V/A – The Bells Shall Sound Forever (C93 tribute)

Tributes are strange things. They are either made by ruthless record companies who want to make a profit, or by caring fans who want to pay hommage to their idols. Tributes in the first category are of course seldom worth your money. The second form of tributes can be more rewarding. But the people who make them know they can never do it right. Their fellow fans wil complain that the songs stay either too close to the original (and of lesser quality) or that they are too radical transformations, in which the spirit of the artist can no longer be recognized. Furthermore you will get debates about the songs that are covered or the artists that are invited to contribute.

Current 93 is a good choice for a tribute. They have such a wealth of material to choose from. Not only quantitive, but also stylewise are the electic styles that David Tibet and friends have employed quite challenging and influential. Other acts from the apocalyptic folk corner have had tributes before: Death in June (‘Heilige Tod’, label: Palace of Worms, with just a few worthwhile covers) and Sol Invictus (‘Sol Lucet Omnibus’, label: Cynfeirdd, a quite succeeded project, though a double album was perhaps a bit too much).

I must say that ‘The bells shall sound forever’ is a sympathetic iniative from the newborn Canadian label Sweet Farewell. They have selected an interesting and diverse line-up of 15 artists. Some well-known acts like Engelsstaub, Sonne Hagal, Cawatana and Decadence are featured along with more obscure or upcoming new acts. Some European folk acts are present, and also a few projects coming from an industrial/ambient background.

The tracklisting does not only contain ‘hits’ , but also less accessible tracks from the oeuvre of Current 93. Sonne Hagal from Germany offers a solid dark folk impression of ‘Death of the Corn’. Through the distorted vocals this song sounds rather threatening. The biggest revelation of this album is probably O Paradis. This Spanish act proves that it also sounds unique when they treat someone elses material. Warm, myserious and sensual. Dorien Campbell, unknown for me till now, contributes a sober version of ‘A sadness Song’, like a dark troubadour. Vequinox also gives a quite traditional acoustic rendition of ‘Earth covers earth’, with some nice melancholic elements.

Engelsstaub starts their song with a traditional religious song, before entering a quite catchy uptempo and stargily twisted version of ‘Happy Birthday Pigface Christus’. Quite danceable actually. The horns and accordeon employed by Cawatana sound very tragic, which of course fit the sad ‘A song for Douglas after he’s dead’ very well. Synths, staccato drums and grave vocals complete the funereal picture.

Then it’s time for less conventional material. Storm of Capricorn makes a neo-classical epic piece of ‘Crowleymass’. Der Feuerkreiner, an Italian act which seems to be a rising star in the recent ambient-industrial scene, adds a moving militant orchestral version of ‘Soft Black Stars’. The Well of Sadness continues in a somewhat more industrial vein, while Lisa Toulouse has made an original technoid/dark d&b instrumental version of ‘Christ And The Pale Queens’.

Pancreatic Aardvarks is responsible for a nice intimate and minimal version of ‘Judas as Black Moth’. ‘All the Pretty Little horses’ by Weihan is close to the original, an acoustic song with whispered vocals. Exit translated ‘The Blue Gates of Death’ into Polish, which directly gives it an original effect. Their song sounds somehwat improvised, almost like a jazzy piano piece. Leisure Hive has the hard task of covering the slow and moving ‘Immortal Bird’. They don’t try to stay close to the orginal and try it with a dark rock version. The song is still moving though. Decadence from Greece end the compilation with classical guitar work on ‘Ach Golgotha’.

Overall I find this a succeeded tribute. The interesting combination of artists treat the songmaterial with respect, while adding some touches of their own style. The strenght of the songs of Current 93 stays upright, while the covers give them a fresh interpretation.

artist: V/A
label: Sweet Farewell
details: 15 tracks