Originating from Leeds, the Sisters of Mercy were described by critic Steve Huey as playing "a slow, gloomy, ponderous hybrid of metal and psychedelia, often incorporating dance beats." The one constant in the band's career has been deep-voiced singer Andrew Eldritch. The band is named after the Leonard Cohen song "Sisters of Mercy" according to Eldritch. The band originally formed in 1980 with guitarist Gary Marx and drummer-turned-vocalist Eldritch. Doktor Avalanche, the drum machine, joined them on their second single Alice. Guitarist Ben Gunn and bassist Craig Adams were added to make live gigs feasible, and the Sisters built a reputation through several singles and EPs. Gunn left the band in 1983 and was replaced by Wayne Hussey.
They signed to WEA in 1984 and released the Body And Soul single. This featured a re-recording of Body Electric, Train, and Afterhours. This was followed by Walk Away towards the end of the year. The B-sides were Poison Door and On The Wire. Early releases of this single came with the 7" flexi Long Train (amphetamix).
1985 started with the release of No Time To Cry (backed with Blood Money and Bury Me Deep) and their first album First And Last And Always. In 1985 Gary Marx chose to leave the band, leaving a few days after the recording of First And Last And Always and Marian for The Old Grey Whistle Test program. The final concert of the tour at the Royal Albert Hall was recorded and subsequentally released as Wake on VHS.
During rehearsals for the next album, Craig Adams walked out and was followed by Wayne Hussey. The two of them formed a band and started gigging under the name The Sisterhood. For the full story on this go here.
Eldritch retired to Hamburg in Germany and started working on the new album. He enlisted the help of former Gun Club bassist Patricia Morrison although it is still unclear to how much she contributed musically to the project. This Corrosion (originally written to be part of The Sisterhood project), was released as a single in 1987. The single was backed with Torch (apparently the song that caused Craig Adams to walk out) and Colours (re-recorded from The Sisterhood album).
This was followed by the album Floodland. The CD version of the album contained Torch and Colours as extra tracks.
Dominion was released as a single after this and the video was filmed in the ancient Jordanian city of Petra. The B-sides were Sandstorm and Untitled. Emma, a live favourite, appeared on the 12" release and Ozymandias, a mixup of Dominion being played backwards was released on the CD and the Limited Edition 12" boxset. The final single Lucretia was released in 1988 and the video recorded in India. A video for 1959 was shot at the same time. The B-side to Lucretia was Long Train which had originally been released as a limited edition flexi 7" with the Walk Away single. All the Floodland-era videos was released on VHS in 1989 on the "Shot" video.
In 1989, Morrison was dropped from the band and Eldritch started working with young Hamburg musician Andreas Bruhn. Between them, they wrote Vision Thing. Recorded in Denmark, the band was expanded to include ex-Sigue Sigue Sputnik bassist Tony James and ex-All About Eve guitarist Tim Bricheno. The album was much more rock-orientated than anything The Sisters had done before.
A single, More was released in 1990 (B-Side You Could Be The One) followed by the album, Vision Thing. A tour of Europe commenced, the first Sisters tour since 1985 followed by a disastrous tour with Public Enemy in the US, which was cancelled before all the dates were completed. Doctor Jeep was released later in 1990 (B-Sides live bootleg recordings from 1985) and a German only release of When You Don't See Me followed in 1991 (with bootleg recordings from 1990 on the b-side). The Sisters toured throughout 1991. After this period, Tony James left the band.
It was decided to release all the early EPs on CD for the first time and Temple Of Love was re-recorded with Ofra Haza supplying the backing vocals. Temple Of Love (1992) was released and was the highest placed single The Sisters had had in the UK charts, peaking at no. 3. This featured an extended version of Vision Thing, the german release of When You Don't See Me and the remix of Detonation Boulevard on the b-sides. They headline major European music festivals. Tim Bricheno and Andreas Bruhn both officially leave, but Bruhn continued to play live with The Sisters in 1993 along with newcomer Adam Pearson.
1993 brought us a "greatest hits' compilation. A Slight Case Of Overbombing with all the A-sides from the beginning of their major label involvement in 1984 to 1993. Notable exceptions are Vision Thing (Canadian Club Mix) which featured on the Temple Of Love 1992 single and Detonation Boulevard (remix) which appeared on a promo CD on Elektra records to promote the album in the US. The single, Under The Gun, a re-working of "Two Worlds Apart" by Billie Hughes and featured Berlin vocalist Terri Nunn, was released in support of the album. The B-Side was a re-recording of Alice. The video complilation, Shot Rev2.0, was released which featured the Floodland, Vision Thing promos as well as Temple Of Love (1992) and Under The Gun.
After this release, Eldritch effectively went on strike refusing to work with the East West record label. The live incarnation of the band reappeared in 1996 playing several European concert dates with The Sex Pistols. Chris Sheenan joined as second guitar. New songs began to pepper the setlist. Chris left the band in 1997 and Mike Varjak took his place. Eldritch subsequently sent East West an album, which they accepted without listening to it, and The Sisters were finally free. The album (known as SSV) is third rate techno, with the drums removed and Eldritch talking nonsense. Although adverts appeared in the music press around that time, the album never saw an official release.
More touring commenced in 1998, but no album was released. A North American tour commenced in 1999. 2000 saw the return of Chris Sheenan and European halls and festivals were played for the next two years. Chris Sheenan started compiling video footage shot at the 2002 festivals for a future DVD release. A video of (We Are The Same) Suzanne was released on the bands' website, and swiftly removed due to heavy leeching. The audio is still available.
2003 brought more European gigs, but 2004 was a year off. Another European tour began in 2005, which saw the departure of Chris Sheenan, to be replaced by Leeds own Robochrist, Chris Catalyst. Also, taking the place of Adam Pearson was Ben Christo who joined in 2006. Their longest tour yet started that year, beginning in Las Vegas in February and finishing in December in Moscow. 2007 brought 3 European festival gigs in June and July.
The Sisters Of Mercy are currently:
Andrew Eldritch - vocals
Doktor Avalanche - drum machine
Nurse - nurse to the Doktor
Chris Catalyst - guitar and backing vocals
Ben Christo - guitar and backing vocals
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