The Sisters of Mercy

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Clearly not goth rock.

The Sisters of Mercy are a rock band formed in Leeds, England in 1980, when guitarist Gary Marx and then-drummer Andrew Eldritch "just wanted to hear themselves on the radio." Widely regarded as Goth Rock by their fans, but Eldritch denounced this label himself, preferring to call The Sisters an "Industrial Groove Machine."

The band's lineup is ever-changing, with the exception of Andrew Eldritch (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Doktor Avalanche (a drum machine). Past members include, but are not limited to: Ben Gunn (who ran away to play in a band called Torch in 1983), Gary Marx (who ran away to form Ghost Dance in 1985), Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams (who ran away to form The Mission), Patricia Morrison (who ran away after Andrew didn't pay her for playing on Floodland), Tony James (ex-Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik, who ran away after Vision Thing).

They were on a hiatus between 1993-1996, and they've been back together ever since. People don't seem to know this, however, because Andrew Eldritch refuses to release any of the new material he's written and recorded since then - enough new songs to fill a couple of albums. They still tour frequently though, for what it's worth.


  • First and Last and Always (1985)
  • Floodland (1987)
  • Vision Thing (1990)

You could also count Gift, which was released under the pseudonym "The Sisterhood" in 1985 by Eldritch, Morrison, Avalanche, Lucas Fox, James Ray and Alan Vega in the midst of the legal dispute between Eldritch on the one side and Hussey and Adams on the other. The album secured Eldritch's legal right to continue as "The Sisters of Mercy" while Hussey and Adams were forced to rename their band to "The Mission" ("The Mission UK" in the US, as there had been another band with that name). Somewhat more importantly, they also have Some Girls Wander By Mistake, a compilation of (most) of the singles and EPs they released during the early '80s before they actually had a recording contract. It contains many of their best (and a few of their worst, and they'll tell you that) songs.

None of these albums sound anything like each other, except for Eldritch's Darth Vader-ish vocal style. Some Girls was about icy, mechanical drum machine beats coupled with deep bass and high-end, minimal guitar riffs ("Alice" is notable because...well, because it's awesome, but also because the riff is almost always mistaken for ACDC's "Thunderstruck" from 8 years later. The riffs are both one-string wonders using the same string). Note that Eldritch plays the drums quite horrendously on "The Damage Done", although most the other stuff on the the album use a drum machine. First and Last and Always tried for a warmer sound with more sophisticated guitar-pop and less challenging lyrics. It's also the most stereotypically gothic of the releases. Floodland, produced when the band was reduced to Andrew Eldritch, a drum machine, the New York Choral Society and whoever else was around (Patricia Morrison on bass and a session guitarist for "This Corrosion"), is heavily synthesized, lushly (and bombastically) produced, and can be summed up as "industrial gothspel". It's also the one that depends most on Eldritch being a singer and a lyricist.

It's their best selling album.

Vision Thing is a fairly straight (except maybe for "Ribbons") guitar rock album with a political bent. Most of the Sister's imitators (and they have many) tend to use the early Some Girls Wander By Mistake stuff as the template.

Oddly enough, the most depressing song they've ever done was a Hot Chocolate cover.

The Sisters of Mercy provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Author Tract: "Vision Thing" being a song about American politics. What do you expect from a song named after a famous George H. W. Bush quote?
  • Berserk Button: Andrew Eldritch has been known to lose his shit when anybody refers to the Sisters as Goth, even though the entire goth community regards them as one of the most iconic goth bands ever.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Marian" has an entire stanza in German.
  • Breakup Breakout: Oh lord.
  • Broken Record: God help him, Eldritch will drill a chorus into your head.
    • Some day, some day, some day, some day, DOMINION! Some say prayers, some say prayers, I say mine!
    • HEY NOW, HEY NOW NOW, SING THIS CORROSION TO ME. Hey hey hey hey hey, na-na-na-nah-now. Lather, rinse, repeat.
    • My Heartland heartland heartland, my Heartland heartland heartland, my Heartland heartland heartland...
  • City of Canals: Eldritch lived in Hamburg while writing Floodland, and named the album that in reference to the city's excess of water.
  • Crazy Cat Man: Eldritch. Well, not quite.
  • Cool Shades: Eldritch always has some.
  • Cover Version: "1969" by The Stooges, "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones (on Some Girls Wander By Mistake), "Sister Ray" by The Velvet Underground, "Ghost Rider" by Suicide (band), the old staple "Louie Louie" and "The Sisters of Mercy" by Leonard Cohen (a live staple), "Emma" by Hot Chocolate (a bonus track on the 2006 copy of Floodland).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Andrew.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Every picture of the band. Really.
  • Development Hell: Thanks to Eldritch going batshit insane.
    • ...either that or just not giving a shit anymore.
  • Epic Rocking: "Some Kind of Stranger", "Dominion/Mother Russia", "Flood I", "This Corrosion", "Flood II", "Driven Like the Snow", "Colours", "Never Land (Full Length)", "More", "I Was Wrong", "Phantom", "Temple of Love (Extended Version)".
    • Let's not forget the extended (and, in this troper's opinion, far superior) version of Lucretia My Reflection...
  • Goth Rock: Just don't tell Andrew.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Especially in their early years.
  • Ho Yay: The Sisters covered both ABBA's "Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)" and Dolly Parton's "Jolene."
  • I Am the Band: Eldritch. Especially on Floodland, where the personnel list is basically him, Patricia Morrison, a session guitarist named Eddie Martinez, the New York Choral society, and some additional producers (including no less than Jim "Bat out of Hell" Steinman!).
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "Ribbons" goofs on the title of a classic pop song with the lyric "Love is a many-splintered thing".
  • Intercourse with You: "Some Kind of Stranger" turned from a love song to one of these. There's also "Bury Me Deep" and "You Could Be the One", a very ironic song of this category.
    • Eldritch has admitted that "Flood" I and II are intended to use flood imagery to evoke this.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Eldritch, and Morrison a bit as well.
  • New Sound Album: The more straightforward rock-oriented Vision Thing, leading to quite a bit of They Changed It, Now It Sucks.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Ribbons".
  • One of Us: Eldritch is a fan of Doctor Who, Batman, Gerry Anderson, The Prisoner, Star Trek...
  • Omniglot: Eldritch. Well, he did study languages at Oxford...
  • One-Woman Song: "Marian," "Alice."
  • One-Woman Wail: The late Ofra Haza provided one in the rearranged (ie. the famous) version of "Temple of Love."
  • Precision F-Strike: There's an especially poignant one in "Driven Like The Snow."
  • The Rashomon: Just try getting a straight answer what Patricia Morrison did on Floodland, or even whether she played bass on it after all - Eldritch claims she didn't appear on the album after all, while Morrison says she did but Eldritch re-recorded some of her parts.
  • Record Producer: With the exception of First and Last and Always, which was produced by David Allen (whose work Eldritch and Marx have criticised), Eldritch has had a production credit on all their other albums, which he shared on Floodland with Larry Alexander and Jim Steinman (whose main contribution was recording the gospel choirs for "This Corrosion" and "Dominion/Mother Russia"; Eldritch said Steinman didn't care about anything else and had no other input). Steinman returned on Vision Thing to co-produce and co-write "More" (and later borrowed that song's riff and part of the chorus for Batman the Musical), and Chris Tsangarides is credited for "When You Don't See Me", but the rest was self-produced.
  • Redemption in the Rain: In "Nine While Nine," the narrator waits out in the rain for a train to come while reflecting on his previous lover.
  • Sampling: "Never Land (A Fragment)" seemingly uses a sample from "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll: Sisters lyrics are always about cars, drugs, women, and wars. And Andrew Eldritch himself was an amphetamine user for a good while, leading to the writing of "Amphetamine Logic." every song he ever wrote prior to Floodland.
  • Signature Song: "This Corrosion."
  • Soprano and Gravel: The combination of Eldritch's Darth Vader vocals and gospel choirs, especially on "Dominion/Mother Russia", "This Corrosion" and "More".
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: The piano ballad "1959" on Floodland.
  • Take That: "This Corrosion" is a huge piss-take at Eldritch's former bandmates, as is "Jihad" from The Sisterhood's album.
  • Troubled Production: First and Last and Always.
  • Writer Revolt: After a contract dispute with Time Warner, Eldritch began working on a side project called Screw Shareholder Value - Not So Much A Band As Another Opportunity To Waste Money On Drugs And Ammunition Courtesy Of The Idiots At Time Warner -- or S.S.V-N.S.M.A.B.A.A.O.T.W.M.O.D.A.A.C.O.T.I.A.T.W. for short.