Incredible as it may seem, the whole ‘Goth’ music scene is still a thing – that didn’t end at some point in 1991 along with Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Vision Thing’ album. Okay, it may have splintered off into the much divisive industrial based ‘Cybergoth’ (EBM) genres that are primarily synthesiser based which bare a passing resemblance to dance music; but that would be splitting crimped hairs. Either way, the Goth music world may have noisy guitars, drums and vocals – just like Metal – but that’s strictly where it ends. Use Google and let your fingers do the walking.
The Danse Society originally formed in 1980, and are one of the original Post Punk/Darkwave bands that came out at the time. They achieved moderate success and are highly respected amongst the Trad Goth world, releasing four albums in the form of ‘Seduction’, ‘Heaven Is Waiting’, and finally ‘Looking Through’ in 1986 before they disbanded. Key tracks of worthy of note are ‘Danse, Move’, ‘Heaven Is Waiting’. ‘We’re So Happy’ and the delightful 1980s Alan Partridge bass-able cheesy earworm that is ‘Say It Again’. These and other tracks have also been found on many Goth music compilations the world over.
Which brings me onto a new album by The Danse Society, or rather – a form of it involving one of the original members in the case of original drummer Paul Gilmartin. To keep a long story short, essentially a ‘Queensryche’ scenario has evolved with the band; there’s two versions but they keep the same name. Paul Gilmartin and David Whittaker left to form this version that I’m reviewing – recruiting vocalist Brian O’ Shaughnessy, bassist Ade Clark, Keyboardist Darren Guy and Elliot Wheeler on guitars. While Paul Nash, Maethelyiah and company continue in a different version.
“Reincarnated” sticks with the sound that originally got me into The Danse Society in the first place. The typical Post punk/Darkwave components of chunky bass guitars, shimmering icy guitar chords, polyrhythmic drums and in the case of these guys backed up and fleshed out by atmospheric synths – which was the key defining component of the band that made them stand out. The starting track ‘Message In The Wind’ starts with a spoken word intro, and then come the synths, stomping drums, a layer of icy guitar chords and the soaring vocals of Brian O’Shaughnessy; which reminds me very much of a strange genetic experiment involving the vocal pipes of Ian Astbury, Ronnie James Dio, and James LaBrie. To the Goths that are already in the know, this track was on the ‘Scarey Tales’ album involving Maethelyiah – but I feel this version works better as it involves a level instantly catchy bombast, while the original felt somewhat muted.
For existing fans of The Danse Society, this album also incorporates new versions of old tunes – in the form of ‘Belief’, ‘Red Light’, ‘Come Inside’, and ‘Seduction’. This may sound like money for old rope, but it makes for compelling listening. In fact, this version of ‘Belief’ has been radically altered and quite enjoyable – but some out of there may feel they have broken something that might not have needed to be fixed.
The new tracks on the album are very promising prospects, and I feel that Brian‘s vocals are especially decent. ‘Child of Paradise’ demonstrates this perfectly, soaring over the top of chiming guitar jangles, bass, and keyboard flourishes. ‘Into The Grey’ dials back the vocals slightly and reminds me of The Danse Society of old, while ‘All Things Shine’ practically drips with soaring emotive moments. ‘More Than Dreams’ is a glorious catchy number that reminds me of The Cult, with plenty of stomp and drive. The album is textbook Post Punk for the 21st century, that gives a nod to the bands of the past while keeping a foot in a distinctly exciting future. What is also remarkable about the album is the crisp and clear mastering, which demonstrates their musical chops very well indeed with the composition as a whole gelling together nicely. In some ways, imagine if Dream Theater came from a parallel universe and were a Post Punk band – which may help those ‘Goth scene curious’ Metal fans who like a bit of The Mission, Sisters of Mercy, and The Cult now and again.
Curiously, the closing song ‘Towers’ features the original vocalist Steve Rawlings who came back while the band reformed in 2010. This gives the listener an intriguing reference point to compare Brian against. Depending on your view, this may feel like a disjointed filler that isn’t needed and best kept for a 3 track EP/single of some form. Despite the fact I love Steve Rawlings vocals and that he was the original vocalist in the first place.
To conclude, I’m extremely impressed by this new album and particular version of The Danse Society. However, the die hard Trad Goths may have divided opinions about it; and it’s highly likely that they’ll be at odds with Brian‘s vocal style – as they usually can’t abide metal bands and that sort of thing. Also, there are strong political divides between which version of The Danse Society they prefer – similar to that of die hard Duran Duran fans that saw A-ha and Wham as rivals in the 1980s, to draw a comparison.
Personally, I feel these guys should be given a chance and have an extremely compelling, and beautifully recorded album that is more in tune with the spirit of the original band’s style from the 1980s.
I look forward to how this version will pan out, and I wish these guys every success.
The Danse Society – Facebook Page