Rosetta Stone

  • Rosetta Stone
  • Adrenaline (Cleopatra) 1992 
  • Epitome EP (Cleopatra) 1993 
  • Foundation Stones (Cleopatra) 1993 
  • The Tyranny of Inaction (Cleopatra) 1995 

Liverpool’s Rosetta Stone gained widespread popularity in the gothic scene with a highly melodic, danceable interpretation of gloom. Singer/guitarist Porl King, guitarist Porl Young, bassist Karl North and the trio’s drum machine maintain classic goth’s darkly mysterious and sensual qualities, but deliver the music with an unorthodox upbeat spirit. Adrenaline‘s ten tracks feature strong, memorable melodies and King’s provocative-but-aloof vocals. To his credit, he never delves into the deep/creepy warbling that makes so many of the genre’s vocalists a joke. In particular, “Come Hell or High Water,” “An Eye for the Main Chance” and “Subterfuge” are atmospheric, evocative and club-ready. Epitome features three versions each of the album’s “The Witch” and “Adrenaline,” plus a dizzying cover of Eurythmics’ “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.” Given such daring originality, Rosetta Stone came to be regarded as the saviors of goth, destined to rescue the genre from its backward-looking traditions.

Foundation Stones contains 1990 demos of eight songs that didn’t make it onto the first album, as well as four live tracks recorded during the Adrenaline English tour. The studio work sounds remarkably like early Sisters of Mercy material, but the strong, flowing melodies more than make up for this lack of originality. In particular, the evocative, tightly woven “Chapter and Verse” and “Cimmerian” provide a tantalizing preview of the confident, skilled songwriting abilities that elevate Adrenaline.

With all that going for them, goth’s would-be saviors mercilessly abandoned their flock with the pointless, dull Tyranny of Inaction. Young’s departure after Adrenaline left King and North free to create frigid bits of industrial-influenced shrapnel that effectively tear Rosetta’s former fluid sound to shreds. “Nothing” and “Never” are decent, though neither possesses the powerful, exhilarating qualities previously found in Rosetta Stone. The rest of Tyranny is a dismal, distorted, directionless mess.

[Katherine Yeske]

See also: Wake