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Vestige & Vigil - The Bellwether Syndicate (Sett Records / Nexilis Records / Schubert Music Europe)

10 May 2023

As I have noted before, it is all too easy to label The Bellwether Syndicate merely a goth band and have done with it. Sure, there is a lot about their latest album, Vestige & Vigil that you associate with the genre, and the band themselves often sport the sartorial trappings of that realm, but we have all learned the hard way not to judge a book by its cover. After all, the label goth was never really a term many in the industry took to, being more a shorthand for journalists or a label for fashion-conscious tribal-minded fans to identify with.

Yes, goth is part of the sonic picture, but only a tiny part. “Beacons”, for example, is a snarling alt-rock beast, rich with incendiary riffs yet laced also with crystalline and chiming guitar lines. And it is runs on an energy that sees it trying to break free of the stygian shades of the gothic world rather than retreat into them.

“We All Rise” merely toys with such gothic tones before plunging headlong into more abrasive industrial sounds and metallic anthemics, a post-punk sound more akin to the likes of Killing Joke than the more classic template as laid down by, say, The Sisters of Mercy. And “Republik” is so full of buoyancy and boundless groove that you almost have to torture the repertoire of music labels by inventing things like gothic funk or darkwave boogie! Okay, let’s not.

“Vigil” reminds us of how closely aligned the worlds of the emerging goth scene and early eighties underground dance were, “Dystopian Mirror” is mechanical, industrial, and intense, and “Golden Age” shows the band reining in some of the sonic excesses, and excess isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and crafting more chiming and charming, shimmering and spacious places to call home.

Vestige & Vigil is a fantastic album. One that will appeal to the old school, rope-dancing, creatures of the night, of course, but so many others besides. The rock and metal fraternity will appreciate the more byzantine musical weaves, the intensity, and the rawness. The underground dance set will find the grooves intoxicating. Those bored with pop’s shallowness will find coiled and complex, yet no less infectious music. And yes, of course, dyed-in-the-wool goths will love its style and substance, its delicious, dark designs and low-light loveliness (check out the majestic “And If We Miss The Night” for that one), but I will say to the latter tribe, you will love it, but it isn’t all about you. (Sorry, but I think that they needed to hear that!)

Order the ‘Vestige & Vigil’ LP
Golden Age
Order the single
We All Rise