Formed in Keighly, West Yorkshire, Skeletal Family followed in the billowing dry ice plumes of The Sisters Of Mercy to create, along with the likes of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and March Violets among others, goth’s second wave as it relocated from the Batcave club to the north of England.
This epic five-CD set collects both of the band’s albums, 1984’s Burning Oil and its follow-up from the following year, Futile Combat, as well as radio sessions, live sets and demos. To listen to the albums once again is to be reminded of tribal drums, circular bass lines, spidery guitars and Anne-Marie’s yelping vocals.
At their best – see the spiky chicken-inducing floorfiller Promised Land and the 12-inch version of She Cries Alone – Skeletal Family combined propulsive rhythms with a sense of over-wrought melodrama that made for convincing and exhilarating rock music. Not all of it has weathered the years well with tracks such as Ritual remaining rooted firmly in the 80s.
The BBC radio sessions offer an alternative insight into the band but of less interest is the 1986 live set, recorded after Anne-Marie’s departure to form the superior Ghost Dance with erstwhile Sisters Of Mercy guitarist Gary Marx.