The Sisters of Mercy, Floodland – Retro CD Review

I will start this out by saying that my opinions of The Sisters Of Mercy have been mixed, at best, over the years. Going back to this album did, however, bring me back to a time in my life of which I had fond recollections, for the most part. The Sisters was a band whose only real consistent personnel consisted of singer Andrew Eldritch, and on this album, their second studio album, they focused more directly on the synthesizer-driven sound that influenced many of the later Goth and Darkwave acts that came to be in the 1990’s. Floodland kicks off with what is, in my estimation, one of their two best songs ever recorded, “Dominion/Mother Russia”. It is anthemic and progressive at once, and one can envision a snow-covered Leningrad, even, despite the fact that Eldritch is English. Well played, Andrew, well played. Unfortunately, it does not carry throughout the album. Track two, “Flood I”, is fairly typical Goth-rock, but has a very well structured melody, Eldritch’s vocal limitations notwithstanding. I can’t fault them for the lack of availability of synth-tones at the time, since it WAS only 1987; but still, the single-line faux organ notes detract from me being able to take it too seriously. This is Goth that I can only laugh at. And again, as I have said before, this one is a bit too drawn out. If I could take it seriously, the nearly six and a half minutes of this song might be tolerable, but after a while it just drags. It leads into “Lucretia, My Reflection”. Everyone knows this bass line, and while I loved hearing the beginning of this song when I was a teenager, now it just makes me shake my head and smile sadly. The lyrics have no real context, despite their pretension, and the monotony of the melody makes me want to actually pull a Goth move: I will actually slit my wrists if I were to have to hear this song too many more times in a short period, to say nothing of seeing someone do that silly Goth dance to it. The ominous melodic line just goes NOWHERE. That is one of my biggest pet peeves in music. Any idiot can write a simple melody and beat it to death on his/her instrument. And that is apparently what they have done here.

“1959” is piano, very simple piano, and Andrew Eldritch singing. It should be burned. Leonard Cohen must never have heard this song before, because if he had, he would’ve sued for trademark infringement on his vocal style. I will give credit; the song does carry a more complex melody structure due to the several changes in key. This simply means, however, that the same mediocre melodic line is played exactly over and over again, but in the different keys. Complementary keys, but still boring. If you did not get it before, I am not a fan of bands who do this as an entire song structure. If I ever review any albums by The Cranberries, I will have a field day with this issue. This is now the end of side one (I am familiar with this album release on cassette).

The opening of side two is “This Corrosion”, and this is the other of their two best songs ever written. It incorporates choral backing, and a good line that is broken up by at least two different bridges that change both the pace and melody, before reverting back to the original line. I even like the harpsichord sound of the synthesizer. I can’t tell you what this brings to my head, because it is not publishable (wink). All I can say is that even though it is not memory-induced, it makes me feel that way you know. There is only one drawback to this song, and yes, you guessed it: it is WAY TOO LONG. At over ten minutes, it is one of the longest songs NOT by a prog-rock band.

“Flood II” is an interesting song. Its introduction reminds me of an old Doors song. This song is primarily acoustic guitar based, with overlaid synth lines, but it carries its weight in the scheme of things. I actually like this song for the most part, which is surprising to me since I don’t like most of the Doors’ material. The drawback, though, as per usual, is the length of the song. Six and three-quarters minutes is far too long for this song. It made its point in well under five. “Driven Like The Snow” starts as if it were written by Windy & Carl, those masters of ambient time-wasting, but soon gives way to a beat comparable to the one used in “Flood II”. This song is easily ignored as well, as it carries that whole repetitive melody characteristic which I despise. Again, if Andrew Eldritch weren’t so pompous, I might not get the impression of bombast with all these long songs. “Neverland (A Fragment)” is one of the better tracks on the album, as it is mercifully short (a mere two minutes and forty-eight seconds). Finally, there is “The Torch”. It should’ve been extinguished. Eldritch sounds like David Prowse (Darth Vader) when Luke removes his mask at the end of Return Of The Jedi – decrepit, ill, and past his prime. The song itself is fairly minimalist, thank goodness – but that does not prevent it from being an abysmal flop.

This album, Floodland, was re-released not too long ago, with an expanded playlist, but I choose to review the original track listing of the album released in November of 1987, and with good cause: None of the additional tracks are worth mention. I REALLY AM trying to save the time of those who have never heard the album by warning them away from it.

OVERALL RATING: This album truly is sub-everything: sub-terranean, sub-soil, sub-ordinate, substitute, sub-cellar, sub-optimal, and especially, SUB-PAR; everything but substantial. It deserves a sub-skilled rating. I give it a three out of a possible ten. If I could, I would give it a sub-zero, but it seems that every once in a while Eldritch has a moment of quality. Recommended tracks are “Dominion/Mother Russia”, “Flood I”, and “This Corrosion”. Those are the ONLY songs you need to know from this album. Everything else is just masturbation for repressed Goth kids.