In some ways the original gothic rock scene couldn’t have happened anywhere other than right here in the United Kingdom.
Its roots in post-punk made sure of that but there was something in the arty eccentricities, the drama, that intersected with a very British outlook to create a cartoonish scene that was classy as fuck.
But goth also denotes darkness, and where better to find that than in the Swedish underground?
My introduction to Then Comes Silence was relatively recent but the connection was instant. Their death-obsessed fourth album, Blood, quickly made an impression.
Now, album number five has arrived to remind us what the Scandinavian goth scene has to offer.
Where a great many modern goth outfits fall short, Then Comes Silence have the two essential areas of quality in abundant supply on this album.
The music and production are fatter and yet more organic than most of their contemporaries. The bass lines and guitar riffs wipe the floor with the competition.
Those bass lines are pounded out by the fingers of Alex Svenson, also the band’s vocalist and the man behind their second big advantage: vocal delivery that would be as good a fit in early Bauhaus as it is in Then Comes Silence in 2020.
Let’s get this out of the way early: Machine is even better than Blood. Opener ‘We Lose The Night’ might have been a successful single in years gone by, possessing as it does the essential component parts of a hit clambering out of the undergrowth.
‘Dark End’ is a catchy number laced with tar and it would be at home on any post-punk compilation from the late 1970s onwards. The atmospheric ‘I Gave You Everything’ might better suit The Crow soundtrack but it’s every bit as good.
The album’s mid-point is ‘Apocalypse Flare’, one of its shorter songs. It’s dominated by an undeniable, kooky chorus and the momentum provided by Svenson’s metronomic bass.
‘In Your Name’ is propelled by a groovy drum beat and a simple but catchy hook. All the while, Svenson’s bass sounds like a modern remake of a classic Sega Mega Drive game.
‘Glass’ begins with those same four strings used very differently, in this case to create a funky toe-tapper of a bass riff that returns in the chorus to make it arguably the best song on the record.
The album’s penultimate track is by far its longest and most experimental. ‘Kill It’ is a different spin entirely on a genre that can, at its laziest, be generously described as samey.
‘Kill It’ is a departure, a sound deconstructed and rebuilt using all the same bricks laid in a different order. It’s slow and methodical and doomy, and Svenson is again the dual-purpose star of the show.
Machine is thick with quality and blessed with a difficult balance perfectly struck. It’s dark but it’s hooky as hell, and it blends an unapologetically gothic spirit with the authentic sonic chops of a rock band.
In a word, it’s accomplished. Svenson and Then Comes Silence know how to write a pitch-black poppy firecracker and also how to build an album of them.
Machine is the culmination of that craft and if anyone in gothic rock, darkwave, coldwave or any other adjacent subgenre gets close to it this year then I’ll be amazed and delighted.
Machine will be released on 13th March on Metropolis Records.