It’s been a little more than seven years since I first heard Floodland — arguably the best-known album from English goth legends The Sisters of Mercy. In that time, it’s gone from an album I’d heard about only in passing to one of my favorite albums of all time. It’s so eerie, so totally in its element — and, oh yeah, so. damn. good. — as to become endlessly re-listenable. And having just gone through my…probably quarterly Sisters binge, I feel it’s the perfect album to wax poetic about for this week’s Retrospective. So let’s do that.
My first listen to Floodland came just a few months after the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall hit theaters, so naturally, my first thought listening to the album was “holy shit, this is what a Dracula musical should sound like!” And if you set aside the lyrical content and just think about it sonically, it kind of fits.
From the very beginning of “Dominion / Mother Russia,” there’s an unmistakably theatrical quality on display. The refrains are laced with haunting choir vocals, the drum patterns are drenched in reverb, and Andrew Eldritch’s smoky croon feels like it’s been conjured directly from a horror novel. To listen to Floodland is to find yourself wandering through a haunted, Eastern European castle in a horror film — only catchier.
And that’s really the key to the album’s success: these songs are just a ton of fun to listen to. Try getting through “This Corrosion” without breaking out in a chorus of “hey now, hey now, now” yourself. Try making it through the underrated “Flood II” without air drumming along with Doktor Avalanche‘s programmed beats. You can’t. It’s not possible.
Most current versions of the album cover ten songs over about an hour. (Or 12 songs in about 80 minutes with the deluxe version.) But here’s a pro-tip: if you want the best possible listening experience with Floodland, scale things back a bit and listen to the album the way Eldritch originally constructed it — eight songs on a single, two-sided vinyl disc. The subsequent release formats yielded bonus tracks — past b-sides “Torch,” “Colours,” the full version of “Never Land” and “Emma” — that collectively accomplish little other than dismantling of the album’s flow.
Don’t believe me? Try it out yourself. Listen to the ten-song version below and try and tell me the last two tracks were really necessary.
In the end, though, Floodland‘s a pretty damn good album however you listen to it. Even with its occasional flaws, it’s still a total juggernaut — and one I can’t help but revisit with regularity.
Keep it heavy,