Tony Reed can hardly be accused of idleness, not only is he a member of several bands, including Mos Generator, Big Scenic Nowhere, Hot Spring Water, Twelve Thirty Dreamtime, Treepeople, and Stone Axe but he is also a studio engineer.
Constance Tomb is a project Reed first worked on at around age 19 in 1988 and which was heavily influenced by the gothic movement of the early 80s. Indeed, a cursory look at the album cover provides evidence of this with a goth stood in natural surroundings, there is even a photo of a young Tony decked out in goth regalia resembling a young Glenn Danzig.
The recordings Tony did around this time were made on primitive equipment in bedrooms and basements of people that would provide him space to record in. This record therefore is Tony providing us with ‘cleaned-up’ versions of tracks recorded originally 32 years ago.
Opening track Spiritual Stairway resembles a definite TSOL Dance With Me style influence, his vocals bearing more than a passing resemblance to Jack Grisham. Although not as hardcore punk tinged, this nonetheless makes for a bracing opener. Amokt resembles an up tempo Christian Death (Rozz Williams era) while The Doomsday Subliminalist’s driving riff, to my ears, has a slight surf punk influence not a million miles away from Agent Orange, who themselves betrayed, at times, a dark Gothic underbelly.
Crawl at nearly six minutes is the longest on the album, reminding me of Southern Death Cult’s post-punk/proto goth rock, especially with that bands track Moya. In fact Constance Tomb wouldn’t have been out of place on a label such as Beggars Banquet not only alongside Southern Death Cult but also their heroes Tones On Tail. Incidentally there’s even a more recent shot of Tony sporting a Tones On Tail T-Shirt included in this promo, so it’s safe to say they’ve been an influence.
As someone who enjoys goth rock but who cringes somewhat at the melodrama and depressed/gloom laden clichés, this is a fantastic record…
Next up is the 1-2 sucker punch of Neurosleep and The Last Picture Show, both of which seem to finish before they’ve even started. This to me is how great goth rock sounded before the ponderous Meatloaf pretentions of the likes of The Sisters of Mercy, proving that at its best, it could evoke a creepy atmosphere and rock simultaneously without recourse to ridiculous melodrama. The tempo slows to slinky sounding instrumental Orthodox Seduction which more than lives up to its name and dare I say displays a slight Yawning Man/Big Scenic Nowhere Desert country-fried sound that provides hints about Tony’s future musical direction.
Big Brother Doom comes across a little like Bauhaus being fronted by the late Michael Hutchence of all people and it works surprisingly well. The second longest track on the album Poison Performances starts with a latter-day Black Flag feel and a Greg Ginn styled riff before changing tack completely and slowing down to something resembling Love And Rockets gone stadium rock, decent if a little jarring. We finish with Blood Red Eternity that demonstrates a Samhain influence complete with a bellowing Danzig style vocal flourish, reminiscent of that band’s Unholy Passion EP.
As someone who enjoys goth rock but who cringes somewhat at the melodrama and depressed/gloom laden clichés, this is a fantastic record. The music is remarkably well played for a guy who was of such a tender age and it has been well produced without losing any of its original essence.
There may be some who will balk at a heavy rock legend producing an album of death/goth-rock, but remember, Big Scenic Nowhere bandmate Gary Arce is a massive Bauhaus fan so it’s by no means the anomaly one would first imagine.
Scribed by: Reza Mills