One would imagine, given my own proclivities, that any new release promising camp melodrama and Sunset Strip sleaze set to a soundtrack of gothic rock gloom would be exactly what the musical doctor ordered. Hence my excitement at the prospect of Death of Darkness, the latest album from the self-styled Helsinki vampires, The 69 Eyes. Before pressing play I found myself already imagining a nostalgic trip to 1990 and The Sisters of Mercy’s classic Vision Thing record.
Alas, it was not meant to be. Death in Darkness has neither the requisite proportions of Death nor darkness to meet my goth-meets-Hollywood expectations.
Leather, neon and snowclad castles: what more could you expect from Finnish goth/glam legends?
But, in all honesty, following this first impression, I revisited that aforementioned outing by Andrew Eldritch and, while a few absolute bangers – “More,” “Detonation Boulevard,” or “Doctor Jeep,” on top of the title track – did emerge from Vision Thing, the last official ‘album’ by the Sisters, it was a marked drop in quality from its predecessors, Floodland and First and Last and Always. So perhaps my own expectations were tainted beforehand, and a repeat listening to Death and Darkness was necessary. After all, this is the band responsible for Wasting the Dawn (the album and the song, in 1999), a goth dancefloor classic to this day.
Vampirism and the Hollywood night collide on “Drive.”
And, while it still isn’t enough to make my aging goth heart beat faster, The 69 Eyes have made a pretty decent album of rockabilly-tinged glam-meets-goth. Downtempo duets like “This Murder Takes Two” (featuring tattoo artist slash singer Kat Von D, whose debut record, Love Made Me Do It, was reviewed here) contrast pleasingly with stadium-style rockers like “California,” but the net result is far too cerebral to please the fashion-focused Hot Topic Instagram gothlets and their three-second attention spans but also lacks the nihilism to grab the attention of the older coffin kids who actually have the money and interest to buy albums, but will probably just invest in Type O Negative re-releases.
Beaches and goth glamour aren’t quite the juxtaposition one expects, but who am I to judge?
Overall, Death in Darkness is a good showcase of the band’s career so far: the Hanoi Rocks early days are well represented in the guitar tone and licks of “Drive” or “Call Me Snake” (not to mention the ripping lead on “Sundown”), but there’s also the gentler, melodic gloom of “Dying in the Night” and “Something Real” recalling their turn-of-the-millennium goth heyday. But the sum of all parts truly is an expression of their more recent goth ‘n roll forays, and the crooning rockabilly vocal style Jyrki 69 has perfected is equal parts Elvis, Lux Interior and Lurch.
The Southern Gothic murder ballad style of “This Murder Takes Two” is the standout single, in my opinion: appropriately dark and a completely fresh surprise.
From a studio perspective, the arrangements are also evidence of three decades of songwriting chops coming to bear in well-crafted compositions, on top of really well-balanced mastering that keeps the guitars front and center. Admittedly, a stronger bass presence might deliver more punch, but crystalline trebles do pay homage to the guitar tone of The Cult or Fields of the Nephilim pretty effectively. All in all, despite my initial misgivings, Death In Darkness has grown on me: and while it may not ever secure a permanent position in my goth playlist, it will definitely stick around for long enough to leave an impression.
Death of Darkness Track Listing:
1. Death of Darkness
3. Gotta Rock
4. This Murder Takes Two
6. Call Me Snake
7. Dying in the Night
8. Something Real
Run Time: 36:48
Release Date: April 21, 2023
Record Label: Atomic Fire Records