In their first incarnation, the Sisters of Mercy released one album and a series of EPs that seized attention on darkened dance floors worldwide, but never quite made it to the top. That would all change with the departure of most of the band's original members, an extensive legal battle over the rights to the band name, and a 1987 album called "Floodland" - a darkly textured masterpiece that explored new territory for the Sisters and redefined what people thought of as Gothic music.
The old Sisters music was all about smoke machines. It was the kind of dense guitar music, driven by simple drum machines and a dirge-like bassline, that you simply couldn't listen to without picturing billowing smoke in cavernous clubs. The new album, written exclusively by Andrew Eldritch, went much, much deeper. Opera-styled vocals, naked piano work, wave after wave of beautiful synths, and reverb effects deep enough to drown in. And Eldritch's lyrics, while continuing to work the same veins as his earlier songs, started to become truly beautiful, with every song containing vivid metaphors and poetic references galore.
Patricia Morrison, recruited from the ashes of the Gun Club to play bass and sing on Floodland, had a lot to do with the album's appealing sound, but the album is unmistakeably an Andrew Eldritch creation.
- Dominion/Mother Russia - starts the album with a bang, with a wailing saxophone in the background, which featured more heavily on the beautiful B-side to the "Dominion" single.
- Flood I - slow, heavy beats, like the gathering of a storm.
- Lucretia My Reflection - another fast song, full of Eldritch's most vivid imagery. One of those songs that fans like to sit around analyzing.
- 1959 - a quiet ballad, featuring only Andrew's voice and a simple piano melody. This was apparently written at the suggestion of a fan named Isabelle. Beautiful, although it's nothing like any other Sisters song.
- This Corrosion - the one that took over the dancefloors, eleven minutes of Wagnerian rock. Gimme the Ring!
- Flood II - same theme as Flood I but faster - hell yes, the ocean moves.
- Driven Like The Snow - Like a voice in the wind blow little crystals down,
Like brittle things will break before they turn...
- Neverland (a fragment) - this was supposed to be another very long song, but got cut down to about five minutes.
- Torch - a bonus included only on Floodland's CD version, taken from one of the B-sides.
- Colours - another bonus featured on the CD and cassette versions, this was originally found on the Sisterhood's album Gift. It works pretty well as a closer.
"Floodland" was a runaway success, at least by Goth standards. It sold more copies than any other album in the genre, elevating the Sisters of Mercy to the status of headliner bands like the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees almost overnight. The breakout single "This Corrosion" simply took over dance floors everywhere, even getting radio play on commercial radio stations. To this day it remains a staple of Goth-Industrial gatherings worldwide, although many people are now utterly sick of hearing it played over and over. (The same could be said of the remixed "Temple of Love" that gets played at every single Gloom Night party, but nonetheless they are both fine songs.)
The success of the album seems, in fact, to be directly responsible for the death of the Sisters of Mercy as a band. Selling as many albums as the Cure, and touring America with Depeche Mode, seems to have convinced Eldritch that he was better than the music, that his appeal was wide enough that he could shed the Gothic label entirely. A surprising number of people agreed with him, prefacing their reviews of this album with the statement that Floodland is not Goth music. "It's too good", most of these reviewers say, "to be put into that horrid ghetto of music made by black-nail-polish Deathites. No, this is simply Great Music." Surprisingly, a lot of Goths say roughly the same thing, claiming that Floodland is a good album, but is really "goth-pop" or "motorcycle rock". Presumably they feel it isn't quite gloomy enough or something. To all these people I say, if the pigeon won't fit into the pigeonhole, perhaps you need to widen the pigeonhole with a big fucking crowbar.
But the results of this fame could have been predicted by anyone who ever watched a VH1 Behind the Music. After Floodland, Eldritch fired Patricia Morrison and took three years to produce his next album, which failed to perform because it bore little resemblance to any prior Sisters work, reaching instead for a mainstream-to-heavy rock audience that was - to put it kindly - not impressed. Ultimately only the release of a compilation of early songs and a new version of Temple of Love, with vocals by Ofra Haza, would restore some of the glitter to Eldritch's crown. To date he has not released any new original material, although he insists that he is still at work on an album. I don't care. I've already got Floodland.
Further Reading, very entertaining: