Astonishing Tales of the Sea (Independent)
If you doubt that Vancouver has a goth scene, visit the Purple Onion on a Sunday evening, when those who favour Black Satin nail gloss and PVC come out to stare at their shoes while the DJ spins the latest Sprockets-worthy darkwave tunes. What the city doesn't have is a significant number of bands flying the gothic standard. Sure, we had Mr. Underhill, but that now-defunct horror-punk trio worshipped at the altar of the B-movieí‚ inspired Misfits, with only an occasional nod in the direction of Bauhaus. Radio Berlin has never been coy about its love affair with Joy Division and the Cure, but the members of that particular act would likely rail against attempts to pigeonhole it as a mere '80s-goth throwback.
A Spectre Is Haunting Europe, on the other hand, is probably perfectly comfortable carrying the death-pop torch. The band's bio, after all, is printed on parchment-style paper and features a photo of the trio's members silhouetted against a blood-crimson sky. Medieval woodcuts of dancing skeletons fill the right-hand margin, and the text acknowledges the group's debt to the likes of Christian Death and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
This seven-song disc is a virtual bat cave full of Robert Smithí‚ approved rolling bass lines and squealing Daniel Ash guitar skronk. The songs are mostly up-tempo thrashers; this isn't draw-the-blinds-and-play-with-razorblades goth, but music more suited to donning your finest midnight-black regalia to before heading out to prowl the twilight streets of Prague with your fellow vampires in tow. The production is a trifle thin and demo-ish at times, but this a self-recorded and self-released effort, so I'm willing to cut these kids some slack, especially since singer-guitarist Jean Hébíƒ ¨rt delivers the finest portentous goth-guy crooning since the heyday of Peter Murphy.