There was a band I have wanted to explore since a long time, and this seems to be the best time to do so. London After Midnight can be long ago far from the press, the media, the stages and new material with their name can be non existent, but the print they put on the Gothic subculture and the overall dark scene is still present and alive. Their name remains as one of the references and as a must-to-be-heard band to baby bats, what a better way to present them than to go over their career? It was an experience for me to hear them, and hope this makes you take the chance to have it as well.
LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT’s debut, self titled demo, starts with a retro, dark style, that typical combination between simple electronic music and soft rock that was present in the beginning of the Gothic scene. This was an age of experimental releases and so it was for the band, proposing an interesting style that, still, needed to be polished, but that had an already defined identity and feeling, a dark romance between the early stages of darkwave and postpunk meant to only be liked by hardcore fans of the style. I don’t consider myself part of the group, but “October,” the final track, is more than appealing.
One year later, in 1992, their first album, SELECTED SCENES FROM THE END OF THE WORLD, is released, presenting a more relaxed rhythm, alternative structures for the lyrics and songs that give the same impression than their demo, although with a more solid proposal and repetitive, hypnotic sound. The androgenicity of vocalist, Sean Brennan, is completely shown in both his image and his voice, combining a strong presence and a seductive sound while he talks and sings. Despite how short this disc is, and contrary to what we might have expected, the experience remains as interesting as before. No doubt that songs like “Spider and the Fly,” “Sacrifice” and “Your Best Nightmare” had a merit in the band’s exposure, also being my favorites in the record.
1996 was the year for London After Midnight to get a second album, PSYCHO MAGNET, which included three of the five songs included in THE KISS EP. There’s a more complete evolution on the overall project, with more explicit lyrics and elaborated music, consolidating their style with a pre-darkwave of soft, electronic rock, becoming more somber with each of the tracks. Social themes such as sex and religion, to be prominent in the recent era of Gothic songs, are just touched with a macabre, twisted touch, as the band re explores the roots of their own music with tracks like “The Bondage Song,” “A Letter to God” and “Hate!”
In 1998, the band revealed their first compilation album, ODDITIES, which recovers different live and acoustic versions of well-known songs, along with unreleased material they used to promote their previous disc, giving birth to an experimental, bittersweet work, filled with significant differences compared with their other albums; if negative or positive depends on the listener, although ODDITIES wasn’t such a pleasant experience as the band’s previous work. “Shater,” “A Letter to God” “Sally’s Song” (yes, a version of the fabulous Burton’s film we al love) and “Demon” give a good example of how many different styles we can find in the disc.
After that, the band fell in a hiatus with no original material, re-releasing their first two albums in 2003 and then in 2008, adding and removing different tracks, with significant d i f fe re n ce s that give both S E L E C T E D SCENES FROM THE END OF THE WORLD and PSYCHO MAGNET a more solid structure and better musical look, although it becomes tiresome to hear the same material again and again. Not such a wise choice, but it is good to see the group try to improve their previous work, a gesture that demonstrates a real passion for what they do, even if it means to sacrifice some originality.
The only exception was their 2005’s song “Fear” in two versions of the soundtrack for the film Saw II, a boring try of a light electronic track that is supposed to get you nervous, but fails completely. Not what I expected, that’s for sure. After 9 years of silence about a new proposal, London After Midnight released what seems to be a final record titled VIOLENT ACTS OF BEAUTY, which I’ll explored deeper in another article, as there has been another long silence from the band since then, with this being ten years.
Despite what seems to be a disastrous end to what has been one of the most emblematic bands of the Gothic movement, the influence and imprint that London After Midnight has left so far are indelible, and served to the purpose of giving visibility to the scene, defining several of the elements that are very present today: the androgynous, the religious, the romance from a gloomy perspective and the sound so unique that it would become popular with the passage of time. But who knows? Maybe there’s a secret project we don’t know about yet, and the band is waiting for the right time to come back. We will have to wait to see if it ever happens.
ARTICLE BY ALAN D.D.