The Golden Age of Nothing are “a pyschedelic goth band” from Stockton. I am one of NE:MM’s classical music critics. And so the scene is set for another writer being sent bravely into unfamiliar territory. However, our editor cannot see into the dark corners of my music collection, and so of all the things I could have been landed with when I volunteered to do a cross-genre review, I think I got pretty lucky.
‘Ghosts Destroy Us’ is the band’s debut album, and it ticks all the gloomy goth boxes very nicely – my points of reference are probably embarrassingly out of date, but The Sisters of Mercy came to mind when I listened to these swirling anthems with their luxuriant synths, Doyle Alderson’s heavy bass, and Graeme Wilkinson’s growling vocals. The band’s third member, Graham Seaman plays violin, although not in any conventional way, as far as I can tell: in the video for ‘Everything is on Fire’ he’s strumming it guitar style, and throughout the album there are all sorts of odd whispery sounds that I guess come from the violin, although you have to listen quite hard for them inside the thick texture.
Everything Is On Fire by The Golden Age of Nothing
The press release told me that “The songs are short stories that pull you into their own little tragic world, laughing as they do it”. At times the vocals are too obscured to get a grip on the lyrics, but I don’t like to think too much of what might be behind ‘Twisted Hands’ (‘these twisted hands/can’t wander any more’) and Graeme Wilkinson’s starkly exposed vocal fragments in ‘Party on the Beach’ are enough to suggest that the song’s title is cruelly ironic. The opening and closing songs, ‘Cosmonaut’ and ‘The Ends of the Earth’ are lyrically the strongest, both telling stories of lonely misadventure in space and the Antarctic respectively – ‘The Ends of the Earth’ creates a suitably bleak and chilling atmosphere for a tale of unbending obsession, again heavy with irony: “Follow me to the ends of the earth, we’ll be legendary.”
One thing that particularly stands out for me on ‘Ghosts Destroy Us’ is the continually shifting rhythms – ‘I am a Ghost’ begins with a big hypnotically circling guitar melody, and some of what I think might be Graham Seaman’s violin noises, but then it suddenly breaks out into a brief moment of wild acceleration, that stops as abruptly as it begins and makes this one of the best tracks on the album. ‘Everything is on Fire’ is marked by subtle tempo changes throughout, giving it a nervous, restless feel. ‘Stupid Birds’ has a deep, thudding bass that felt disturbingly as if it were trying to interrupt my own heartbeat, and it’s almost a relief when this beat gives way to chaotic explosions of sound.
Although I regularly turn to my nice little playlist of goth classics on my iPod, it’s been a long time since I added anything new to it, but the best songs this album will definitely be making their way into that collection.
Reviewer: Jane Shuttleworth