Wayne Hussey was only a member of Sisters of Mercy for about four years, but his work with The Mission will always be compared — and probably against his will — with his more worthy contributions to Andrew Eldritch’s original ‘vision thing’. Even so, The Mission sure has staying power. This healthy two-DVD, one-CD set mainly chronicles the group’s 2004 tour, which also finds it still going strong — even these many years after that initial Eltritch/Hussey partnership.
Wayne Hussey’s departure from Sisters of Mercy can somewhat be compared to David Gilmour’s sorry attempt to keep the Pink Floyd boat afloat after his separation from its main lyricist, Roger Waters. Sisters of Mercy mainly stood out because of Eldritch’s pointedly dark lyrics. With The Mission, however Hussey has unsuccessfully attempted to carry on this same gloomy tradition. But his thin voice is no match for Eltriditch’s deep bellow. Similarly, his lyrics merely scratch the surface of Gothic imagery, without really digging deeply into its taboo concepts. “(Slave To) Lust”, for example, attempts to be sexy, yet only comes off perverse. Then with “Belief”, Hussey gives us but a cursory overview of religion.
Hussey was, after all, the Sisters of Mercy guitarist, so his instrumental work here is the element that shines brightest. It’s easy to get lost in this exemplary guitarist’s twisty lead lines, which touch upon both Celtic and Indian melodic devices. Also, whenever he finds a strong melody to dig his teeth into, such as with “Wasteland”, he comes off particularly strong — at least instrumentally.
Whether you’re a fan of The Mission or not, it’s hard not to be impressed by the bounty of material presented here. In addition to the concert featured on DVD 1, viewers are also treated to the band’s rock videos for: “Wasteland”, “Severina”, “Tower of Strength”, “Butterfly on a Wheel”, “Never Again”, “Deliverance”, and “Evangeline”. It gives viewers ample opportunity to compare the act’s live presence with its video accomplishments.
Rather than cram a few short special features at the end of its concert video, as so many packages do, The Mission gives consumers a whole additional DVD of extras. These bonuses include a “Day in the Life” featurette, which sports interviews with the band. There is a section filled with live and TV appearances, as well. And rather than show a typical written biography, this package combines a photo gallery with Hussey’s commentary on these pictures, which turns it into a unique biographical approach.
One other bonus contained within this package is a live audio CD, which was also recorded during the same “Breathen Tour” that produced the live Koln, Germany DVD. This audio concert features performances from England, Holland, Scotland, Belgium, Germany (again), and Greece.
If you weren’t a fan of The Mission before watching this DVD/CD set, you likely won’t be one after viewing it, either. This is because it’s hard to rate The Mission as anything greater than a Gothic musical footnote. Only bands that continue to grow stylistically make names for themselves that separate them from the genres that originally gave them birth. A few excellent growth examples include The Cure and New Order. The Cure certainly has Gothic roots, but Robert Smith has also stretched out to include dance and pop elements — in addition to his patented dirges — to his band’s overall sound. Similarly, New Order, which came out of the extremely bleak Joy Division, is as respected within the dance community, as it is within the diehard trench coat contingent.
Another big problem with Hussey’s songs is how little of his own personality he invests into them. You’re left with the distinct impression that he’s written a few melodic essays about subjects that interest him, rather than pouring his heart out through music. Alas, this leaves The Mission as a man/band without a particular mission at all. There is a huge hunk of material here, but it all begins to ring hollow after a while. Gilmour and Waters (of Pink Floyd) reunited for the recent Live 8 event, so why can’t Hussey and Eldritch also let bygones be bygones? It’s not impossible, right? Until that day — assuming it actually happens, of course — we have a Sisters of Mercy, which is basically inactive and in mothballs, and The Mission, which appears to be stuck in an unfruitful artistic rut. And this, my friends, is a sadder story than the subject matter of almost any Gothic song.