Since coming across Wayne Hussey with Dead Or Alive, it is fair to say his musical journey has persistently left impacting and lingering marks on our personal musical travelogue, and of rock music itself. Whether it has been the dark compelling beginning through to the pop agitated revelry of the Pete Burns led band, the caustically elegant gothic drama of Sisters Of Mercy, or the melodic adventure and emotive beauty of The Mission, he has been there inciting and inspiring, like for so many, our passions. His adventures have not worked for all, drawing mixed responses at times towards his creativity, but it is fair to say that for us, especially with the last of those bands, he has been a distinctive musical presence with his various band-mates to find constant joy in.
So is was with relish and intrigue that we approached his new solo album Songs Of Candlelight And Razorblades, thirty years plus after first striking a bond with his creative presence. To be fair it is hard to go into a Wayne Hussey involved release without some expectations, and maybe hopes of hearing essences of former glories. It was the same with the new album and those wishes were pleasingly fed, much because of the unique vocals of the man, but what also emerged was an album which unveiled a glorious landscape of diverse melodic and emotive adventure with an intimacy, which as so many of the songs in his past, found a personal connection. Already covered in acclaim for The Mission’s last album The Brightest Light of last year, Mr Hussey is due another heavy dose of eager praise and recognition for what is an album of the year contender.
The successor to his previous album Bare, a release seeing Hussey present various Mission songs and other covers, Songs Of Candlelight & Razorblades is the personal creative craft and heart of the Sao Paulo based musician on display alone for arguably the first time. It makes for a riveting proposition, one merging impassioned folk, resonating melodic rock, and emotional shadows into a startling and thrilling portrait of an artist still discovering and exploring new corners and depths. Released on his own Eyes Wide Shut Recordings, the crowd funded album opens with Madam G, a noir kissed slice of melancholic yet radiant melodic moodiness. The gentle caress of its sultry embrace is a weave of expression soaked strings and poetic piano around the welcomingly familiar tones of Hussey. It is a bold way to open the release, not a punchy and openly infectious lure as most albums would begin with, but a jazz kissed smouldering which slowly and successfully draws the imagination right into the album.
The following Nothing Left Between Us opens on a bloom of folk tinged guitar melodies and the gravelled tones of Hussey. It is a warm and inviting beginning soon broadening with backing harmonies and a deliciously throaty bassline, light and dark essences entwining for a riveting and reserved but keen stroll which increases in passion and intensity the deeper into the song’s vibrant croon it goes. Its catchy potency is matched by the more exotic breath of JK Angel of Death (1928-2011), electro jabs linking up with sonic enterprise for its own individual evocative call of sound and expression. As its predecessor, the track washes the senses in a provocative climate of melodic colour enriched with emotive hues, further confirming that in writing and vocal strength alone Hussey has lost none of his compelling strengths.
Both Swan Song (Lament) and You Are Not Alone keep the album’s fine persuasion soaring, the first another slice of impassioned balladry aligned to a gentle catchiness brought by creative hooks and vocal prowess, whilst its successor explores the kind of melodic twang and tenacious imagination which has never been far from the pinnacles within the perpetual success of The Mission. It is not a song which fully erupts into areas hinted at across its bewitching presence, but certainly leaves plenty for thoughts and emotions to feed greedily upon before Wasting Away [Reprise] braces ears. With Hussey finding an almost Bowie like tone initially to his vocals within a tender caress of the music, it is a track which does not seize the imagination like those before but worms under the skin for a just as lingering enjoyment.
The album hits its most impressive peak at this point, the pungent charm and emotional elegance of The Bouquets and the Bows making the first roaring temptation. From another warm and reserved stroking of ears and imagination, the track increasingly grows and brews up a climactic passion and energy to cast a finale which simultaneously burns and seduces the senses, bass and keys especially potent in the latter of the two sides alongside the vocals. Its success is soon surpassed by the scintillating Wither on the Vine, the best track on the album. Straight away it shimmers with a melodic rock resonance which in turn is veined with a quite delicious sonic hook coursing with irresistible melodic blood. Again it is hard to ignore strong flavouring of The Mission but also there are elements sparking thoughts of Modern English, both rich spices accentuating the ridiculously infectious smile and magnetic invention of the track. It is prime Wayne Hussey songwriting and ingenuity, and quite outstanding.
No Earthly Cure is not backward in igniting the passions either, the song a summery canvas which blooms and flourishes in voice and enticing harmonies to increasingly involve and spark the imagination. Its melodic scenery is enthralling, an electronic shimmering radiating through the expansive colour of melodic and harmonic beauty. The song again walks the highest plateau of the album, a level not quite emulated by ‘Til the End of Time but matched by Devil’s Kind. The first almost marches with folk bred festivity and endearing melodic invocation whilst the second brings caustic country rock breath to its captivating and raw again folk seeded persuasion. With thumping beats poking throughout the contagious devilry, the track is rock ‘n’ roll in its barest dressing and rigorously thrilling.
From the orchestral croon and lure of When I Drift Too Far from Shore, a song which soothes and seduces ears with a relatively subdued yet open theatrical appetite, the album begins its conclusion by provocatively exploring classical and dramatic textures through the gentle tempest of Next Station before ending on the challenging intrigue of Aporia. The first two of the trio only confirm the still impressing strength and heart bred expression of Hussey’s voice, as well as his stirring songwriting, whilst the closer sees him providing a spoken narrative across a haunting and engrossing flight of sonic exploration. Though the slower suasion of all three songs cannot rival what came before them, they still combine to ensure The Songs Of Candlelight & Razorblades ends with a memorable and invigorating conclusion.
It is probably right to assume that fans of Hussey and The Mission will find a swifter and easier impassioned connection with the album, but that does not detract from the fact that The Songs Of Candlelight & Razorblades is a breath-taking and stunning release. Listening to it you also feel that Wayne Hussey has only scratched the surface of his individual adventure which only increases the hunger for more.
The Songs Of Candlelight & Razorblades is available via Eyes Wide Shut Recordings now.
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