This album is a strong contender for the best album to any other record of the decade it was released on or perhaps any other decade. This is however the Sisters of Mercy at its finest. This album was one of the first in my collection, though certainly the first one in which none, and I repeat, NONE of the tracks are needed to be skipped. I must say that this album is a classic masterpiece and a must have for any admirer or follower of the darker side music. A very strong recommendation and my pity for those who have not bought this yet.
The album is the first full lenght album after gaining a cult following with previews EP's The difference that this album had that were not seen in previews EP's was the addtion of Wayne Hussey on guitars. If there is something quite worthy of the word superb, is the guitar work done through the album. Wayne Hussey uses a strong sense of melody through the album that contrasts beautifully with the drum machine used. Mr. Hussey does not use straght chords to play the songs but instead uses a wide variety of arpegios and he seems more concerened with an idea of atmosphere leaving most of the framework for the drum machine and bass guitar. On top of such melodies in guitar lies a beautiful, deep, ghoulish voice provided by Andrew Eldritch. His voice contrast beautiful, at points even surprising at how low it can get in a way not making the vocals stand out but make it another instrument in the melody of the songs, making the album truly enjoyable. Eldritch's voice, though deep and gloomy, does provide true emotion and a sense of despair perhaps through parts of songs making the album a rollercoaster of emotions. There's something about Andrew Eldritch's voice that is really hard to pin point but that seems to work and fit in perfectly with the rest of the music. When he sings at a low tone, it makes the music sound calm and relaxing to a point. When he sings at a bit of a higher tone, (screaming bby their standards) it creates a real emotional mood of despair or helplesness without making him sound whiny.
Now for a brief opinion on each song:
Black Planet- The opener of the album. Its a good song, it begin with two nice chords of piano-esque quality though doesn't provide a long introduction and dives directly into the song. A good song though not one of the best in the album. It's in this song that one can easily see though the nice atmosphere Wayne Hussey puts into the songs.
Walk Away- To me, this is where the album begins to really get interesting. The drum machine intro followed by a driving beat patter adorned with a nice arpegio makes the listener instantly start to either tap the feet or move tha hand or head (or any kind of movement) The chorus, dare I say has a ...sing-along quality. Andrew Eldritch elvates the pitch of the voice specially at the last part ("Awayyyyyy, awayeyeyey")Again the chorus has a sort of anthem like feel to it making this song really enjoyable.
No Time to Cry- This is the song "Walk Away" wish it could've been. It has the driving patter of the drum machine but sounds a bit more "worked on". At the point where the vocals begin and Andrew Eldritch sing "it's just a feeling, I get sometimes", there is something about hoe the vocals start that really sends shivers down my spine. It's so calm yet eerie (if that makes sense). For the second verse ("and I get frightened..") his voice becomes more intense but not agressive again more shivers. The chorus, I dont believe there is anyone who can resist going "no! no! no! each time.
A Rock and a Hard Place- Good song, again a masterful guitar arrangment that really turns around what could otherwise be consered a monotonous bass line.
Marian- My second favorite song in the album. A truly beautiful song in ever sense of the word. I would be wasting adjectives because none would be enough to describe this gem. This song is where Andrew Eldritch shines. Marian has perhaps the best vocals in the whole album. A hunting piece by TSOM. This song alone makes the record (or any other album in which it appears) a worthile buy. The ending of the song is so beautifully huunting it will make you regret it's over.
First and Last and Always- The tittle track. The vocals in this track are very clear. Eldritch stays away from the eerie almost whisper-like tone of Marian, which wouldn't have worked for this track. This track to me perhaps may sound a bit repetitive at times but strangely enough TSOM decides o put a nice break in the middle. Though the chord progression really change that much, it's a nice point to break and start again.
Possession- In this track, the bass drives the whole song. A nice groove-like bass line accentuated slightly at some parts more that others by guitars. The song has nice breaks in which Eldritch is heard moaning in the backround giving the song a taste of desperation that contrasts really nice with the rest of the song.
Nine While Nine- I love how this song begins. The instruments are built on one by one. A nice drum beat and a simple enough arpegio on guitar contrasting nice with a nice "groovy" bass. Eldritch again uses his "high" voice as in FALAA.
Logic- There is something about this song that makes me think that this is the "filler" in the album. It's hard to say exactly what. That is until the chorus kicks in and it's brilliant. Leave it to these guys to catch your attention just as you think you have found something to rag on them about.
Some Kind of Stranger- Hunting, melodic, derranged and soothing, filled with paranoia and a strange calmness. After that I find it's no secret that this is my favorite song in the album, This is also one of my favorite songs of TSOM. This is also one of my favorite songs ever. It begins with an eerie noise of perhaps air passing through old church bells and then the guitar abruptly begin in what may very well be the first "chord" used in the album. Then drums and bass. The song moves slowly, like clouds before a rain storm. At 2 min and 38 sec, the keyboards kick in that i can't help but reminds me of "Decades" by Joy Division. Theses keys bring the song, and their listeners to a complete world of eclectic measures. The song for most of the part has Eldritch singing low but as the song progresses, so does the desperation in the voice. At the end of the song Andrew's voice is so filled with emotiong almost at the point of tears that makes the listener also become to this state, and then the keyboard kick in making this song a masterpiece. "Sometimes I think you're beautiful, my door is open wide!" Andrew is in the point of tears and so am I.
This album has the quality that most others dont. The songs sound different enough to be recognizable and each hold their own, yet they fit together vey nicely making the album work also as one piece. If you are into this sort of music that is very emotional and perhaps some might call gloomy, then this album is for you and you should be on your way turning this off and buying it. If you are not into this type of music then still buy it because it will change your mind...AZ