Saint Agnes – Vampire
“It’s hard to imagine cramming much more frenzied passion into such a brief suite of songs than Saint Agnes have managed with Vampire.”
Twenty-first-century goths Saint Agnes conjure a stylishly cinematic horror-fantasy world with their raw and visceral metal-tinged rock. Building on their 2019 debut Welcome To Silvertown, they were forging an impressive reputation for the reckless abandon of their energetic and visually stunning shows before live music came to an abrupt halt with the pandemic restrictions of 2020.
Spending lockdown together in their East London flat, vocalist Kitty A. Austen and guitarist Jon James Tufnell embarked on a series of ‘Quarantine Diaries’, weekly home-recorded cover version videos. Their take on the Grinderman classic No Pussy Blues got the nod of approval from no less than Nick Cave himself, who declared it “chilling and superior”.
Two of the quarantine covers feature on the new mini-album Vampire, along with four original numbers. Physical copies have vibey atmospheric interludes described as ‘Psalms’ woven amongst the tracks that link and expand the musical themes.
Revenge is justified
After a bit of coughing and spluttering over a suitably gothic organ motif, opener Repent bursts forth with a ferocious intensity. “Revenge is justified,” intones Kitty, over a bassline so dirty it might have been dredged from the bowels of the earth. The rest of the band crash in with screeching guitar and a kick drum that hits like a baseball bat wrapped in lead stolen from the church roof. It’s an awesome dynamic that continues through the song, alternating brooding menace with righteous fury. The transitions are deliciously accented with thrillingly tight triplet snare rolls. The choruses have the feel of the mosh pit, with a stomping, headbanging bounce and a grinding and squealing metal riff. It’s a dark triumph, and I’d love to hear it played live.
The title track and current single Vampire has a busy feel more akin to contemporary pop, with a processed and satisfyingly melodic vocal, plus an array of synth-like chimes and more menacing electronic tones. Needless to say, there’s a layer of scuzz and dirt underneath, and I rather like the contrast of distinctly lo-fi snare breaks in the midst of the modern audio. It’s a well-crafted song with a series of naggingly catchy hooks, and I could easily imagine it appealing to a broad audience.
Kitty spits the lyrics with a venomous sass
The awkward typewriter rhythm of No Pussy Blues is very familiar; the song’s iteration in a female voice less so. The growling bass part oscillates like a didgeridoo, providing a tribal and otherworldly backdrop, as Kitty spits the lyrics with a venomous sass. The instrumental breaks unleash utter mayhem, with howling guitars and piercing shrieks of effects that could be the screams of tortured souls. This is a truly magnificent cover version.
Lead single This World Ain’t Big Enough is gloriously heavy, with the interplay of fuzz-laden guitar and bass sounding like dangerous industrial machinery and a vocal that oozes threat and menace. Pretty much everything is drenched in some sort of distortion, although there’s a spookily clear four-note piano figure ringing out throughout the song, and this provides an eerie accompaniment to a pleasingly ethereal vocal line in the breakdowns. The chorus is another earth-shaking stomp-along, and I suspect this number might get the crowd a bit lively when gigs finally return.
I’m With You Everywhere You Go is the only original here that hasn’t been released as a single, but I suspect that’s only a matter of time. The opening riff has an exotic quality. There’s a brief moment of cutesy melodic vocal, which is soon rendered terrifying by insistent repetition of exponentially increasing intensity. The band go big on the dynamics, with juddering stops and some spectacularly effective drum fills.
The clatter of a relentlessly fast train beat shunts in the second lockdown cover: a reimagining of Wish by Nine Inch Nails. It’s another champion version, with powerful rhythm guitar and a swooping wah solo, and Kitty’s vocal delivering plenty of attitude.
Psalm V, the last of the interludes, concludes the mini-album in a thematically satisfying and freakily wonderful way. It would be worth buying a physical copy to get the full experience of this record.
It’s hard to imagine cramming much more frenzied passion into such a brief suite of songs than Saint Agnes have managed with Vampire. Their horror comic world is vividly manifested through the majestic sweep of a powerfully executed musicality. They have the charm, swagger and charisma of the undead. Will you be inviting them in?
Vampire is released on 26th March via Death Or Glory Gang Records.
Tracklist ( * physical copies only)
No Pussy Blues
This World Ain’t Big Enough
I’m With You Everywhere You Go
Saint Agnes are:
Kitty A Austen (vocals/guitar)
Jon James Tufnell (guitar/vocals)
Ben Chernitsky (bass)
Andy Head (drums)