The Danse Society have a lineage that reaches back into the shadows of the early Eighties, contemporaries of post-punk acts such as 'Siouxsie and the Banshees' and 'Sisters of Mercy'. Achieving a Top 40 album ('Heaven is Waiting'), released in 1983, the band split in 1986, but continued to build up a cult following around their dark Gothic stylings. A great gulf divides the two eras of the group – following a final album, their appropriately vampiric resurrection came a startling quarter-century later with 2011's 'Change of Skin', driven by a fan movement which championed their rebirth.
This rebirth was, however, to be without their well known lead vocalist Steve Rawlings. Filling the void is Goth queen Maethelyiah, whose CV includes opera and alternative rock vocals, song writing and composition as well as being a writer of surreal novels. The shakeup obviously inspired the band, marking a prolific return to form (not to mention a far more distinctive and memorable vocal quality). Live appearances scheduled for the Barnsley-originated group include, somewhat appropriately, Whitby Goth Weekend (23-26 April 2015).
2014 saw another round of lineup changes, this time leaving guitarist Paul Nash as the only remaining founding member. However, on the evidence of this single release, The Danse Society sound has been very much maintained and indeed, energised. Essentially, despite the decades-long gap and the internal changes, there is a definite continuity of style.
Like much of their output, 'If I Were Jesus' is brooding, and begins with a confident stride. Rather than dominating, Maethelyiah's vocal is woven into the music, in this case driven by some genuinely infectious, spiky bass guitar. This is an admirably pared-down, uncluttered song, and all the better for it. Electric guitar and synth is layered effectively on top, creating a sense of tension. Religious themes are explored in sparing vocal terms. "If I were Jesus, I'd be disappointed," Maethelyiah intones darkly. "If I were Jesus, I wouldn't say much." It's a persuasive mix that deserves repeated spins.
Their second 'A side' is an enjoyably portentous version of the Simon & Garfunkel folk classic, opening with a fuzz guitar soundscape that, along with Maethelyiah's understated vocal, represents a blacker side to the original 'Sound of Silence'. The second verse sees the arrangement opened up effectively to bass and drums, and some soaring electric guitar in the instrumental.
The two songs make a great contrasting pair, showcasing an ever evolving band that keeps the blood flowing on their signature sound and rich, dark mood.