Sisters Of Mercy – First And Last And Always

Originally released on Elektra in 1985 and reissued on LP via Mobile Fidelity’s Silver Label, First And Last And Always stands as Sisters of Mercy’s debut and one of the most influential goth records ever issued.

The lead track, “Black Planet,” showcases the new remastering to full effect. The song features an all-encompassing bass rhythm that, with every strike, infects the tune like mustard gas unleashed in a trench. On a poor master, the bass would threaten to suffocate the rest of the arrangement. But Mobile Fidelity keeps it in check with a distinct, sparkling, upper-mid sensitive guitar; the bass merrily sits on the edge of the soundstage.

Such attention to detail is shown in more subtle terms on “Walk Away,” which contains periods when singer Andrew Eldritch says too much in one breath, resulting in a slightly wavery and strained delivery. Again, on an inattentive master, the approach can sound both monotonous and monotone. Here, however, Eldritch’s voice modulates with a wide array of variation.

This pressing is also notable for the space that it provides the band. Yes, the soundstage is wide but, without the measure of instrumental separation it instils, the master would fail to fulfil its promise. For example, on “Marian (Version),” the music is layered like an aural lasagne. Percussion sits underneath the rhythm guitar and bass while vocals act as a dripping sauce. In the meantime, the metallic-tinted acoustic guitar is sprinkled about like an herb topping. Yum. On “Possession,” instruments are grouped between the speakers—recipe for disaster given the potential for each to stumble into another or, worse, merge into a glutinous blob. Not here. The band sounds compact, calm, well adjusted, and efficient, leaving the soundstage extremities to create an effective stereo vocal effect.

A highly entertaining reissue, First And Last And Always is a lesson in how to retain artistic vision while satiating the audiophile heart. —Paul Rigby

Mobile Fidelity Silver Label, LP