Despite being of an age where my teenage years could’ve been immersed in the 80s golden age of gothic rock, that style of music never featured on my radar. Instead, I started my teens with my head full of heavy metal and thrash, and by the end of high school was immersed with international bands such as Pixies and Sonic Youth, and acts from the local Flying Nun label.
Gothic rock, as far as I was aware, was what was listened to by those unattainable, unapproachable girls with the amazing hair and make-up; and was as mysterious as those girls.
Fortunately, a few years later I moved into a flat with someone who had a fair collection of gothic rock CDs. From his Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim CDs I quickly expanded my listening and collection, and it’s been a style I’ve loved since.
The Eden House draw a direct link from that era, with former Fields of the Nephilim bassist Tony Pettitt joining with This Burning Effigy’s multi-instrumentalist Stephen Carey to initiate a collaborative gothic rock project, drawing upon a range of further musicians and female vocalists.
With their third album Half Life, The Eden House have solidified around the core of Pettitt, Carey and former Nefilim drummer Simon Rippin. Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera provides angular guitar and walls of noise on a few tracks, and Bob Loveday provides violin and viola textures across the album.
The sometimes propulsive and darkly rocking, sometimes ethereal and throbbing music created by this core provides the backing for a range of superb female vocalists and lyricists, with Laura Bennett and Jordan Reyne providing the lion’s share of the songs (as well as being part of the band’s live line up on their recent tour).
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of Reyne, and it’s a joy hearing her singing outside of her more stripped back and looped solo material. Backed by an, at times, huge gothic rock sound of thundering drums, melodic bass and blistering guitar, the three songs she contributes are standout tracks. ‘Indifference’ has Reyne’s vocals harmonising with Bennett’s over a ominous, broad palate of eerie rhythms and reverb laden guitar sound from Manzanera, a perfect backing as it heads into one of those choruses Reyne does so well; her voice dripping with venom as it soars.
With ‘The Tempest’ Reyne’s singing over a thrusting, repetitive gothic rocker, driven melodically by the bass while the guitar slashes in from below, drenched in echo. It answers the question I’d never thought to ask: what if Jordan Reyne sung for Fields of the Nephilim? Turns out I quite like the answer.
But it’s ‘Butterflies’ that might be my favourite of Reyne’s contributions – perhaps because it adheres to a sound not too dissimilar to Reyne’s normal solo work? Layered and looped vocals, over a synth-heavy backing, with Reyne’s voice climbing from a whisper to a defiant, open-throated declaration of “you’ll get nothing from me.”
‘Wasted On Me’ is coming from a similar place, that dark, impetus-laden style of rock made famous by those big gothic rock bands of the 80s, and here Laura Bennett’s sweet, husky voice providing an ethereal timbre to the rhythm that makes it almost impossible to not to be caught in the otherworldly energy of the song.
Quiet moments abound, too, with songs such as ‘Hunger’ and ‘First Light’ seeing the album’s sound slip into a more electronic sound, with dark dance music rhythms. But the album is at its best when its layering the gorgeous vocals onto driving rhythms, melodic bass and reverbed guitars.
And Eden House are absolute best when the combine both those elements into a massive song like ‘City of Goodbyes,’ where dark and pretty builds into a crashing, throbbing gothic rock wall of noise, underlying some spine-tingling vocals from Anathema’s Lee Douglas.
Those are the core ingredients of the “classic” gothic rock sound, a sound that is still alive and well, and being used to create excellent albums like this. A sound that, as a track builds to chorus either beautiful or angry, can’t back raise the hairs on the back of the neck just as much as it drives your feet to move or body to sway.
Beer match: 8 Wired’s ‘The Big Smoke’ smoked porter would suit this perfectly. The Eden House’s music makes me think of the dark, full, layered porter body, while the beechwood smoked malt taste makes me think of this album’s husky vocals.