Anne Marie Hurst is a name from the past and one that may not be familiar with all our readers so a brief bit of history is perhaps necessary. Yorkshire may well be renowned for rough and rugged men, sheep, ale and whippets but thanks to well known bands such as The Sisters Of Mercy, through to lesser known ones like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and The March Violets it was Leeds in all its doom and miserable gloom that was the place to be. Sprawling across the county a thriving scene started up in the early 80s one that took off down narrow country lanes taking in the Bradford mills and clog factories via the post punk sounds of New Model Army and gave birth almost a decade later to doom metal acts such as My Dying Bride and Halifax based Paradise Lost and Peaceville Records, names that I would imagine most readers are well and truly au fait with.
The fronds spread in the 80s and there were plenty of groups forming in the area, one of which was The Skeletal Family formed in Keighly in 1982 fronted by Anne Marie Hurst. Getting some success and a good fanbase behind them the band were around until 1986 before splitting. This saw Anne Marie joining forces with ex Sisters Of Mercy guitarist Gary Marx and forming Ghost Dance who themselves released a couple of cracking albums before disbanding at the end of 1999.
Potted history over and right up to date, what we have now is Anne Marie Hurst back after a gap of over a decade with her first new album in years. With her are a couple of ex Skeletal Family band members Stan Greenwood and Roget Trotwood Nowell as well as some new musicians and an album of brand new songs. Anne Marie has been getting into the swing of things playing some of these songs live as well as some classic numbers by her past groups recently and these shows have certainly gone down well.
I would not go into ‘Day Of All Days’ expecting a carbon copy of old albums as it is very much in a different time and place. Some have said it is a bit of a continuation from Ghost Dance swansong ‘Stop The World’ but a lot has gone on since then and this clearly exudes a much more mature edge to it.
Bouncing in with ‘Set Me Free’ it is as though a new lease of life has been injected. The song has a strong rocking edge and some classic sounding guitar lines and chugging bass about it. There is a carefree attitude about this one and it’s a happy and infectious start to the album before ‘Lost In Munich’ jigs us about sounding like a real cut from the past in the chorus and reminding me of everyone from Rubella Ballet to Lost Cherees. There are many different emotions touched upon and some are not the happiest. There is a bit of an auto-biographical feel to things at times and life has not been the easiest for the singer. The sombre tones of ‘Dollars Drip Blood’ is the first of these heartfelt songs and it has a huge depth of emotions about it as it tugs the heartstrings. Vocally it sounds fantastic and the gentle acoustic melody matches it gorgeously. There is plenty of drive to pull you back from these moments though and following this one we have the jagged guitar licks and sultry sounding vocals of ‘Take Your Time’ to pick us up.
The 13 songs have great versatility and are all quite different. There’s lots to like, the moody Shadows sounding gun play guitars on ‘The Angels’ which is one stand out point. I really like ‘Your Eyes’ as I was at the studio whilst the band were recording it along with guest spots by Paul Weller and Ocean Colour Scene keyboard player Steve Craddock. It’s a sad but also celebratory song dedicated to Anne Marie’s brother who committed suicide. A couple of the best numbers are saved towards the end, the slightly trippy psychedelic ‘Dreamy Days’ with chanted chorus really hits the spot and ‘Heaven’s Mist’ which really is a departure being a Nick Cavesque folk tinged tale. Finishing off with ‘Mixed Feelings’ one of the albums catchiest and powerful choruses it is a good end to the album.
So hopefully this will just be the start of a resurrected career that will see plenty more dates and recordings. A great place to start out if you have never heard the artist’s past work and a great pick up point if you have. Now if only someone would release Gathering Dust on CD!
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)