Following my recent enforced 3-month layoff from attending live shows I really wanted something special to usher in my 43rd year of going to see bands, so, after finishing off 2022 with the symphonic goth pomp of the Death Songbook, what could be more suitable than a night in the company of Swedish goth rockers Then Comes Silence, playing the final night of a short two date UK jaunt in conjunction with the Reptile club.
It’s the fact that this was going to be a dedicated goth night that really got me excited about a trip over the Severn estuary, with the promise of a night spent drenched in dry ice chicken dancing my way into the wee small hours instantly taking me back to my days of going to see the likes of The Cramps, Alien Sex Fiend and Sigue Sigue Sputnik in the mid-eighties, when going to watch a band was just as much about meeting the characters that attended the shows (in fact its how I first met RPM’s main man Dominic Daley) as it was as seeing the bands themselves. But would there be a goth youth here in the 2020s to help keep the flame alive I wondered?
Entering Zed Alley I really need not have worried as with the mandatory dry ice lapping under the door was already a reassuring sign, once past security I immediately felt exactly how I did back in (what some might consider to be) the scene’s heyday, albeit these days I myself feel more like how Colin Robinson (grown up version not the child entertainer version) must have felt when walking into Nadja’s nightclub. Reptile DJ Vade Retro is blasting out an eclectic selection of electro tunes via the club’s excellent sound system, and yes indeed the next generation of goths are all present and correct and enjoying the ambience (and very reasonably priced libations) of the club itself.
Of course, it’s the live bands we’re all here to see tonight and Aux Animaux provides the kind of Nice Inch Nails to Bowie baton pass that occurred when those two giants once toured the US together, by which I mean the Swedish hauntwave star sets the scene perfectly for what is to follow by providing a kind of Danielle Dax meets Bjork by way of the (song)book of the dead set of ambient theremin driven electro tunes, something that holds the audience in perfect reverence throughout. The fact that this is an artiste singing over backing tracks would probably have most classic rock heads foaming at the mouth, but to a goth audience this is all par for the course and the reaction Aux Animaux receives come the end of her short set is one of total respect.
Something I have long since held for tonight’s headliners Then Comes Silence, the Stockholm-based gothic post-punk rockers, ever since I first heard their ‘III – Nyctophilian’ album all the way back in 2015. This is my first time seeing them live though as their intended 2020 UK tour (which included a Cardiff date) in support of their excellent ‘Machine’ album got blown out by the Covid pandemic, but having lost guitarist Mattias Ruejas ahead of a US tour towards the end of 2022 I was hoping by high expectations for tonight really weren’t about to be dashed after all.
Hitting the venue’s tiny but (for a trio) perfectly sized stage with ‘Flashing Pangs of Love’ from the band’s 2017 ‘Blood’ was certainly a surprise as I was half expecting them to open with the number that actually followed it, ‘Tickets To Funerals’, from last year’s amazing ‘Hunger’ album, but what this did was allow the sound to level out, and for the backing tracks used on certain songa (like on the latter) to really cut through and make a difference to the overall sound.
Singer/bassist Alex Svenson is also the man in control of the box of electronic gadgets and whilst he is a man of few words between songs he’s someone who lets the songs do all the talking with the likes of ‘Apocalypse Flare’, ‘Chain’ and ‘Worm’ all sounding totally imperious here tonight. The ‘Eighties’ (excuse the intended pun) Killing Joke influence I’ve mentioned in previous RPM reviews is also huge tonight thanks to guitarist Hugo Zombie, someone who literally doesn’t stop moving even when things slow down for an epic Bunnymen-esque rendition of ‘Mercury’ whilst turbo-riffing his way through the likes of ‘We Lose The Night’ and possibly my all-time favourite track by the band, ‘Rise To The Bait’.
When drummer Jonas Fransson (who is also Mr Aux Animaux) has some unexpected trouble with his snare stand it actually acts as a natural comfort break for a few (myself included) and the sounds that emanate from the remaining two members helping plug the inevitable gap evokes memories of Cronos’ bass solo during the Seventh Date of Hell tour, yup even when they are messing around these guys exude an air of doom and melancholic cool many can only dream of conjuring up.
As with all great gigs though they all unfortunately have to end, and after an intense ‘We Lose The Night’ its left to ‘Warm Like Blood’ and the epic ‘The Dead Cry For No One’ to send us off into the cold night air with just the echo of ‘Bella Lugosi’s Dead’ still ringing in our ears as DJ Vade continued the party well into the witching hour.
Gigs like this really don’t come along that often that’s for sure, tonight was something very special indeed, and reading just hours later that Reptile may now not be moving forward in 2023 due to a variety of reasons involving their current London haunt, it makes me truly sad to hear this. Let’s hope that after 15 years of promoting bands and club nights like tonight this really isn’t the end for them, because as tonight proved goth is very much still a musical force to be reckoned with and is also one that seemingly never grows old. Timeless stuff indeed!
Author: Johnny Hayward