Deathrock, rockabilly, Goth rock – however you want to classify them, The Damned have had an unmistakable impact on the Batcave milieu of dark music. With their first new album in a decade, ‘Evil Spirits,’ The Damned draw upon just about every rock ‘n’ roll tradition Britain has to offer, mixing them up into something that is surprisingly fresh and relevant.
Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow begins with a classic rockabilly tone and plenty of attitude in Captain Sensible’s guitars. The sound could practically be described as surf rock, while Dave Vanian brings wonderful depth to his classic British vocal style, with even a touch of David Bowie. Paul Gray’s bass tone meanwhile is amazing, and the song overall moves along with a wonderful pace, maintaining a mood that is both dramatic and uplifting.
The Devil in Disguise has much more of a punk rock feel, with Vanian’s vocals more reminiscent of a snarling Ian Astbury. The Devil in Disguise maintains the almost playful feel of the previous track, with more of a sense of beach parties than cemeteries – perhaps the beach by dark and flaming torchlight. Captain Sensible’s guitars have a classic rock twang, while Monty Oxymoron’s keys are cool and understated.
The influence of The Cult can still be felt in We’re so Nice, a drama-tinged rock ‘n’ roll track. In fact, Vanian’s vocal cadence is pure classic rock, while the reverb-laden guitar brings back the surf rock feel. Overall the harmonies simply sound very British.
Still drawing on a veritable swathe of British influences, Look Left has a lot of Pink Floyd to it, with a piano-led introduction that builds into a slower rock anthem in a classic British style. With its Liverpudlian vibe, it might almost be a Beatles track too, while Vanian demonstrates his vocal versatility with depth at one moment channelling Roy Orbison, at the next a carefree Steve Diggle.
The upbeat and bass-driven Evil Spirits is one of the weaker tracks on the album. It can be said to be funky, but also rather chaotic. With a strong presence of Hammond organ towards the end, this track seems somewhat influenced by Deep Purple mark III.
Shadow Evocation is a major gear shift from Evil Spirits. As the title suggests, this is one of the most outright Gothic tracks on the album. It’s haunting, mournful and dramatic, really picking up the Goth rock cues with its slower guitar set against Pinch’s fast-paced drums. Vanian’s vocals are sombre, while Oxymoron’s piano fills the track out beautifully.
The drumbeat and bassline of Sonar Deceit almost have a swing feel, while the synths are reminiscent of the Hammond organ with a more midi-like sound. Captain Sensible’s guitar has a funky groove, and these elements all combine into a unique song that never quite settles into an easily definable sound, though one might suggest it sounds like a curious fusion between Iggy Pop and the Kaiser Chiefs.
Procrastination is another pumping track with plenty of Hammond organ and grooving bass. With its low Britpop vocals, this track feels like it could have been featured as a musical interlude on an episode of The Young Ones.
Aside from the fact that it could be compared to classic Alice Cooper, there is little about The Daily Liar that really leaps off the album, aside from Gray’s excellent bass work. On the other hand, I Don’t Care is a very striking track with its soulful vocals and sombre piano. The song is deep, beautiful and moving before kicking into a powerful, rocking Goth piece. Finally, it wends its way into a Noir-esque outro in closing the album.
Overall, ‘Evil Spirits’ is a diverse piece of work that shows that The Damned can create music that is greater than the sum of its parts, even when those parts include the venerable traditions of Britpop, punk, Goth rock and more. With a robust set of influences, the album could easily have been a pure exercise in nostalgia, but has enough originality and identity to be a very worthy release that justifies the decade-long wait.
THE DAMNED’S ‘EVIL SPIRITS’ WILL BE RELEASED APRIL 13th. PREORDER IT VIA UTOPIA RECORDS HERE!