And the winner of the best song title of 2020 goes to Swiss goth ’n’ rollers Hell Boulevard, namely, You Had Me At Fuck Off, a phrase which seems to both sum up their belligerence and anti-establishment stance as well as the underlying attitudes currently bubbling up in society given the tiring tirade of global events, political power plays and health crises in recent times. Perhaps what is less expected is that it takes the form of a dark and ornate, baroque ballad. But that just goes to show the versatility of the band.
The majority of the album is made up of songs which seem to fall between the cold clinical sound of early Sisters of Mercy and the raw, jagged-edge industrial vibe of Rob Zombie, Rammstein and Type O-Negative. But unlike some of those black-clad boundary pushers, Hell Boulevard employ something that was often missing from such makers of goth-metal mayhem…accessibility!
Not something normally associated with such music in extremis but one listen to the title track, for example, and you realise that this is an album built on old-school rock and roll groove. And when did that ever fail you? More restrained songs such as Ropes and Candles wander the shadowed, synth-laden wastelands where Depeche Mode found their greatest success, Speak of The Devil is a white-knuckle ride of theatrics and drama, energy and euphoric delights and Hate Me is all infectious staccato beats and epic soundscaping.
It’s goth without the cliche, metal without the showboating, industrial but with an unexpected approachability. But you also find a few unexpected nuggets within. Rock groove, brooding pop sensibilities, theatrical drama, Sturm und Drang, the profound and the profane. Sounds like a great place to spend some time to me.