ORDEAL BY FIRE
UNTOLD PASSIONS (Strobelight)
~review by Mick Mercer
If you’re like me (you poor bastards!) it can often be the most attractive and artistic records which make the deepest Goth impact, for their deft creation of mood and the scintillating, truly beautiful use of vocals. But then sometimes you have to accept that when Goth became rocky there was a vast, rolling sound possible which the earlier, kinkier side of Post-Punk/Goth couldn’t produce, and the more Ethereal side will never rival.
The trouble is that so many make a complete arse of the rock side. Many go soft and fall into the same trap The Mission once discovered, where you become mired in your own musicianship love of Rock Myth. Others go so far into Metal that they lose sight of Goth altogether. It takes a strong band to remain strong and not become lost in their own oblivion. So, just as Love Like Blood always maintained the right sense of hungry deportment, now we have Ordeal By Fire, whose ‘Roots And The Dust’ debut was scandalously inspiring, and they bring you a sort of Nephilim offshoot, where vocally things are clearer, and where musically things are starker.
I wasn’t knocked out by any one individual song, because on this album they have created an overall mood, and the fire is a lot less than before. Here they are bewildered among smoke and roaring. ‘Dirty Floor’ has its solemn, dour vocals scowling while they demonstrate the cunning rhythmical variety, and the powerful grip they exert from simply being interesting! ‘Hiding’ is as obvious a late 80’s Gawf song as you could want, without unnecessary frills, then ‘Hanging On’ is gappier, with a scattered mood and frisky guitar. ‘Re-creation’ gives us clompy drums, and thin wiggly guitar as the traditional sound stands proud and uncluttered, then the glowering, furious ‘Prisoner’ unfolds; plainer and emptier still, leaving you to concentrate on the steady guitar and vocal drama. The whirly rocky ending cannot disguise just how strongly their character comes through, which continues with ‘Life’s Uncertainty’, taking an age to ignite.
‘Tides’ fails to rush in. It may be full of life but here I was just praying for it to explode, and that’s the only drawback here. This album is like an exercise in restraint, where the attention is constantly thrown on their vocal monolith., and the use of Passions in the title is no accident. He emerges like a vengeful figurehead on a black ghostship, creating simple friction across a drizzle of unhappy guitar, and then ‘Heartfelt Sympathy’ smacks us round the head and sends us home after eight epic minutes.
Done right, as it is here, Gothic Rock can be a majestic thing and one of the most naturally recognisable forms within this wide genre of ours. Next time round it’ll be good to see them speed up, and exhibit their wild sense of attack again, but for now they can show you why Gothic Rock makes for fond company. Passionate? Oh yes, but not for wimps.