V/A - The Bells Shall Sound Forever - CD - 15 tracks - Sweet Farewell - 2004

I've never really liked tribute albums. Even if they are often labours of love from genuine fans and conceived with the purest intentions of all involved, tribute albums often turn out to be quite perilous affairs. They never really measure up the (probably too) high expectations placed upon them by the fans and, music wise, they can range from the downright mediocre ('Heilige Tod', Death In June) to something reasonably satisfactory containing one or two pearls ('Sol Lucet Omnibus', Sol Invictus), but they never seem to equal the creative output of the artist who is being honoured. This tribute to Current 93, curated by the Canadian label Sweet Farewell, has been endorsed by David Tibet (who also provided the cover artwork, taken from his personal collection of paintings by Louis Wain), so perhaps things will be different this time…

I had mixed feelings when I first slipped this cd into my stereo, as the line-up mixes some of the most interesting artists of the moment with a handful of unknown projects just waiting to be discovered and, as usual, one or two opportunists.
As expected, most of the interesting versions come from the more prominent artists. Sonne Hagal apply to 'Death of the Corn' their usual experimental style of German folk. The Ô Paradis version of 'Calling For Vanished Faces I' is, as with all of his work up to now, just unique. Decadence offer an acoustic guitar-based, neoclassical interpretation of 'Ach Golgota' that is superbly enlightened by Euphrosyne's delicate vocals. The contributions from Cawatana ('A Song For Douglas After He's Dead') and Der Feurkreiner ('Soft Black Stars') retain their own distinctive sound wispy neofolk or militant martial sound.
Some of the 'new comers' also show a certain potential, even if it is difficult to determine if their versions are distinctive of their own style or just one-off covers (time will tell, I suppose…). Pancreatic Aardvark present a pleasant, intimate version of 'Judas as Black Moth' whilst Weihan rely on delicate acoustic guitars and whispered vocals to offer a version of 'All the Pretty Little Horses' that I find rather pleasant even if it stays close to the original version. Leisur Hive take a dark rock approach to 'Immortal Bird' and their slow-motion fuzzy guitars and taught bass lines add an edge to the original. One of the less conventional interpretations comes from Lisa Toulouse (which I have since learned is the side project of one of the more eminent projects present on this tribute) with a dark and menacing drum'n'bass instrumental version of 'Christ And The Pale Queens' that actually works quite well.
All these projects have managed to turn their chosen Current 93 song into one of their own, while retaining the essence of the original. Which is no mean feat…

All in all this tribute falls into the 'something reasonably satisfactory containing one or two pearls' category and, with a careful and selective programming, it can be a pleasant listening experience. I would not rate 'The Bells Shall Sound Forever' as an absolute necessity, but it is, nonetheless an interesting addition to anyone's Current 93 collection.

Ian C.
Spring 2004

Sweet Farewell : www.sweetfarewell.com