Homes for the Recently Deceased

Here’s a house-listing to tempt the most ardent VampireFreaks user! For a mere $225,000 you can pick up a modest one-bed, one-bath property in the charming neighbourhood of Arundel Village, Baltimore that’s hiding (not very effectively) a dark secret from the world.

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Storm Constantine, 1956 – 2021

It is with sadness we note the passing of author and publisher Storm Constantine, who passed away from a long illness on Thursday 14th January 2021.

A dark and creative author, and a notable member of the UK goth and alternative scene, many have been expressing their grief as well as their appreciation for the detailed mythical worlds she created. Her writing career truly began with the publication of The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit in 1987 – the beginning of the Wraeththu Series, a complex post-apocalyptic, alternate reality fantasy series. It would be revisited and explored in depth many times over the years since with further novels, anthologies and short stories set in the world for which she was best known.

In 2003 Constantine founded Immanion Press, a publishing house with the rights to her previous works (released through Tor in the US and MacDonald in the UK) which were becoming harder to access, as well as a lack of interested British publishers for her newer material of which she was a prolific producer.

As well as her own work Immanion Press published other authors, including most notably the equally creative and award-winning author Tanith Lee. Constantine worked as an editor throughout her life, in addition to her own writing, and even mentored many budding writers who began with fan-fiction set in her Wraeththu universe – with some having work published in anthologies and short story form through Immanion.
Additionally, Constantine was an experienced occult author with many non-fiction titles to her name and a fascination with Ancient Egypt as well.

Fans and friends have been paying their respects and sharing their memories online. World-famous fantasty author Neil Gaiman updated his Tumblr recalling his convention encounters with her, the respect both he and Terry Pratchett had for her work, and noting the world was a poorer place without her. On Facebook, goth scribe Mick Mercer, penned a brief but heartfelt goodbye to the author. Many more have been sharing their grief, memories and appreciation on Twitter.

Storm Constantine passed away at the age of 64 with her husband Jim Hibbert by her side.

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“Give Me Walls” by Cold in Berlin: Ten Years On

Whenever I’ve given interviews myself, and I’ve been asked about the music, I’ve always extolled the merits of the dark indie music scene in London. In the very vanguard of that sound, pioneers in reintroducing smart, sexy, deadly music to goth in the UK, is Cold in Berlin.

Cold in Berlin make hypnotic, dark and spiky music with mesmerizing and terrifying vocals that had me hooked from the start. Ten years ago today their debut album hit and this tireless band have been creating, performing and releasing ever since…

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Floodland by The Sisters of Mercy

There’s no denying Andrew Eldritch is a consummate showman, but to schedule his latest album to release on Friday 13th? The man who scorns the dreaded ‘goth’ tag, picking such a shock-horror date. I can’t credit it, and instead trust sources who say Floodland – the second studio album from The Sisters of Mercy – was released on 16th November, 1987.

That the compulsive-controller lead singer would act on such minor details should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the making of First and Last and Always, the debut album that had literally laid Eldritch low in his efforts to make it ‘just so’.

Going into Floodland, he has all that and more – he’d vanquished the traitorous Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams, denying them The Sisters of Mercy’s name for their own efforts, with the tactical release of the ‘Gift’ EP (Gift in German, of which Eldritch is a first-class speaker, means poison).

In their place, he’d recruited the beautiful and bad-ass bassist Patricia Morrison, formerly of the Gun Club and Fur Bible, to join him and the ever-loyal Doktor Avalanche – but her contribution is disputed and uncertain, even by the inscrutable standards of The Sisters of Mercy. Session guitarists take the place of potentially rebellious bandmates, no tours are scheduled to trouble the performance-averse singer, and legendary producer Jim Steinman is on hand to help produce This Corrosion – the eleven-minute anthem extravaganza of a lead single, that storms the charts like no Sisters single had before. With the Meatloaf producer in his corner, Eldritch can bully the WEA label for money, whilst Floodland is issued on the Merciful Release label directly under his control.

From his continental fortress of Hamburg, von Eldritch is in an unassailable position of power, and Floodland shows this confidence and security throughout. Regardless of chart performances or fan accolades, this album contains the best-known Sisters tracks bar none. Tracks like Lucretia, My Reflection are signal examples of The Sisters of Mercy, continuing to dominate goth club dancefloors thirty years on as well as being a staple part of the band’s encore set when they (infrequently) tour.

For me, I was hooked in by that track when I first started going to clubs – a hypnotic, arrogant blast of rock and roll sneer that propelled me to the dancefloor. When I got the album however, it was the quieter songs that put me fully under the spell of The Sisters of Mercy, all chilling synths and robotic drumming with Eldritch a murmur rather than a howl.
There’s the post-cigarette, post-orgasm musing of Flood I and Flood II, intertwining water and death, Soviet-issue nuclear holocaust and ephemeral love picked up in Hamburg bars. Or the aching heartbreak lost in an icy blizzard (of fallout or drugs – take your pick) of Driven Like The Snow. Or the incomparable honesty of 1959 – literally, incomparable; I can think of no other song by Andrew Eldritch to compare to it.

Andrew Eldritch, on the cross but mainly just cross.

It is Von at his apogee, and the master manipulator is in his element, dispensing punishing tirades and introspective homilies on heartbreak, artfully hidden behind his vague, many-headed hydra style lyrics.

Like one of his heroes, David Bowie, Eldritch the persona has changed as well. No longer the ‘doomy’ prophet of apocalypse, all scruffy-crow black and cowboy-hatted frontiersman of post-punk, no. Floodland-era Eldritch is the leatherclad rock’n’roll postapocalyptic Messiah, seizing control of a shattered society, assassinating rivals and telling you exactly how it’s going to be, from his lair within the nuked remains of the reptile house, London SW1A. Or the urbane imperial factotum, manipulating events in the British Territories with treaty in one hand and sword-cane in the other, an unimpeachable Foreign Office representative in cool safari white.

Whoever he is, whatever incarnation the Eldritch has assumed for this chapter of The Sisters of Mercy story, Floodland is his success story writ large. It isn’t the difficult and contested production of the debut album, nor is the uneven and anticlimatic ‘final’ release, Vision Thing. As discussed above, this album is a true conjunction of forces and circumstances that define Andrew Eldritch and therefore this band and this release.

“All the band’s a stage, and all the members merely players,” to paraphrase the Bard. “They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.” Spiggy Taylor here plays the part of Andrew von Eldritch to its peak, ensuring Floodland a legacy as the finest album every crafted by The Sisters of Mercy.

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Black Cat Radio: Interview with Rosie Garland

Now that we’ve been renewed for another six episode ‘series’, it’s time to finally promote Black Cat Radio! Hosted by myself and academic Dr Claire Nally, Black Cat Radio is an hour-long broadcast of music, news and discussion on goth – as well as sibling genres like punk, metal, industrial and other alternative styles.

It’s hosted by the kind people at Star & Shadow Cinema, a DIY community collective project in the bijou enclave of Heaton, Newcastle. Every second Wednesday at 8PM GMT we transmit the show online – it was pre-recorded until our latest episode when we finally risked it all and went out live to our listeners. Each show is then recorded and available to listen again so it also sidles into the ‘podcast’ category if you like.

As well as going live, we have another first when we return on Wednesday 18th November. Dr Nally sat down for a (Zoom) chat with the exceptionally multi-talented Rosie Garland – author, performer, compere, the very first writer in residence of the gothic splendour that is the John Rylands Library, and of course singer with famed post-punk band The March Violets, amongst her very many skills.

She and Dr Nally talked about her first poetry anthology, What Girls Do In The Dark which the publishers describe as “rooted in the realm of gothic imagination, mythology and the uncanny. It contains magnitudes and magic, feminist fables starstruck with science and astronomy.” You’ll have to tune in on the 18th for the next episode of Black Cat Radio to hear what they discussed though!

What Girls Do In The Dark is out now via Nine Arches Press and can be purchased directly from them or ordered through your local booksellers if you wish to avoid a certain multinational online vendor on this occasion!

There was also an online launch of the book featuring not only Rosie’s presence but additional guest writers Ian Humphreys and Tania Hershman – all from 7:30PM GMT on Thursday 12th November. You can watch it on YouTube here!

We intend for this to be a regular feature on Black Cat Radio, interviews and conversations with creators from across the alternative arena as part of our programming. In the meantime you can also be in touch with your requests, shout-outs, and even breaking new music as I try to catch up with the tidal wave of submissions from energetic new artists that always floods my inbox.

Ensure you’re listening every second Wednesday, on the Star and Shadow website, and join us in the chatroom to let us know just where on the gothosphere you’re tuning in from!

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