The Great Silence  (Pandaimonium Records)  
~reviewed by Stuart Moses

If anyone were foolish enough to let me DJ at a goth club, you could expect to hear opening song “Ride”, played either before or after The Merry Thoughts’ “Pale Empress”, both are solid gold dancefloor fillers. My only regret is that I wouldn’t be able to get onto the dance floor and back in time. When listening to “Ride” I have to ask what exactly singer Jan K. Barkved means when he sings: “We’re the fools of fallen empires tonight.” I guess the trick is not to over-analyse but rather rely on an emotional response. Emotionally this line takes me somewhere different. Maybe it is the vagueness or lack of definite meaning that lets me bring my own interpretation to the song.

I am slightly obsessed with metanarrative. It’s not the sort of thing I can confess to just anyone. If I enjoy a story I can’t help but see if I can place it in the context of stories around it. As our heroes depart in “Ride” perhaps their story is continued in the next song of “End of Trail”. It may be that their story is being told out of sequence, but I can’t help imagine the characters being the same. The pictures on the album sleeve show the band wearing hats in front of a desert scene, which makes me think they are placing themselves in the narrative. You can’t see their horses, but the perspective from which the photos are taken suggest that they are there.

A problem with this CD is that it is too polite. I’m all in favour of pedestrian paces, which further emphasise the intensity when the music is let off the reigns, but Elusive don’t go off the rails often enough. “Fading Rose” plods. This could mirror the pace at which our horsemen are moving across the desert plains, but at six minutes plus, the attention of this listener began to wander. “Lost In The Rain” has a greater emotional impact. Sounding like The Sisters of Mercy’s “Flood II”, the strummed acoustic guitar provides a solid foundation. What goth doesn’t know the feeling of having misplaced their way while suffering precipitation. Even on this song it feels like we are on a long trek. Perhaps this is because of the long gestation period since Elusive’s last album in 2001, or maybe the weight of the world does rest on their shoulders. 

The title track threatens to rise like a behemoth, but it sounds like we are listening to an acoustic version of the original. There are echoes of The Mission’s “Tower of Strength” in the opening couple of minutes. The electric guitar tries to get the song off the ground, but we never quite achieve lift off. The pace picks up for “You”, which sounds like the sort of song Tiamat might make on a sunny day. It’s a highlight. The tempo picks up further for “She’s A River.” The ticking-clock traditional-goth drum machine sound tethers the song, where a real drummer would let rip. We could have done with this song nearer the beginning of the album. It’s a refreshing change of pace. 

The press release suggests that Elusive are the missing link between The Sisters of Mercy and Billy Idol. I can see what they mean in “Coming Home”. An arrogant, yet wryly amused, lip curl is just what we need at the moment and this song is a neat counterpart to “Ride”. The over-the-top guitars add a sense of the band having fun, which has been missing so far. 

We are back to the speed of a plod during “Summer”. Jan plaintively asks: “Will you be my haven?/For the night is long.” It’s a cute enough song, with some elegant guitar work, but doesn’t go anywhere to justify its six minute playing time. When I notice that the next song “Outskirts” is almost ten minutes long I admit to a little tremble of fear. Actually it’s pretty good. Imagine if Nosferatu were to cover Fields of the Nephilim’s “Last Exit For The Lost”. I wish Jan and the boys could have come up with something more original than the “She is falling … We are falling” motif. It’s a surprise they don’t rhyme it with “She is calling … We are calling.” There’s a missed opportunity. 

If “Outskirts” is the end of the gig proper, “Passage” is the encore. It’s a heart-wrenching epic about the absence of a loved one. The language is simple: “I wish you were here … I am so alone” but the music is exquisite and elaborate. I’m willing to risk a journey into melodrama, just to experience intense emotion. A brief guitar solo marks a mini-climax. Then the song builds again. When the curtain falls there’s not a dry eye in the house. I wish the emotional histrionics displayed here had been more in evidence elsewhere on this album.

I like The Great Silence. The frustrating thing is that in certain instances Elusive have got it so right: a great turn of phrase that is equally dramatic and meaningless, the atmosphere of the songs, the look of the photos. I just wonder if the long gestation of this album explains how weighty it sounds. Just because we are depressed doesn’t mean we don’t crave excitement. I hope Elusive record their next album in six months and take all that makes the band great and weld it to some kick-ass enthusiasm and risk-taking excitement. See you in 2009 then.

End Of Trail
Fading Rose
Lost In The Rain
The Great Silence
She's A River
Coming Home

The players:
Tommy Olsson – guitars, programming
Jan K. Barkved – vocals
Kristian Gundersen – guitars

The website: http://www.elusive.no/