Most goth albums are pretty boring – once you’ve heard one Sisters of Mercy album, you’ve pretty much heard them all. Sound of the Blue Heart’s new album Wind of Change is aptly titled – it’s a chronicle of a breakup, with predictably disheartening results. Frontman Johnny Indovina sings in the doomed, I-could-kill-myself-at-any-minute baritone that’s everwhere in goth music (and reaches overkill awfully fast), but the music here transcends cliche. Spiked with incisive, imaginatively bluesy lead guitar over alternately lush and stark atmospherics, there are echoes of Pink Floyd as well as the Alan Parsons Project in their artsiest moments, along with the usual black-robed suspects. Some of this also evokes the quieter side of long-running New York Americana goth band Ninth House.
It’s a familiar story – the poor alienated protagonist tries to make it all by himself, but he can’t escape falling under The Spell, which is insistent but then gives way to a strikingly swoopy slide guitar on the break. By the second track he’s been poisoned for good, and as Indovina makes all too clear, “the poison stays.” This one is an interestingly funky minor-key song with big, catchy harmonies on the chorus, a meditation on the dichotomy of life and death. By the third track, he knows he should Run for Cover but he doesn’t – this pretty, organ-fueled backbeat ballad is essentially Memphis soul gone goth, a strange blend of soul warmth and gothic chill.
The title track – “Jealous of those with time to spend” – reverts to a goth-funk feel with electric piano and watery chorus-box guitar. As its ominous refrain reminds, hope is always elusive. The following track, Never is a dismissal/repudiation of a tortured past with echoes of Floyd: “Just close your door, I’ll go away.” By now, it’s obvious that none of this is going to end well. Violet’s Wish, a swinging, swaying blues ballad makes clear that the love interest here has one foot out the door: “She plays the song that takes her away.” The requiem begins with the ornate, 6/8 anthem Once Stood Love which with its fretless bass manages to maintain suspense despite an album’s worth of foreshadowing. And then everything comes crashing down with the vivid art-rock ballad The Arms of Yesterday, its mellotron wind arrangement evoking the Strawbs circa Grave New World, grief-stricken narrator losing himself in memories as the sun goes down. This is where the original songs on the album should end, although they don’t. The album winds up with a surprisingly good goth cover of Dylan’s It’s All Over Now Baby Blue – incongruous, maybe, with all that 1980s chorus-box guitar, but you can’t say it’s not original. For all we know – it’s been awhile since we made it out to Goth Night – this band could be huge with that crowd, and for that matter Sound of the Blue Heart ought to resonate with anyone who likes anthemic, artsy songcraft.