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NÖSFERÄTU (Buy CDs by this artist)
Rise (Cleopatra) 1993
Legend (Cleopatra) 1994
The Prophecy (Cleopatra) 1995

England's Nösferätu is, bar none, the most theatrical goth outfit ever assembled; the band is so devoted to its pretensions that it drives to gigs in a hearse. Unlike the members of Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Christian Death and other genre giants, vocalist Louis DeWray, guitarist Damian Deville and bassist Vladimir Janicek are completely sincere; no tongue-in-cheek Screaming Lord Sutch moments ever lighten their moody world. Rise is rife with vampire lyrics, creepy synth sound effects, slithering guitar and frilly harpsichord flourishes. Through songs like "Vampyres Cry," "Dark Angel," "Lament" and "Alone," DeWray makes sinister old Andrew Eldritch seem like a nursery-rhyme-crooning kindergarten teacher. For the enthusiast, Rise is orgasmic. For everyone else, the album is simply dress-up silliness.

Legend, a back-catalogue CD collection, features early versions of "Vampyres Cry" and "Dark Angel," along with 12-inch remixes and tracks from singles and compilations. The album seethes and hisses with all the fury and sensuality of a newly inducted child of the night. Snicker all you like, there's never been a band that so perfectly — and enthusiastically — embodies the goth stereotype. The material suffers from poor production, but some of the songs shine through the murk. DeWray's darkly melodramatic charisma gets full exposure on the excellent, pulse-quickening "Abominations," the horror-eroticism of "Pictures of Betrayal" and the Middle Eastern-facing "Arabian Heat."

Unfortunately, DeWray left Nösferätu after Legend's release, replaced by the inexcusably awful Niall Murphy, whose frail, quavery vocals make him sound like he'd be more comfortable fronting a new wave band. On The Prophecy, it becomes painfully obvious that it was only DeWray's emotional vocals that prevented Nösferätu from seeming idiotic. The band still strives to be the universe's spookiest attraction with songs like "Requiem," "Thrill Killer," "Shadowmaker" and "Grave Desires," but the shiver-inducing magic is irretrievably gone. Talk about your living dead.

[Katherine Yeske]