When it comes to acrimonious splits within bands, some music fans have long memories. Tending to side with one party over the other, many loyal devotees can either be unwilling or simply unable to let go of the past no matter how much water has passed under the bridge in the meantime. The faint hope of some future reconciliation usually remains among the embittered faithful but when death becomes part of the story a grudge often turns into something unforgivable and can last a lifetime.
One act unfortunately familiar with this situation is Los Angeles founded Goth rockers Christian Death. Named as a play on words derived from the designer brand Christian Dior, the band was the brainchild of Californian singer and pioneer of the early gothic rock and deathrock scenes, Rozz Williams. After a couple of false dawns, Williams restarted the act, recruiting new members including guitarist Valor Kand who, after Williams left in 1985, went on to front the band himself. This, coupled with a legal dispute over the use of the band’s name drew the ire of many fans who saw the former frontman as the only true leader, an opinion to remain forever unchanged for some when the iconic artist died in 1998.
Against the wishes of many, Kand, along with Dutch singer and bassist Maitri Nicolai continued under the Christian Death banner but after 2000’s Born Again Anti-Christian (Candlelight Records) and a successful tour with British gothic black metal act Cradle of Filth the band were able to begin moving forwards, 2007’s American Inquisition and 2015’s The Root of All Evilution leaving only their most fervid detractors grumbling somewhere off in the distance.
Returning after a seven year break, fifteenth studio Evil Becomes Rule (Season of Mist) opens portentously, Valor crooning “abandon all your hope all who enter here” on opener ‘The Alpha and the Omega’, a song of understated verses which explode into life with fuzzy distortion and Maitri’s howling backing vocals. ‘New Messiah’ is infused with a sleazy crawl similar to ‘Pussy Liquor’ by Rob Zombie before Maitri takes the lead on the eighties gothic punk of ‘Elegant Sleeping’ and the funereal ‘Beautiful’, her voice complimenting Valor on the more commercial deathrock of ‘Blood Moon’ while the pair unify on the baleful dirge of ‘Abraxas We Are’. ‘The Warning’ is a schizophrenic departure into pulsing gothic punk, grinding riffs and quirky samples. ‘Rise and Shine’ sounds like Nick Cave singing Draconian Times era Paradise Lost. With the album drawing to a close, the wailing discordance of the title track turns into the thunderous melancholy of ‘Who Am I (Part 1)’, the vocals on ‘Who Am I (Part 2)’ performed by musician KWA-B.
For some, bygones can never be bygones but for the rest, Christian Death continues be the source of much dark enjoyment. Owing much to acts such as Bauhaus, TSOL and 45 Grave as well as the likes of Type O Negative and Danzig, Evil Becomes Rule is a fine example of classic deathrock with a modern touch and some surprises along the way.
7 / 10