¬†¬†¬†¬† Both Christian Death's Ashes and Catastrophe Ballet were recently released on limited-edition cassette tape, both already sold out from the source.
¬†¬†¬†¬† While Christian Death did put out some highly listenable material after the departure of founding member Rozz Williams (at least early on), there's really only three Christian Death albums that you really, really need in your collection: the pioneering and provocative 1982 debut Only Theatre Of Pain, and the two albums with both Williams and Valor Kand that followed, Catastrophe Ballet and Ashes. All of these are key works in the death rock canon, and their combined influence has reached well into the realms of extreme metal, industrial music and beyond; any headbanger who turns their nose up at Christian Death's early works simply based on the band's campy look should consider sitting down and listening to these albums side by side with Celtic Frost's 80s output to see just how far the band's black tendrils extended. There's been a recent resurgence of interest in the early Christian Death material, though, what with this whole death rock revival thing that's been going on for the past few years, and it looks like a whole new generation of listeners has been turning on to the weird, morbid genius of Rozz Williams. Not a moment too soon, I say. We've had the reissue of Only Theatre Of Pain available here for awhile, but up till now never stocked the following two albums, both of which were reissued by Season Of Mist in 2009; featuring booklet materials from the original first edition LP releases on L'Invitation Au Suicide and newly re-mastered, both come with the highest recommendation for anyone obsessed with true death rock and the most macabre fringes of post-punk.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Originally released in 1985 on French label L'Invitation Au Suicide, Ashes was the final album from the Rozz Williams-fronted lineup of Christian Death, and an end to an era. While I won't completely write off the post-Williams output from Christian Death (the subsequent 1986 album Atrocities is pretty goddamn good), this was the last chapter in what had been a genre-defining run of albums, now iconic entries in the American death rock canon. On their third album, Christian Death were getting even more progressive, evolving into something totally unique within the realm of American post-punk. Williams' vocals are more measured, less overwrought than before, and there's a heavier feel to this material; maybe more so here than with any of the other Christian Death records, you can really pick out the elements of their sound that so enamored Tom Warrior - one listen to the driving, almost metal-tinged power that emanates off of the opening title track, and you can hear echoes of what would later emerge on Celtic Frost's Into The Pandemonium, the end of the song showcasing a ferocity rarely heard in this era of the band. From there, the eerie instrumental "Ashes Part 2" leads into more of Rozz's penchant for experimental soundscapery, and all throughout the album he laces the tracks with peripheral traces of Gregorian chant and ghostly mechanical sounds, squealing violins and nightmarish sound collage, even dreamlike forays into Weimar cabaret on "Lament (Over The Shadows)". The actual songs are some of their best, too. "When I Was Bed" is classic death rock, catchy and propulsive and draped in elegant shadow, and "Face" is the band at their churning best, fusing a smoldering psychedelic quality to the rolling tribal drums and handclaps and cob-webbed post-punk guitars, another all time favorite. Other highlights on the album include the slow brooding atmosphere that wraps around "The Luxury Of Tears", the metallic mausoleum creep of "Before The Rain" that transforms into something surprisingly triumphant, and the bad-dream dread of closer "Of The Wound", the sound of a screaming infant laid over a nightmarish string section and discordant piano, taking the album out into a final sprawl of surrealistic weirdness. A genuine classic of morbid post-punk.