The second and final studio album done as a full collaboration between Rozz Williams and Valor Kand, Ashes finds Christian Death at what might have been simply the beginning of a long-term partnership of quality rather than a final break. Williams' vocals are now much more controlled and immediately powerful than the overwrought early days, substituting a quieter sense of later, Bowie-inflected drama instead of, say, Ziggy-era Bowie squealing. Kand's lyrics aren't any less laden with images of religion, twisted sex, insanity and mystic rites — a ritualism well matched throughout by the music — but the near-adolescent goofiness of earlier times now feels much more considered and focused. Kand, in the meantime, brings a much more consciously artistic edge to his music than Rikk Agnew did on Only Theatre of Pain; here the aggressive power is tempered by a huge theatricality that still works, almost in spite of itself. Not to say that this era of Christian Death can't rage as hard — the conclusion of the opening track, "Ashes" itself, is a frenetic explosion of sound, where drummer David Glass and singer/keyboardist Gitane Demone also earn their keep. Restraint, though, is a key element to what's going on — consider the almost psych/frug worthy "Face," or the wonderful "When I Was Bed." The title may be a bit nonsensical, but the shadowy pulse of the music, ratcheting up just a bit on the verses, is attractively paced throughout. Williams and Demone make for a good harmony team on the chorus, and the whole is equal to the post-punk hooks-and-vibe of bands like Echo & the Bunnymen. A great detour from the overall mood is "Lament," an oompah/music hall anthem that sounds like a twisted carnival anthem, where Demone gets to sweetly intone things in German and Williams really exercises his Bowie fetish.
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