Tuesday, April 17, 2018

THE CHANCELLOR reviews THE ESSENCE - 35: The Collection box set

35: THE COLLECTION 1985-2015

Available NOW!

First off, I’d like to address the elephant in the room:

The Cure.

The first thing you notice when listening to Dutch Post-Punk band The Essence is that they sound remarkably like SEVENTEEN SECONDS/FAITH-era Cure. Regardless of the band's similarities to Robert Smith and Co.,  The Essence has created a back catalog that stands on its own.  In fact, Cherry Red Records’ THE ESSENCE 35: THE COLLECTION 1985-2015 brings everything together into one five CD box. What is really impressive about The Essence is that they were able to create some very fine albums that mixed the cold atmosphere of Goth Rock with the angular stomp of Post-Punk, the wistful melodies of Pure Pop, and the adventurous glide of New Wave. Top that off with plenty of emotion and that sums up The Essence and this box set.

Led by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Hans Diener, The Essence released five albums between 1985 and 1996. Like their Midnight Music label mates Sad Lovers & Giants, the band’s music was filled with both sunshine and shadows, beauty and sadness. Almost any emotion you can think of is on display in this wonderful collection of their albums (plus bonus tracks).

Their 1985 debut, PURITY, sets the blueprint for what was too come.  Less atmospheric than what was to come, the album is brittle and rhythmic, recalling The Chameleons at times. Diener’s sharp songwriting skills are already in place on PURITY and would only get better over time. The CD includes non- album bonus tracks and remixes.

A MONUMENT OF TRUST (1987) was a more confident album, adding acoustic guitars and shimmering production to the band’s sound. The brittle, nearly robotic rhythms that occupied parts of the debut album were replaced with a human beat that matched the emotion in Hans’ songwriting. Some of the album sounds influenced by The Durutti Column and Cocteau Twins while still sounding like… err... The Essence. The CD includes bonus non-album tracks and mixes.

While MONUMENT OF TRUST was the closest they had to a ‘breakthrough’ album, ECSTACY (1988) was a complete gem that found the band moving forward with a mature and edgier sound that was unique and focused. “Like Christ” stood out as one of the band’s finest recordings. “Only For You” (influenced by New Order) should have been a huge hit. The album was a huge step forward for Hans and The Essence and should be considered a classic ‘80s album.  The CD features bonus tracks including non-album recordings and mixes. Two of the tracks are collaborations between The Essence and Sad Lovers & Giants and should not be missed.

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (1991) continued the trend towards a more muscular sound and was most certainly ECSTACY’s equal. “Out Of Grace,” “Everything,” “Never Let Go,” and “How You Make Me Hate” were immediate standouts. The CD features bonus tracks including a surprisingly fantastic cover of Prince’s “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man”!

The Essence released GLOW in 1995 but later rejigged the whole album and retitled it AFTERGLOW. Either way, the album is another great release from the band. A bit more stripped down and low-key than their two previous albums, AFTERGLOW was a solid collection of great songs that may not have furthered the band’s career but it sure added some gems to their impressive catalog. The CD adds bonus tracks including a cover of Japan’s “Visions Of China” which features a pretty impressive David Sylvian impression.

THE ESSENCE 35 is a stellar collection of moody melodic Post-Punk for New Wave lovers and fans of The Cure who wish Robert Smith and the boys had continued in the musical direction of their first three albums. Groovy stuff, indeed. 

Keep on truckin',

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