mark Ferelli cover, this owes little to the Part 1 sound except in its refusal to follow current trends in Darkwave/Deathrock (or whatever it is plump men in corsets are calling it these days), recalling a time when goth was an offshoot of punk, rather than the current post-Sisters wasteland.*
You can still hear those late '70s/early '80s influences (in no particular order: Bauhaus/Banshees/Killing Joke/Play Dead/Amebix/Rudimentary Peni) but they've found their feet, and more importantly their own voice.
Kicking off side one, instrumental The Seance utilises Ennio Morricone's work on John Carpenter's The Thing in much the same way that Amebix used Gyorgy Ligeti's contribution to the soundtrack of 2001 to open their Arise LP. Although it's a short track, it gives some indication of the openness to eclectic influences that make this LP a breath of fresh air.
Rather than writing about ghost and vampires in some imagined Victorian past, the subject matter is rooted in the here and now, and deals with damaged psyches fracturing under external and internal pressure from religious dogma, totalitarianism and mental illness.
Musically, the use of shifting tempos and drop-outs shows a clear understanding of tension and structure, and it's obvious they know how to write a tune (and more importantly how to construct a song). The slower-paced numbers seem to work better on this release, excelling as they do in the brooding, slow-burn, rather than the headlong speed-rush. We Have Plans For You which leads off side two, is an instrumental that could happily be used on the opening credits of a late '60s British spy-film, all grimy paranoia and John Barry widescreen flourishes. Stepford, which is a love song of sorts, appears to use the scenario of The Stepford Wives to describe the end of a relationship ("You're not the same/These days are cold") with an early Modern English feel to it.
The more up-tempo material is slightly hamstrung by the production, which keeps the guitars strangely reticent throughout, with the quiet/loud/quiet sections more often being quiet/slightly less quiet/quiet again.
Railroaded, which would normally be the stand out track is a case in point - it has a glacial pop sheen strangely at odds with the defiantly bitter lyrics, and a delicate acoustic swish which reminds me of Disintegration era Cure, building to a proper shout-along chorus featuring some brilliant guitar work that wouldn't sound out of place on Bauhaus' In The Flat Field (the song, rather than the LP). Frustratingly what should be a fucking HOWL of a finale doesn't quite deliver, because the guitars are just too quiet, and we're back in Editors territory again.
Despite the grim themes, this is not a depressing record, there's a defiant, anti-authoritarian edge to it, but a defiance born of a clear understanding of the heartache that flesh is heir to.
There are occasional missteps in the lyrics (I'm Human, I'm Sexual and Get Ready To Burn for instance), but sometimes the unusual phraseology brings a power to some of the songs; the title of We Don't Ask To Be Born, (as opposed to We Didn't...) makes the lyrics more disturbing than they would otherwise be, and the use of the word 'sorrow' in the chorus of Railroaded ("We'll bring you sorrow/If you don't do/What we want/When we want") imbues it with an almost biblical weight - and is something unheard of this side of '70s Roots Reggae.
This LP is a definite grower, repaying repeated listens, and whatever problems I have with it are entirely based on some 'lost in translation' lyrical stumbles and the too polite production job. I can imagine these songs being significantly better live, and if they ever make it to the UK, I would snap up a ticket straight away. 6.5/10
*The defining moment in the switch from 'goth' to 'goff' was the point at which the Sisters broke up and people apparently took The Mission seriously, as opposed to dismissing them as the bloated hippy-rock effluent they so clearly were.
Nick Hydra (August 2016)