Album review: The Sisters of Mercy - Floodland (WEA, 1987)
Described by many as perhaps the quintessential 80s goth album, the second outing by The Sisters of Mercy offers a striking difference to their previous works. By this point the band of previous years had essentially been reduced to Andrew Eldritch and the drum machine known as "Dr. Avalanche". Accompanying him was the controversial Patricia Morrison, former Gun Club bassist (who supposedly played no actual bass on the album), the New York Choral Society, and a small selection of other guest session musicians. It comes as no suprise then, that Floodland is entirely a studio creation and no live dates were performed to support it (After their 1985 "farewell" show at The Royal Albert Hall, The Sisters didn't return to the stage at all until 1990) .
This album is all about one thing: BIG and BOMBASTIC songs with production values to match. Eldritch teams up with Meatloaf producer Jim Steinman on the singles "Dominion/ Mother Russia" and "This Corrosion". The first opens the album and will tell you everything you need to know about it: it is at once silly and glorious. Gloriously silly. BIG 80s sounding drums and reverbs abound as well as saxophones and brilliantly pompous vocals and synths. "This Corrosion" on the other hand, would be great if it didn't take around 11 minutes to make its point. I like long songs, but there's only so much of this one I can personally take now. The other "hit" track from this album is of course "Lucretia", driven by a propulsive (and programmed) bassline and yet more big choruses. Now that those tracks have been dealt with, we can turn our attention to the real strengths of this album, the non hit single tracks. These include the duo of the sinister "Flood I" and its absolutely MASSIVE sounding partner "Flood II", and "Driven Like the Snow" which after all the times I've heard it never fails to hit me where it hurts the most. The piano/vocal ballad "1959" I can take or leave depending on my mood, while "Never Land" finishes the album on a magnificently creepy and ambiguous note.
Andrew Eldritch has always been a fine songwriter and on parts of this album he really proves his worth, perhaps more than ever. Especially in the lyrical department, but the hooks and arrangements are no less epic and powerful. With all the overblown attitude surrounding this album I admit I sometimes forget just how great it really is. One of my favourite albums ever, in fact. The reissue of it is well worth picking up, as along with the obligatory B-sides ("Torch" and "Colours") you get the "full" (and apparently fake) 10 minute version of "Never Land" and perhaps the finest possible example of The Sisters doing a cover that completely destroys the original in every way as they always do so well: an amazing version of Hot Chocolate's "Emma", recorded before the original lineup split. Despite their current state of near non existence (regular touring yet no new releases since 1993), The Sisters of Mercy were at the top of their game in the mid-late 80s and there's no better testimony to that than "Floodland".