To say that Still Patient? were one of the axes around which the second wave of Gothic Rock was vertebrated might not sound like an exaggeration, but rather as big a truth as the height of the former singer. All in all, instead of merely exhaust the old success formulas or play the lately popular return-of-the-90’s-legend game, the Germans have been able to reinvent themselves and remain relevant, mighty and seductive, and all this without losing none of their signature sound despite a fourteen years' absence. Stated otherwise, they have made nothing short of a triumphant comeback which crystallised in two new releases the last year. One was "Retrospective - 88.2.99", a collection of sixteen songs including revamped classics and remastered demos, and the other was "Selective Perception", a four-track EP that re-ignited the old flame while laying a proper, fresh sound foundation for the band's first full-length album since "Demondive" saw the light in 1999. "Shape Shifters" is the title chosen and, understood in its sense of transformation into an animal, it couldn't be more appropriate. The band has sought inspiration in its own musical genesis and then taken it to an enhanced, revitalized and, above all, upgraded style of Gothic Rock which better expresses the spirit of today and hints at tomorrow's. Differences aside, they are on the same forward-looking wavelength that other contemporary fellow bands such as Merciful Nuns, Reptyle or Aeon Sable, and that is something worth valuing for the undersigned. Be that as it may, "Shape Shifters" has been also stuffed with plenty of recognisable traits from the early days of Still Patient?, but naturally in different, modern ways as regards form, intensity and finish.
"Second of Fame" starts out quietly, integrating both bleak and ringing chords with past-longing, deep croons so that the listener is haunted by the overall tune and subsequently pulled into uncharted territory to the dripping beat of the machines. Once completed the brief rite of passage, the track builds into an electrifying mid-tempo founded on huge riffed melodies and addictive choruses, albeit with enough drops of intensity to preserve a misty atmosphere. So the album is yet unveiled in a strong, anthemic fashion that inevitably brings to my mind the golden era of this hard-edged kind of Gothic Rock at the first half of the 1990s, when Qualified Appellation of Origin bands from Germany shared a corner with some dark metal and industrial ensembles, as was the case with Still Patient? itself, Garden of Delight, Love Like Blood, Dreadful Shadows or Secret Discovery, among many others. So it would not be surprising if you fondly remember those days that some pleasant memories will come over you when listening to "Shape Shifters", even though this is a 21st Century record in every respect. "Swallowed" comes next, ejecting similar to the first song but with a higher percentage of pad-fuel in its mixture. The rhythmical section pounds all along, assorted and groovy, whilst epic guitar loads and a parallel vocal track in high tones move in unison with the low-pitched lead voice, what jointly infuses a healthy rocker character into the song. The following track, "Believe in Angels", is one of the standouts on this set. It begins gliding on an acidic folk pace, slowly but surely ratcheting up the tension while flirting with apocalyptic western twangs. There is a fateful countdown emerging from the baritones, and the instruments replicate that same vibe with elegiac bursts during the choruses, paving the way for a grand entrancing finale. This piece is part of a luxury, slow-burned quartet which also features "Red River", calmly gripping the chest by means of suspenseful bass tollings and synth sprays; "Away From Me", windswept and dreamy, launched off in a The Mission style, driven by shuffling rhythms and shimmery chords, whose melody is swallowed up in a progressive descent into hell; and "Song of Defeat", an immersive and beautiful ballad, albeit filled with melancholic rage, which is triggered by chilling, jagged strums and plaintive sparkles of piano, later evolving into an expansive, otherworldly finish that is laced with a potent yet tuneful, soaring set of guitars and vocals - specially the latter deserves to be on the album's podium. Conversely, if you are after an adrenaline kick that brings on exciting, choreographic seizures, you have a variety of explosive songs to choose from. It's hard to remain still in the face of the hook-laden, relentless barrages which are provided by the title track itself, "After Sundown", "The Devils Bride" and "We Come in Peace". All them have a carefully arranged impeller hub, which is comprised of rolling bass chugs, grinding electro beats and mighty roars of guitar. It perfectly matches Andy's gifted, strong vocal melodies, and all fuses together with timely, scary keyboards to form an irresistible war dance cry. Tuned in to this incendiary four-of-a-kind is the album's bonus track, "Mascara Osiris II", a 2012 revision of the band's celebrated hymn that, as in the case of "Anavryn II" ("Selective Perception" EP), outstrips by far the quality of the originals, sounding more crisp, fuller and dynamic, while those who cherish vintage production to account will miss the old-fashioned charm and atmosphere. However, the good news is that now there are more colours to suit every taste.
So, in conclusion and putting the foregoing another way, these songs arguably carve a new niche for Still Patient?, as have been inspired by the same muse sprung from the union of Marian and Mr. Jealousy three decades ago, but who now treads her own path in Gothic Rock. Enclosed in "Shape Shifters", there is a certified blend of steely dark rock and crafted electronics that will make you ride the line between dance and atmosphere; between power and melody.
Review by Billyphobia