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Music / The Sisters of Mercy

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In the temple of love, shine like thunder,
In the temple of love, cry like rain,
In the temple of love, hear my calling,
In the temple of love, hear my name.
— "Temple of Love"

The Sisters of Mercy are a rock band formed in Leeds, England in 1977 when guitarist Gary Marx and then drummer Andrew Eldritch "just wanted to hear themselves on the radio." Widely regarded as Goth Rock by their fans, but Eldritch denounced this label himself, preferring to call The Sisters an "Industrial Groove Machine."

The band's lineup is ever-changing, with the exception of Andrew Eldritch (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Doktor Avalanche (a drum machine). Past members include but are not limited to: Ben Gunn (who left to play in a band called Torch in 1983), Gary Marx (who left to form Ghost Dance in 1985), Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams (who left to form The Mission in the same year), Patricia Morrison (who left after Andrew didn't pay her for playing on Floodland), Tony James (ex-Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik, who left after Vision Thing).

They were on a hiatus between 1993-1996, and they've been back together ever since. People don't seem to know this, however, because Andrew Eldritch refuses to release any of the new material he's written and recorded in the past 17 years — enough new songs to fill a couple of albums. They still tour frequently though, for what it's worth, and play these new songs live often.


  • First and Last and Always (1985)
  • Floodland (1987)
  • Vision Thing (1990)

You could also count Gift, which was released under the pseudonym "The Sisterhood" in 1985 by Eldritch, Morrison, Avalanche, Lucas Fox, James Ray, and Alan Vega in the midst of the legal dispute between Eldritch on the one side and Hussey and Adams on the other. The album secured Eldritch's legal right to continue as The Sisters of Mercy while Hussey and Adams were forced to rename their band to "The Mission" ("The Mission UK" in the US, as there had been another band with that name).

Somewhat more importantly, they also have Some Girls Wander by Mistake, a compilation of (most) of the singles and EPs they released during the early '80s before they actually had a recording contract. It contains many of their best (and a few of their worst, and they'll tell you that) songs. None of these albums sounds anything like each other, except for Eldritch's Darth Vader ish vocal style. Some Girls was about icy, mechanical drum machine beats coupled with deep bass and high end, minimal guitar riffs ("Alice" is notable because... Well, because it's awesome, but also because the riff is almost always mistaken for AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" from 8 years later. The riffs are both one string wonders using the same string). Note that Eldritch plays the drums quite horrendously on "The Damage Done," although most of the other stuff on the album use a drum machine. Most of the Sisters' imitators (and they have many) tend to use the early Some Girls Wander by Mistake stuff as their template.

First and Last and Always was made at a tumultuous time in the band's career, which involved Andrew Eldritch out of his mind on amphetamines for large chunks of the sessions, stringing himself out until he had to be hospitalised, heaps of material being left by the wayside (some of it later reworked by Marx and Hussey to be used in Ghost Dance and The Mission respectively), and culminated in guitarist Gary Marx leaving the band in a huff around the time of the album's release. For this album, they tried for a warmer sound with more sophisticated guitar pop and less challenging lyrics. It's also the most stereotypically gothic of the releases and has a large cult following for it.

Floodland, produced when the band was reduced to Andrew Eldritch, a drum machine, the New York Choral Society, and whoever else was around (Patricia Morrison on bass and a session guitarist for "This Corrosion"), is heavily synthesized, lushly (and bombastically) produced, and can be summed up as "industrial gothspel." It's also the one that depends most on Eldritch being a singer and a lyricist. It's their best selling album.

Vision Thing is a fairly straight (except maybe for "Ribbons") guitar rock album with a political bent that tends to split fans down the middle. It's currently the band's last studio release (barring two new-ish tracks on the compilation album A Slight Case of Overbombing and the gag album Go Figure submitted in '97 under the name SSV to escape a record contract, but never released) after Eldritch started arguing with his record label. This means their last studio album was released in 1990 and their last released studio recording came out in 1992, but the band has kept on trucking on and off since then, still primarily centred around Eldritch and Doktor Avalanche.

Oddly enough, the most depressing song they've ever done was a Hot Chocolate coverNote .

Associated Tropes:

  • After the End: The Music video for "This Corrosion" takes place in very bleak post-apocalyptic future that wouldn't look out of place in the Terminator films.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Andrew believes so and finds it really appalling, which is why he uses Doktor Avalanche, believing that it's more ruthless and monstrous.
    "There's something about the American public taken as a whole that requires some sort of animal at the back thwacking things. I can't understand it. I've always thought that The Doktor was a much more ruthless and monstrous idea."
  • Author Tract: "Vision Thing" being a song about American politics. What do you expect from a song named after a famous George H. W. Bush quote?
  • Berserk Button: Andrew Eldritch has been known to lose his shit when anybody refers to the Sisters as Goth, even though the entire goth community regards them as one of the most iconic goth bands ever.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Marian" has an entire stanza in German.
  • Broken Record: God help him, Eldritch will drill a chorus into your head.
    • Some day, some day, some day, some day, DOMINION! Some say prayers, some say prayers, I say mine!
    • "HEY NOW, HEY NOW NOW, SING THIS CORROSION TO ME." Lather, rinse, repeat.
    • My heartland heartland heartland, my heartland heartland heartland, my heartland heartland heartland...
  • City of Canals: Eldritch lived in Hamburg while writing Floodland, and named the album in reference to the city's excess of water.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Vision Thing", at least compared to the Sisters' other songs.
  • Companion Cube: The Sisters have always had two official members since the beginning: lead singer Andrew Eldritch, and Doktor Avalanche, the name given to their drum machine.
  • Cool Shades: Eldritch always has some.
  • Cover Version: "1969" by The Stooges, "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones (on Some Girls Wander By Mistake), "Sister Ray" by the Velvet Underground, "Ghost Rider" by Suicide, the Garage Rock staple "Louie Louie," "The Sisters of Mercy" by Leonard Cohen (a live staple), "Emma" by Hot Chocolate (a bonus track on the 2006 copy of Floodland), and Gimme Gimme by ABBA and "Jolene" by Dolly Parton are live favourites.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Andrew.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Every picture of the band. Really.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Logic" is about someone addicted to amphetamines, who basically regards getting high as the only thing that makes his life worth living. Even worse, it's likely autobiographical, as Andrew was addicted at the time.
  • Epic Rocking: "Some Kind of Stranger," "Dominion / Mother Russia," "Flood I," "This Corrosion," "Flood II," "Driven Like the Snow," "Colours," "Never Land (Full Length)," "More," "I Was Wrong," "Phantom," "Temple of Love (Extended Version)," and the extended version of "Lucretia My Reflection."
  • Goth Rock: The Sisters of Mercy is, for all intents and purposes, one of the most influential goth bands and has inspired the gothic scene aesthetically and musically. Andrew Eldritch, who adamantly insists that his band is not goth, says in an interview:
    "I'm constantly confronted by representatives of popular culture who are far more goth than we, yet I have only to wear black socks to be stigmatised as the demon overlord."
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Especially in their early years.
  • I Am the Band: Eldritch. Especially on Floodland, where the personnel list is basically him, a session guitarist named Eddie Martinez, the New York Choral Society, maybe Patricia Morrison (sources vary on whether she actually played on the album or not) and some additional producers (including no less than Jim "Bat out of Hell" Steinman!).
  • Incoming!: Bellowed by Eldritch at the start and end of "Ribbons."
  • Insistent Terminology: Andrew has routinely rejected associations with the Goth subculture, saying that Sisters of Mercy is "a rock'n'roll band. And a pop band. And an industrial groove machine". This is because they were not popular in the early 1980s post-punk subgenre which the British press labelled Goth. They were also accused of plagiarising Joy Division, who was also marketed as "gothic" in the late 1970s.
  • Intercourse with You: "Some Kind of Stranger" turned from a love song to one of these. There's also "Bury Me Deep", "Ribbons", and "You Could Be the One," a very ironic song of this category.
    • Eldritch has admitted that "Flood" I and II are intended to use flood imagery to evoke this.
    • And then there are the allusions to deflowering in Flood II ("I'll be picking up your petals") and Driven Like The Snow ("cost of the blood on the driven snow"), and all the hallway imagery in Eldritch's lyrics...
  • Looks Like Cesare: Eldritch, and Morrison a bit as well.
  • New Sound Album: The more straightforward rock-oriented Vision Thing, leading to quite a bit of They Changed It, Now It Sucks!.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Ribbons."
  • Omniglot: Eldritch studied French and German literature in Oxford before moving to Leeds around 1978 to study Mandarin, but he left before graduating. He knows French, German, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, and Latin, but forgot the Chinese he learned.
  • One-Woman Song: "Marian" and "Alice."
  • One-Woman Wail: The late Ofra Haza provided one in the re-arranged (i.e. the famous) version of "Temple of Love."
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Mostly on their first album.
  • Precision F-Strike: There's an especially poignant one in "Driven Like the Snow."
  • Pun: "Ribbons" goofs on the title of a classic pop song with the lyric "Love is a many splintered thing."
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Just try getting a straight answer what Patricia Morrison did on Floodland, or even whether she played bass on it after all — Eldritch claims she didn't appear on the album after all, while Morrison says she did but Eldritch re-recorded some of her parts.
  • Record Producer: With the exception of First and Last and Always, which was produced by David Allen (whose work Eldritch and Marx have criticised), Eldritch has had a production credit on all their other albums, which he shared on Floodland with Larry Alexander and Jim Steinman (whose main contribution was recording the gospel choirs for "This Corrosion" and "Dominion / Mother Russia;" Eldritch said Steinman didn't care about anything else and had no other input). Steinman returned on Vision Thing to co-produce and co-write "More" (and later borrowed that song's riff and part of the chorus for Batman: The Musical), and Chris Tsangarides is credited for "When You Don't See Me," but the rest was self-produced.
  • Redemption in the Rain: In "Nine While Nine," the narrator waits out in the rain for a train to come while reflecting on his previous lover.
  • Sampling: "Never Land (A Fragment)" appears to use a sample from "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Sisters lyrics are always about cars, drugs, women, and wars. And Andrew Eldritch himself was an amphetamine user for a good while, leading to the writing of "Amphetamine Logic." every song he ever wrote prior to Floodland.
  • Shout-Out: The band's catchphrase "Tune in, turn on, burn out" is a variation on "Turn on, tune in, drop out," made famous by Timothy Leary, a counter-culture figure from the 1960s.
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Eldritch's speaking voice is noticeably less deep.
  • Soprano and Gravel: The combination of Eldritch's Darth Vader vocals and gospel choirs, especially on "Dominion / Mother Russia," "This Corrosion," and "More."
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: The piano ballad "1959" on Floodland, and to a lesser extent "Something Fast" on Vision Thing.
  • Take That!: "This Corrosion" is a huge piss-take at Eldritch's former bandmates, as is "Jihad" from The Sisterhood's album.