Faithful Dawn

[You Are Here sleeve]"You Are Here"  (Album, 1999)

Dark Beat

Like the single I Am Nothing that followed their debut album Temperance, this is another step forward both in terms of songwriting and production for Cumbria's Faithful Dawn. I can't help using the word, but there's something slightly cheesy about this duo's (almost) Hi NRG approach to tunes. Lightweight and poppy, repetitive sequencers and simple rhythms are their trademark. Yet there's something definitely appealing about their sound. Even weak tracks are lifted up to new heights when their choruses kick in. Choruses being FD's strongest asset - instantly memorable and infectious, and a crowd pleasing highlight of their enthusiastic live performances.

Delusion's strong vocal line and classic goth guitars are an early contender. The Egyptian rhythm of Cell and its reliance more on synths and ambient noises rather than guitars is a curious and very effective detour, SarahJane's distant voice adding a moody atmosphere to one of Faithful Dawn's most unusual songs. The chorus to Lose is a classic example of how a very average Faithful Dawn track can be pulled up by its socks. The album version of I Am Nothing is an interestingly mellow mix and works well. Velvet Noose is a typical hi BPM Faithful Dawn entry - in fact, it sounds like the music was recorded at half speed and then simply doubled before recording - resulting in some almost comical drum rolls and hi hats. In contrast, the slow beats and floating vocals of Forever close the album and enables Faithful Dawn to go out in style. But it's Lie Face Down that really leaps out of You Are Here. I wouldn't be at all surprised if SarahJane and Glenn Wilson deliberately set out to produce an emotionally-charged homage to Martin (Depeche Mode) Gore's finest personal ballads. Whatever the inspiration, this is terrific and the best Faithful Dawn song ever. Brilliant songwriting and glorious vocals that make you wonder why SarahJane hadn't tried more vocals lines like the one she employs here. It's the perfect showcase for her talents.

Didn't know it at the time, but this second album would be their last. Faithful Dawn split up shortly after work on their third album was underway earlier this year. I don't know of the reasons behind the split, but I'd be surprised if it was the last we heard of singer/songwriter SarahJane. Similarly, her erstwhile colleague Glenn Wilson runs the Dark Beat record label and dabbles in production, so its likely he'll remain on the UK darkwave scene for a while at least. 6/10

Rob Dyer

[I Am Nothing sleeve]"I Am Nothing"  (Single, 1998)

Dark Beat

Precursor to their second album, this features two remixes of I Am Nothing - a song which has quickly established itself in Faithful Dawn's live sets - along with a remix of Neverwhere from their first album. The first ('Harvey Summers mix') is a very commercial dance arrangement that adds weird effects to Sarah Jane's vocals. It breaks down the original song structure, successfully taking it in a new direction.

The Harley James produced 'Into The Darkness mix' retains more of the familiar vocal line and is the chill-out flip side of the Summers' mix and less immediate as a result. Both are different enough to warrant fans additional expenditure, but the album version remains (as often) the definitive version. Harley James also produced the final track a remix of the Faithful Dawn fan-favourite Neverwhere. I've never been that enthusiastic for the original so this variation is of little interest. But what this single does do is put quite a bit of water between this and the earlier material. The gothic influences are virtually non-existent on this single and the increasingly polished and commercial style of Faithful Dawn's sound is more prominent than ever before. More significant as an important stylistic development for the band than as a terrific release in its own right. 5/10

Rob Dyer

[Temperance sleeve]"Temperance"  (Album, 1998)

Nightbreed Recordings

I discovered Faithful Dawn in a support slot to Attrition in London a few years ago. Comprising Glenn Wilson and SarahJane who share the song-writing, with SarahJane providing the vocals and Wilson the live instrumentation. Faithful Dawn are a prime example of what I term 'digital goth' - that is your basic gothic-based music heavily utilising synths and programmed percussion in placed of the traditional guitars and live drums. After an impressive performance at the above gig, I purchased a copy of Temperance (their debut) from their merchandise table. However, when I got around to listening to it at home a few days later I was disappointed. There was marked difference between the recorded Faithful Dawn and the live version I'd enjoyed so much. After a couple of attempts, the CD was slotted into the collection and forgotten about for sometime.

Since then, during a quiet moment, I pulled it out again to give it a final chance, and this time it partially redeemed itself. Ignoring the often very cheap-sounding drum machine, there's an energy and enthusiasm to Faithful Dawn that's hard to suppress or ignore. Live it's distinctly infectious, on CD it's muted but still present. Influences from all over the place creep into Temperance - too much at times. The catchy Enchant Me introduces a Hi-NRG style that pops ups from time to time across Faithful Dawn's compositions. Not sure if the main beat is more Dead or Alive or Man Parish, either way it's highly camp and great fun - one of my favourites! Caress is very Depeche Mode, especially the main vocal line, and Secret Vampire makes good use of a Kraftwerk sound sample. Spider's cheesy lyrics about creepy spiders casting shadows that scare people show that a little more quality control is needed. It also features a bizarre lifting of the "Hello, hello, hello, hello" refrain from Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. In spite of its title, This Mortal Coil sees the return of Hi-NRG and features a solid sing-a-long chorus - an asset that many Faithful Dawn songs can boast. With its squiggly synths, Ess is another one of the better tracks and is great live. Sarah Jane proves that she has a versatile voice and her many stylistic approaches add much to the unpredictable nature of much of Faithful Dawn.

Upon reflection then, Temperance may be too unfocused and while some compositions would have benefitted from more work before committing to recording, it isn't a bad first album. Some will undoubtedly love this wholeheartedly, and I don't wish to take anything from them - it just doesn't entirely work for me. I'd certainly have no reservations about recommending them live. I saw them again recently at Infest '99 and once more they proved that they are a great live act despite a minimal stage presence. The goth seems to have been toned down lately and the strong new songs bode well for their second album You Are Here released earlier this year. My interest is piqued again. 6/10

Rob Dyer

Official Faithful Dawn website: