Play Dead “From the Promised Land” CD/LP

Play Dead - From the Promised LandIn no way, shape, or form am I capable of holding much of an intelligent conversation about classic "goth" acts (Is that even what you call bands like this?), but I definitely flip out over that stuff on the rare occasion that I stumble upon it done right. And that's damn sure the case here. Play Dead started out in England in the early-80's and amassed a rather sizeable discography by the time they folded in 1986. I was first exposed to their work a little over a year ago when I downloaded this incredible mix and was blown away by "Pleasureland" (an absolutely amazing tune, seriously), so I bought most all of their output shortly thereafter.

"From the Promised Land" is their second full-length, originally released by Clay Records in 1984. Much of the material is driven by dense, plunky basslines with winding guitar riffs and half-yelled/half-sung vocals, but maybe this stuff gets a little more aggressive than other "goth" bands? I don't know. It's definitely a little different. Perhaps somewhat darker and less immediately "catchy". Hypnotic. I can't very accurately describe the music here, so I'm not going to try that hard. As always, you can check 'em out for yourself and come to your own conclusion. I'm just trying to steer you in the right direction! I don't really understand why Play Dead isn't talked about just as much as The Sisters of Mercy, though. They probably have a cult following or something, but clearly the band is painfully underrated, seeing as I can't even find my favorite songs from this album on YouTube or anything. That being said, there's an extremely detailed fansite out there (even if its design still reeks of the mid-90's internet) where you can download the original mix of this LP (scroll down just a bit for the details/mp3's for "From the Promised Land"). Apparently the band was unhappy with the first pressing of the album, so it was tweaked, remixed, and re-released after the initial pressing of 1,000 copies. I'm not sure I agree, though. Both versions are quite good, but the muddier, more bass-heavy atmosphere of the original really adds to their aesthetic quite nicely.

Honestly, their third and final album, "Company of Justice", is even better, but the song "Pleasureland" is what introduced me to the band (and remains my favorite of their tracks), so I'm writing about this one! That being said, "From the Promised Land" is actually the hardest of their albums to find. Their other full-lengths are available digitally, for example, but not this one. Go figure!? There are some vinyl copies on eBay, and it's been reissued on CD with bonus tracks a couple of times (in one form as "Resurrection", which for some reason doesn't include the track "Weeping Blood"), but those are increasingly rare/somewhat expensive, too. It's a mystery and a shame, as this album should absolutely not be lost to obscurity...

Get It ("From the Promised Land" CD) ("Resurrection" CD)

I'd definitely be interested in hearing recommendations for other good bands of this style as well. Obviously my knowledge of this niche is very limited, but I'd love to hear more. Thanks!


  1. with regards to the mix, have to nod in salutation to the “raven chorus” pick. that album is genius.

    9.16.2011 | By Anonymous

  2. The cover reminds be of some old movie, something in the vein of Deliverance or something like that; where calm water hides terrible things…

    The music is great. I’m glad that you uncover to me some gem from the past I probably didn’t hear before.

    On Discogs you can get many vinyls but not one CD… :/

    9.16.2011 | By Carlos

  3. I’m surprised that i haven’t heard about this band before you told me about them, since this whole style was my shit for a long time. I think Fields of the Nephilim are the only goth band that approach this level of aggression, altough they’re much more metal than this. I’ve heard similar things about Shriekback but haven’t sat and listened in depth. Another band i recently found out about is And Also the Trees. Listen to the song ‘Virus Meadow’ and tell me it isn’t your shit. And if you haven’t already done so, you really need to check out The Cure’s ‘Pornography,’ which is probably one of the most unrelenting of the early goth albums. And if you pick up any Siouxsie material, make sure it’s the album ‘Juju’ which is pure modulated bass and guitar feedback and totally sinister. Except for the first track it’s one of my favourite albums.

    9.16.2011 | By james

  4. I had a major fixation on Play Dead for years.  While I get that the goth tag is pinned to their filthy jackets a lot, to me they always seemed to have a lot more in common with Killing Joke.  That bass-heavy / rolling toms feel.  The fact that their records were on Clay (home of Discharge and GBH) tells me that people at the time thought the same way.

    9.16.2011 | By Bruce

  5. Great stuff! I’ve been getting into more ‘80s goth and post-punk lately, so this is right up my alley. I agree with Bruce, though. They sound more like post-punk than goth. But, there’s a fine line between those two genres, so calling them goth isn’t way off base.

    You need to check out The Chameleons if you haven’t already. Start with “Script of a Bridge”.

    9.19.2011 | By gordeth

  6. James: I assume you were listening to The Nefilim, not Fields of the Nephilim. Old FotN sounds a lot like this, Nefilim has the good atmospheric bits, for what it is worth.

    9.25.2011 | By Rory