[Funeral Parade sleeve]"Funeral Parade" (12", 2015)

Sacred Bones Records

I’ve already described the ‘Part 1 Sound’ in detail here; and here; and frankly I’m running out of clever metaphors, so you’ll have to read the previous reviews if you don’t know what they sound like already. The band’s only vinyl release during their lifetime, the Funeral Parade EP was released in October 1982 as a 7” single in a run of just 300 on their own Paraworm label. 

It’s now been re-issued as a remastered 12" on coloured vinyl in a gatefold sleeve with a limited edition that features alternate cover art and an accompanying horror 'zine I... Paraworm written and illustrated by guitarist Mark F. Did I buy it at great expense and with ruinous postage from the USA only to find out later that I could’ve got a copy from All The Madmen here in the UK? Of course I fucking did! 

As with Pictures of Pain, I can’t tell you if the remastering is an improvement on the original 7” release as I never owned a copy, but the vinyl has a decent weight to it, and it’s on 12” rather than 7” so I imagine it sounds better. The packaging is lovely though, with a little wax seal on the outside slipcase (which they have cleverly designed so that you can get the record out without breaking the seal – not stupid, these people), and the ‘zine is a good read, with a nice set of typically ghoulish images from Mr Ferelli, although the paper’s feels a bit thin. So enough of the beardy record collector vinylgasms, and on to the only things that really matter – the songs. 

Side one starts off with Funeral Parade a brooding instrumental of less than a minute which sets the scene nicely for a feedback drenched segue into Graveyard Song/Tomb for a ceaseless seven minute barrage of gloom. Featuring some Banshees-style tempo changes, and Killing Jokesque* choppy riffs, this side of the single shows Part 1’s influences at their most obvious, but they still find a unique sound (and voice) of their own. 

Taking a leaf from Poe’s Premature BurialGraveyard Song tells the (metaphorical?) tale of a Christian believer who finds no “glistening heaven in the centre of the skies” in the afterlife, just the “slime of the death pit” replete with blood curdling screams; while Tomb continues in a similar vein with a lyric describing a lost soul waking in the mental grave of a psychiatric hospital for their “second life”, and features the disturbing line “Thoughts are concealed with my talons and swords”. Quite what that refers to I’m not sure, and I’m not sure I want to find out, either. 

Opening side two, Ghost is a somewhat denser proposition than the version on Pictures of Pain, with the bass playing being slightly more intricate and the structure of the song more fully formed and less open, which is a slight loss in my view. However, compensation is at hand in the form of a seriously cavernous (almost gnarly) bass sound. I’m not a musician, so I can’t really describe it, except to say it has a similar tone to the playing on Love Song by The Damned, but doesn’t actually sound anything like Love Song by The Damned (if you know what I mean). 

Salem is the weakest track on the single, although it starts well with a first half that wouldn’t sound out of place on Metal Box, and a furious condemnation of the Christian morality that allowed more than 28 people to be executed for ‘crime’ of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts during the 1690s, but the second half speeds up to quasi-thrash which is not really their forte and makes them sound like just another anarcho band, which they most assuredly are not. 

Funeral Parade II then arrives to rounds things off nicely with sixty more seconds of instrumental gloom. As you might imagine, given that these song were recorded specifically to be released on vinyl (as opposed to the material on Pictures of Pain which was originally a demo recording), the sound is fuller and the playing more precise, with what sounds like distortion on the bass and occasional guitar overdubs. It’s a much more meaty and solid sounding record than their other output, but this is offset by a slight loss of the more improvised atmosphere they exhibited on the demo and live recordings.

In short, if you like Part 1, you should get this record a bit sharpish, before the limited pressing runs out – (unless you fancy your chances getting an original version on ebay). This re-issue comes with a code to download a digital version, so you can probably find mp3 rips on the internet pretty easily, but you owe it to yourself to buy this record, and once you’ve bought it, take it out of the sleeve and PLAY THE BLOODY THING. 6/10

*Which is totally a real word.

Nick Hydra (June 2015)

[Pictures of Pain sleeve]"Pictures of Pain" (Album, 2015)

All The Mad Men

Originally released on vinyl by Plusmort in 1985, this was actually culled from a 1981 cassette release (In the Shadow the Cross), now re-mastered and re-issued with restored cover art and a new 8 page lyrics booklet illustrated by the band’s guitarist Mark Ferelli. I can take or leave the marble effect coloured vinyl, but I imagine this is a nod to the ‘collector’ market, and is easily ignored. Like an idiot, I’ve breeched the shrink-wrap, and even worse, actually played the record, thus destroying its resale value. But as I’m never going to sell it, it doesn’t fucking matter does it? 

In the same way that Amebix were galvanised by seeing Killing Joke play at the Trafalgar Square CND rally in 1980, Part1’s Damascene conversion came after seeing UK Decay and Bauhaus play together at Luton Technical College early in the same year. And it was their attempt to create a similar atmosphere, filtered through the anarcho-punk DIY ethic and militant anti-religious stance that created a unique style that still sounds fresh today. Add a serious John McKay/Jah Wobble obsession and you have some idea of what you’re dealing with here. 

Never having owned the original vinyl, I can’t comment on any improvement the re-mastering process has wrought on the original audio tracks, but I can tell you that it sounds a lot better than the mp3 files* I’ve been listening to for the last few years. With the benefit of an uncompressed format, subtleties in the playing previously lost to the digital netherworld are now made apparent. The bass playing displays a serious dub influence, nodding more heavily to Wobble era PiL than previous listens had suggested, and almost becomes the lead instrument, providing the melody as well as the backbone for the songs in a similar fashion to Peter Hook’s work with Joy Division. 

The guitar work, in mp3 form flattened to a (still glorious) dive bomber howl in places, reveals itself as intricate, choppy and subtle, weaving through and around the rhythm section. Throughout the recording, the drums keep threatening to break into a proper tribal stomp but shy away into Crass-style snare rolls at the last moment, which is a shame, but they’re always doing a lot more than just keeping a metronomic beat. Lyrically and musically, I think the tone can be best described as ‘dark’, with singer Jake Barker creating unsettling visions by building up layers of text that trouble the mind, rather than attacking his subjects directly, like something glimpsed at the periphery of vision. 

The first song (Possessed) spews forth a litany of images straight from nightmare; mirrors burn, eyes turn inwards, worms writhe, corpses twitch, fingers claw (a recurring theme, both lyrically and in the art) and empty phone calls scream. And it doesn’t get any cheerier; Black Mass appears to link the rise of fascism to Satanic (or perhaps Christian) rituals, while The Corpse imagines “Screaming hordes of blood-stained vicars”. It’s only the title track that approaches the standard ‘anti-war’ polemic of the time, but even this is couched in the language of a waking dream, with civilians “Pleading for salvation through the cold eyes of war”. 

The final two songs carry on the gloomy theme, and are easily the best; on Ghost, liberated by the bass from the responsibility of carrying the melody, Ferelli excels himself, creating a swathe of feedback/delay for the song’s entire five minute duration, using just an occasional slash of guitar to provide the raw material for the manipulation of the FX pedals, while Barker urges the listener “In fear of a corpse, hanging on a cross” to “Cut the throat of religion, burn the books, bury all that was said”. The final song Hymn’ with its attack on the soul-crushing weight of religious dogma, speaks of “Books with empty meanings, pages written in blood” and contains the signature lyric “In the shadow of the cross, we stand defiant”. 

Given the relative inexperience of the players, and the fact that the songs were recorded quickly and cheaply, the material holds up surprisingly well. There’s a couple of gauche moments in the lyrics, but they were navigating previously uncharted waters at this stage, and if Bauhaus can be forgiven for Of Lilies and Remains, I can ignore slight missteps into purple prose. 

I once drunkenly described Part 1 as 'Crass with a Flanger', and that throwaway line stands up to some scrutiny (especially in the drumming), but whereas Crass specialised in dense, wordy assaults, these songs have a loose, semi-improvised feel, with refreshingly accomplished playing . But what is most inspirational is the feeling of band playing at the limit of (and sometimes beyond) their capabilities, bringing to mind The Adverts’ seminal Crossing the Red Sea in that respect. 

But the band they most remind me of (in terms of execution rather than style), is Crisis. They share a similar vocal delivery, methodical song structure and inexorable, marching-step momentum. So maybe a better description would be 'A death obsessed, militantly anti-theist, proto-goth Crisis', with a Flanger. 

With plans to re-issue the Funeral Parade 7” and rumours of new recordings, it only remains for someone to bite the bullet and release an upgraded version of the Live at the Autonomy Centre’cassette, which despite being recorded on the most basic equipment, is perhaps THE testament to the sound of the original Part 1 line-up. 7/10 

*Courtesy of the rather wonderful Kill Your Pet Puppy site, which is a treasure trove of archive recordings, photos and personal testimonies. 

Nick Hydra (March 2015)