A new Sisters of Mercy album is bound to generate a lot of interest for a certain segment of the music listening audience, but, if you’re not very familiar with the band’s policy about working with record companies and producing new material, don’t expect a new release to happen anytime soon.
The Sisters of Mercy define is a “cult band” by definition. A band constantly associated with the sub-genre of “gothic rock scene”, despite their own protests, with very dedicated and fans that are very knowledgeable of the genre and its development. They’re also are a group constantly discovered by new generations. In fact, the Sisters of Mercy are one of the bands that find an audience, and a sizeable one at that, many years after they stopped being active in terms of recordings. Their type of fans is also surprising, usually outside of what their record company would have identified as their niche market. Sisters of Mercy are what a marketing executive might term “a crossover act”.
Perhaps this was the problem all along. The group, led by baritone singer Andrew Eldritch, has always had a strained relationship with record companies. At a time when even independent music, for the most part, had to be involved with the big record labels, the band never showed interest in playing ball with the corporate entities eager to sell their records across the world. All the more strange, the group enjoyed notoriety far beyond that of most of their peers. Record companies were, however, anxious to market the band outside of what they presumed was the band’s core audience, goth kids and alternative music fans.
For their part, the Sisters of Mercy insisted that their music did not comfortably fit a box as limiting as “goth rock”. And they were art. Artistically and commercially their situation was far more complex. Their musical efforts tended to become more adventurous as time went on, and despite their success with critics and the public, their relationships with the record representatives became more strained. Their motivation to become world stars also faded quickly. Their creativity remained intact while interested in producing recorded music. Soon enough the gears ground to a halt completely, at least in terms of new records releases.
The band famously went on strike from their label accusing them of sabotaging their career. The band had always made an effort towards independence and the majority of their releases came out on Merciful records, the band’s own label. However, as with the majority of indie labels, they too had a distribution deal that could offer them access to the record companies’ distribution network. And with a deal came negotiations and expectations from record execs. It wasn’t that Eldritch did not want to be successful. He was just not in a hurry to do it at any expense.
Eldritch held Warner in a standstill refusing to release new music through the label. A type of compromise was reached for the collection of older material “Some Girls Wander by Mistake” released in 1992. The band was even persuaded to record an updated version of the song “Temple of Love” to accompany the release. But for all intents and purposes, the group had cut ties to their record label, and recording industry as a whole.
Warner finally called it quits on trying to reach a compromise with Eldritch in 1997 and the band was released from their contract. But by 1997 many things were about to change. The Sisters Of Mercy would soon reappear under a new line-up with Andrew Eldritch the sole remaining member of the previous incarnations of the band. People’s tastes in music had also, naturally, changed, but was not very concerning to the group, who had always operated outside of trends and fashion. But if it’s one thing big record labels have trouble with is promoting bands once their popularity has started to go in decline. Warner simply walked away.
The recording industry that Eldritch had loathed so much, was destined to almost cease to exist. At least in the format that the band had struggled with for all this time. Through the years there was an abundance of rumors regarding negotiations between the band and various labels. But with little interest from both parties, nothing came of it.
The Sisters of Mercy recorded three studio albums and a handful of singles. All of the band’s releases held in high praise, with fans of alternative rock especially. The band’s second album “Floodland” is considered a modern classic by practically anyone with an interest in modern music. Their reputation is set in stone and as years go by and it can only increase.
However, ironically as the Music industry has taken a nose dive, so does the chance of a band to be pushed towards success. Sisters of Mercy remain creative with new music heard through concerts from time to time. The new music doesn’t look likely, for now, and in the conservative format of album releases, to be archived to the recording format. Sisters of Mercy continue to operate in their world, their fans, many as they are, show no displeasure at this, and their recording look set to remain classified under the popular moniker of “classic”.