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.
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.