Sound — 9
The Mission are a British Goth rock band formed in the mid-eighties by ex-Sisters Of Mercy guitarist and bassist Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams, and went on to become a key band in the Goth movement. Some may remember their early albums such as "Gods Own Medicine" (1986), "Children" (1988) and "Carved In Sand" (1990), but after the 80s Goth flame began to fade The Mission largely fell from grace - pun intended.
Hussey and Co's foray into the world of electronics on "Masque" (1992) was rather hit-and-miss, and from there on The Mission began to fade into obscurity for the causal music fan. Subsequent albums delivered on the tropes expected of The Mission's eighties hey-day but fell short of producing anything beyond what may be expected of an old Goth band.
With these preconceptions in mind I can say I came away from listening to their 11th studio album " Another Fall From Grace" (2016) in a state of shock. Because it's bloody good.
The most notable improvement is in the production - with Tim Palmer at the helm, who produced both "Gods Own Medicine" and "Carved In Sand", The Mission have never sounded so good. Look no further than the opening title-track (featuring All About Eve's Julianne Reagan) which builds from thundering bass and pounding drums into swirling guitar riffs and sombre vocals.
There are plenty of rockers on this album such as "Tyranny Of Secrets" and "Met-Amor-Phosis", the latter featuring backing vocals from Ville Valo of HIM, which demonstrate very clearly The Mission are not just a Goth band - they are a great rock band.
Wayne Hussey wrote the majority of the songs himself, with some collaborations between himself and guitarist Simon Hinkler, and due in some part to the production these are some of the finest songs The Mission have released. Songs such as "Within The Deepest Darkness (Fearful)" are atmospherically dark and bleak and would stand strong on the album even without Gary Numan's guest appearance.
Lyrics — 8
Lyrically the Mission are known for fairy queens, circles of stone and all things mystical, but on "Another Fall From Grace" the more cheesy tropes have been largely abandoned in favour of slightly more mature word-scapes. The gothic imagery is still present but is more evocative and atmospheric, and less cliche, than previous Mission albums.
In terms of vocal performances Hussey really delivers on this album. The low gravelly tones on tracks such as "Within The Deepest Darkness" and "The Phantom Pain" are contrasted with more powerful vocals on heavier songs like "Tyranny Of Secrets" to great effect. Hussey even demonstrates a more delicate and tender side on songs like "Can't See The Ocean For The Rain" and "Never's Longer Than Forever". The guest vocal performances are also great, though often subtle, and though I have already mentioned a few, the standout guest appearance is surely Depeche Mode's Martin Gore on "Only You & You Alone", lending some beautifully atmospheric backing vocals to a song already featuring a strong performance from Hussey.
Overall Impression — 9
As someone very aware of The Mission and their albums, I can confidently say that "Another Fall From Grace" is without a doubt their finest album - a rather astonishing feat for a band on their eleventh album. But the album is consistent throughout with great songs and great performances from Hussey, Hinkler, Adams, Mike Kelly and all aforementioned guests. It also establishes that The Mission are not merely a Goth band but a rock band capable of incredible production, sound and songwriting.
For fans of The Mission who either lost interest or felt unsatisfied by post-eighties albums, this not merely a return to form but a clear transcension to new artistic heights for the band. For those unfamiliar with The Mission this album may well be the most accessible and the most impressive for fans of gothic rock and rock more generally.
The bottom line is The Mission have no business sounding this good on their eleventh album but here they are with an inspired record that towers above their back catalogue, cementing them as one of Britain's most underrated bands and showing there's life in these old goths yet.