The Bellwether Syndicate
Vestige & Vigil
The duo at the core of The Bellwether Syndicate have likely forgotten more about goth rock than 99% of us within the scene could possibly hope to ever know. Scary Lady Sarah has a claim at being the longest-tenured active DJ in North America, if not the world (and is a key Bandcamp follow for those wanting to stay abreast of new releases), and William Faith has served as both primary songwriter and sideman in at least half a dozen bands who have fundamentally shaped the sound of goth over the past thirty years. Several years in the making, the band’s first LP is a testament to the depth and range of that experience.
Most immediately, the band’s wealth of knowledge and experience ensures that Vestige & Vigil showcases just about every shade and style of goth rock and neighbouring genres the band feel like exploring. With Faith’s veteran hand, they sound just as confident using spindly deathrock to render the horrors of American gun culture on “Wetworks” as they are linking vintage second wave sounds to the modern wave of dark post-punk on “Beacons” (the band’s avowed respect for Vancouver’s Actors seems especially apparent there). The rollicking go-go of “Noir Thing” might read as a weird splitting of the difference between Sigue Sigue and The Stooges, but one doesn’t even have to stray outside of Faith’s own discography to hear some parity with it in his time in streetwise, fun-time LA goth act Wreckage.
That variety plays out well across the entirety of Vestige & Vigil as a full-length. Preceded primarily by arrival statement EP The Night Watch, individual tracks from the LP have surfaced as far back as 2018. That lengthy percolation hasn’t just given the band to fine-tune and select the best tracks they might have bashed out in that period, it also means that the different production and arrangement styles of each tune stand out from one another, with nothing ever blurring into forgettable repetition (with the added benefit of its run-time seeming to zip right by).
The crepuscular, romantic glory of “Golden Age”, the album’s highlight as far as I’m concerned, frames the band’s collecting and shepherding of sounds past into the present. Musically, it brings goth’s underexplored dalliances with dream pop and shoegaze in past decades into contemporary post-punk terrain, while lyrically it speaks to the wisdom and reflection the duo bring to a project with the purview of The Bellwether Syndicate; celebrate the past, they remind us, but don’t make a virtue of nostalgia.