Home | About | Live | CDs / Vinyl / Downoads | Interviews | Photos | Archive | Links
Email | LiveJournal | MySpace | Last FM
Live

Inkubus Sukkubus
The Ghost Of Lemora
The Faces Of Sarah
Maleficent

Underworld, London
Saturday November 15 2008

Inkubus Sukkubus at the Underworld - now that's familiar territory. Back in my showbiz days I promoted a couple of gigs for the band in this very venue - in fact, I believe the first gig, in February 1995, was the first time Incubus Succubus (as they were then spelt) had set foot on the Underworld stage. Since then, they've been back, and back, and back again. Thirteen years later, here we go round the mulberry bush one mo' time. Inkubus Sukkubus, Top Band on the UK goth scene, return once more to their gig circuit home from home.

That's not to say that everything is the same as it ever was, mind. Inkubus Sukkubus themselves have changed quite a bit. Back in the 90s they were a full-on rock band, guitar, bass, drums, percussion - a heady brew at a time when the default line-up for a British goth band was two men, a drum machine, and a handful of recycled Sisters Of Mercy moves. Inkubus Sukkubus were distinctly different, and, it must be said, downright better than most other contenders at the time. They were a band aMaleficentt a time when British goth had largely become the province of bedroom-based studio projects, and in their vocalist, Candia, the band had a gutsy yet controlled singer, a world away from the sub-Eldritch mumbling or mini-McCoy rasps that passed for vocals elsewhere.

It was, therefore, a slightly bizarre move when Inkubus Sukkubus ditched the live band line-up, aquired a drum machine, and reinvented themselves as more or less exactly the kind of straight-outta-the-bedroom goth band they had once effortlessly eclipsed.

While they preserved their status as Top British Goth Band - not, it must be said, the resounding accolade you might at first assume, since we're very much in the big fish/small pond zone here - any crossover appeal the band might once have had was effectively binned. Thus it is that tonight's audience is essentially the regular goth scene crowd that's been turning up to gigs of this sort for years.

The venue is about one third full - probably the best result anyone can hope for in the UK goth scene these days. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly - most people seem to be friends or aquaintances, which in itself illustrates how the UK goth scene has become a social network these days. It's all very agreeable and easy-going and familiar, which I dare say is exactly the attraction for most people here. But it's hard to escape the notion that we're a long way from any kind of sub-cultural cutting edge.

All of which makes Maleficent the odd ones out at this gig. But then, Maleficent would probably be the odd ones out at any gig. Their live show is an extravaganza of surrealist theatre, in which ballet moves and gonzoid performance-art interludes are served up to a rampaging racket of post-industrial, post-metal, post-early-for-Chrtistmas noise. A crazed and wayward child rushes out and dismembers a teddy bear; the masked bassist looms scarily over the monitors.

It's all a cross between Grand Guignol and Punch and Judy, with twin vocalists Martini and Mortimer Cain - a nightmare ballerina and a punk rock bogeyman - trading vocal lines with theatrical flair, much snarling and plenty of fluttering eyelashes. Good stuff, and - I suspect - the closest we'll get to the cutting edge tonight.

The Faces Of SarahThe Faces Of Sarah are another band who've been hanging around the UK goth scene for more years than I care to contemplate. They've always been a slightly incongruous bunch in goth circles, for the band's stock in trade is four-square rock music, entirely free of any theatrics, extravagances, or, indeed, anything particularly gothic.

Vocalist Nick Schultz lets rip with his stentorian holler, while the journeymen musos of the band keep their heads down and the riffs coming. It's solid enough stuff, and if basic, no-frills rock is your thing, I suppose The Faces Of Sarah deliver. Quite why they choose to deliver their no-frills rock in the goth scene is a bit baffling, especially as the band have never really risen above the kind of low-on-the-bill support slot that they're playing tonight. You'd think it would have occurred to them by now that they're barking up the wrong rock 'n' roll tree.

The highlight of the set ('highlight' being a distinctly relative term here, you understand) is 'Misery Turns', an old anthem upon which Nick Schultz is joined by Candia, who rushes on stage and delivers an impromptu backing vocal, thus lending a sudden burst of excitement to an otherwise entirely workmanlike affair. At which point it occurs to me that if the most exciting moment in The Faces Of Sarah's show is the bit where the backing vocalist comes on, I think it might be time to adjourn swiftly to the bar.

The Ghost Of LemoraWe'll shunt to the front again for The Ghost Of Lemora, however, because this bunch of arch and witty pop-goths are always worth a look.

Now with a slightly revised line-up (Jamie of Libitina/Inertia is now on bass) and a slighty de-gothed image (vocalist Richard is nattily new-wave in a waistcoat and one of Johnny Thunders' old hairstyles), this band could probably make a few friends among present-day post-punkers, if they ever got the notion to point themselves in that direction. Certainly, their songs - a mash-up of glammy, campy, punchy, punky, swaggering powerpop - would probably go down rather well in the new wave zone.

It's noticeable tonight, however, that Richard's vocals default to a monotone chant a little too frequently for comfort, especially on the newer, more melodic numbers where he's required to sing rather than simply declaim. On old songs such as 'Dread The Day The Cities Rise' - essentially a big sci-fi shoutalong - he's entirely at home, but when he's called upon to essay a melody, his limitations shoulder their way to the front.

This is a band whose natural territory is the brash and humourous bashabout, and the further The Ghost Of Lemora stray from that amiably rowdy area, the more awkward and strained the vocals become. In the end I have to conclude that while the band are still as entertaining as ever, they're trying, none too wisely, to push their music in a direction that their singer's voice can't quite go.

Headline time. Inkubus Sukkubus take to a bizarrely empty stage. No drum kit, naturally - but a distinct absence of backline, too. These days, if a band doesn't mind being entirely at the mercy of the monitor mix, it's possible to eschew the on-stage furniture and plug straight into the technology. A very practical way to tour, for sure, although the emptiness of the stage tonight emphasises how far Inkubus Sukkubus have come since their days as a full-scale rock band. And yet, in other ways, Inkubus Sukkubus haven't really come far at all...

Inkubus SukkubusThe backing track rolls, and the band crank things up. I'm immediately struck by how familiar much of the set is. Although Inkubus Sukkubus now have more than ten albums to their name, I'm sure large chunks of tonight's set are the same as that first show back in '95.

I suppose there's no harm in playing the old favourites - in fact, I suspect the fans would be very disgruntled if they didn't get 'Belladonna And Aconite', 'Take My Hunger', and other such old school anthems - but it's a little disconcerting to realise that notwithstanding the stripped-down hardware and absence of a drummer, in many ways Inkubus Sukkubus are still touting their mid-90s show.

Candia carries the proceedings with cheerful charm, and her voice slices through the regulation gothic fog-bank like a siren through a storm. But the guitar riffs and occasional bursts of soloing are the same as ever, and even guitarist Tony McKormack's outbreaks of slide-down-the-strings noise and guitar-behind-the-head showboating are only effective if you haven't seen him pull exactly the same stunts at upmpteen other gigs - as, it must be said, I have. The programmed drums - which for all I know sound thunderously impressive in the band's home studio - come across as cheesy, tinny, dated and embarassingly rinky-dink, rattling apologetically through the Underworld's 6K PA. It's this, as much as anything, that takes the edge off the show.

The loyal fans down the front cheer every move, of course - for them, the reasurring familiarity of the set is welcome, and the band's cheese-flavoured goth-isms are exactly what the UK goth scene of the 90s onwards was built on. But I'm standing there, remembering the other Inkubus Sukkubus, that wild and dynamic live rock band of the old days, and I wonder what posessed them to take the fork in the road marked 'cheesy drum-machine goth'.

That's the paradox of Inkubus Sukkubus, I suppose. They've changed, and yet they haven't changed. They ditched the good stuff, and aquired some excess baggage. They're playing the old songs, and new songs that sound comfortingly akin to the old songs, but they're doing it in a manner that seems distinctly economy-size compared to their 1995 incarnation. And I dare say they'll keep on doing it. They'll be back in the Underworld next year, I'm sure - and the next year, and the next.

I think, however, I'm likely to be elsewhere.


Essential links:

Inkubus Sukkubus: : Website | MySpace
The Ghost Of Lemora: Website | MySpace
The Faces Of Sarah: Website | MySpace
Maleficent: Website | MySpace

For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.

 

Home | About | Live | CDs / Vinyl / Downloads | Interviews | Photos | Archive | Links
Email | LiveJournal | MySpace | Last FM
Back to top

  Page credits: Revierw, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston, Red N version by Mark Rimmell.