This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word.
Angel Passage is an odd disc. It’s a studio reworking of a performance Moore and Perkins presented as part of the Tygers of Wrath concert, presented at the end of Tate Britain’s William Blake exhibition. And as such, it sits in no-man’s land; it’s not a run-of-the-mill spoken-word album, nor is it a cast-recording album. It’s a weird hybrid, like reading Moore’s meditation on Blake’s life while ghostly music that’s not quite separate floats through the air. Occasionally, it’s problematic — I just want to hear what he’s saying, dammit — but for the most part, it adds a well-judged air of mystery.
The disc opens with an overly-Nymanesque track, “Golden Square”, which does the album no favors. Thankfully, the rest of the disc seems a bit more organic — less “look, I’m a fanfare!” and more reflexive, more attuned to the flow of words. “Innocence” charts a youth’s growth, traipsing through the city, childish melodies playing over the top of industrial sounds — the workhouse and youth contrasted. “Hell”, “Experience” and “Heaven” touch on different times of life, with soundscapes constructed as you’d expect: “Experience” with soft regret, “Heaven” with an exuberance suggesting a loss of worry, and “Hell” as a military forge in the bowels of the earth. And, constantly, beneath it all, Moore’s almost-vagrant voice, dripping in the ear.
Once you get over the fact that yes, it is Alan Moore speaking on this disc, you start to realise that — the frisson of excitement of hearing the ramblings of a possibly psychotic chaos-magickian comic god aside having by now dissipated — the vocals aren’t that grand. Of course, it’s really the only path to take: an actual singer narrating this effort would spoil the down-and-dirty nature of the words and wouldn’t provide enough of a contrast with the divine angel that makes sporadic appearances. Let’s face it: Blake was battling with the difference between shit and sanctity — and as an exploration of that, this album succeeds mightily, even if it doesn’t have Alan Rickman on vocals.
Moore’s particular psychogeographical interests add an interesting twist to the tale; there are maps and cyphers in the liner notes that make you want to take a long, twilight ramble through the streets mentioned, just to see if the feeling created here actually exists. Effective? You betcha.
In the end, this CD’s refusal to be categorised it what’ll dog it forever. Not an album, not a biography, it’s not something that you’d normally pick up, even if you’re a big Moore fan, but it will reward if you give it a chance.
First published on Splndidezine in May 2002.
This CD is now fetching extortionate amounts online – I’ve seen copies go for $150 and up! Truth be told, it’s not something I pull out incredibly often but I have kept it because it’s just… weird. That, and Alan Moore is pretty cool in a curmudgeonly bastard kind of way. If you don’t know him, he’s an excellently intelligent/strange writer who happens to look like a terrifying metal warrior and is into magick and a god (perhaps made up) called Glycon. The following image from his guest spot on The Simpsons is pretty accurate.
I heartily suggest you bypass most of the movies based on his work (V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Watchmen) and dive into one of his worlds. I recommend From Hell without a doubt – it’s epic in scope and incredibly detailed, a brilliant collaboration brought to life by Eddie Campbell‘s spidery art. If your interest is piqued by Jack the Ripper, it’s a must-read.
“Nymanesque” is a pretty fuckawful word, isn’t it?