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Death In June - The Guilty Have No Pride CD/DVD

Death In June - The Phoenix Has Risen

Death In June have a number of releases featuring the original incarnation of Death In June. The first is the debut mini-LP, The Guilty Have No Pride reissued with new artwork augmented by the addition of the first 12-inch, 'Heaven Street' and the b-side of their 7-inch 'State Laughter'. Following the agit-prop semantics of their previous outfit Crisis the newly formed Death In June were a much more obscure proposition. The trio Douglas P., Tony Wakeford and Patrick Leagas were a highly disciplined outfit well versed in aesthetics that would underpin the future career of Douglas P. who following various splits within the group would become the sole member.

At the time Death In June were regarded by many as Joy Division copyists and, in retrospect you can see why. On the surface both groups sought inspiration from German history and musically the groups had songs led by driving basslines. Even the covers were lavish affairs leading Douglas P. to comment at one point: Factory don't have a monopoly on nice sleeves. In fairness, though, Death In June were a much more martial outfit, partly due to the muscular use of kettle drums and bugles. The songs were split between the trio of individuals, though with the addition of the extra material it's slightly weighted (ho hum) in Tony Wakeford's favour. His contributions to The Guilty Have No Pride include 'Nothing Changes' a musically powerful track redolent of Joy Division but lyrically woeful. 'All Alone In Her Nirvana' a driving tale of high rise urban paranoia set against a crescendo of drums and snares with a scathing cacophony of human squawking. With its lamentful bugle and military snare and Patrick Leagas's impassioned vocal 'State Laughter' remains a fine slice of dark post-punk. 'Till The Living Flesh is Burned' remains solid and indicative of Death In June's obsessions. It's rumbling drums and bass heavy sound are offset by harmonic backing vocals and Douglas P.'s precise rendering of significant political event with the telling lines of: "The once proud brownshirt now stained by Engineers of Blood, Faith and Race." And aside from a less urgent re-reading of 'Heaven Street', The Guilty Have No Pride was completed by two instrumentals.

On the whole the The Guilty Have No Pride is a patchy but promising affair where Death In June ignited a sound that really hasn't been copied. The additional tracks include 'Holy Water', Wakeford's scathing anti-religious rant and 'In The Night Time', another Wakeford penned missive concerning pornography and murder and the sensational reporting and promotion by the media. 'We Drive East' is a real group effort with the trinity of voices singing of Hitler's march into Russia over timpani accompaniment. The original version of their debut single 'Heaven Street' is here too, a powerful reminder of the holocaust.

The comparisons with neo-folk are relatively wide of the mark, since the only comparable track in my opinion would be 'Heaven Street mkII', a less urgent version of a Death In June mainstay rendered in acoustic fashion albeit with studio touches with Douglas P.'s precise vocal providing a foreshadow of what Death In June would become under the sole commandment of Douglas P.

The accompanying DVD captures the trio live at The Fridge, London from 1982. Despite the warnings that the "quality of this archival footage and sound is variable" it proves to be something of a unique historical document. Recorded on a single camera, it captures three stern young men, poised and disciplined, performing a short set culled from the above tracks. With timpani and kettle drums, and a selection of backing tapes it's a powerful set with Douglas P. and Patrick Leagas swapping instruments throughout, with Wakeford on bass and taking most of the lead vocals. It's interesting to see Douglas P. behind the drum kit for 'State Laughter', and the contribution of Leagas shouldn't be under estimated. He switches between trumpet, timpani drum and drum kit bringing a real muscular approach to the sound. There's a strong version of 'Heaven Street', with Douglas P. toying with harmonics and coaxing all manner of discordant sounds from his guitar towards the close of the song. With their white shirts and black ties, the trio at times look a bit like The Jam, which is kinda strange considering the connection to Woking in Surrey. A photograph section completes the extras with a selection of press adverts, live shots, and photos sessions from the recording of Heaven Street (without Leagas: believing photographs were incompatible with his view of the group) in 1981 and a number of shots from a photo session in Covent Garden (with Leagas!), that later surfaced on the Lesson One: Misanthropy album sleeve.

Currently doing the rounds is The Phoenix Has Risen a bootleg release containing some of Death In June's earliest recordings. It's bootleg status having been upped to semi-official status, as a result of Douglas P. receiving some royalties. It's purportedly issued by the Japanese Supernatural Organisation the label responsible for the Death In June Live In Japan LP. Their underhand techniques at the time surprises me that Douglas P. would once again have dealings with them. There is a rumour that Douglas P. was behind this and coupled with the misleading release date of 1999 and the use of photographs that reappear on The Guilty Have No Pride DVD does raise questions. Either way, it's a fascinating release featuring various alternate takes on tracks that would later appear on the above releases. It's basically a post-punk version of Death In June, before they'd adopted the muscular martial approach and fleshed the sound with varied studio techniques. 'We Drive East' is represented by a less frenetic vocal take with alternate lyrics. 'Knives' is stripped down with repeated guitar clips. There's a fairly rudimentary take on 'In The Night Time' and powerful versions of 'Heaven Street', here under its original title of 'Himmel Strasse', and 'Nothing Changes'. Listening to 'Nothing Changes', 'Nation' and 'All Alone In Her Nirvana' and their flirtations with danceable rhythms almost puts them into punk-funk territory. I wonder if Death In June had pursued this approach would they have found themselves in Simon Reynolds's Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk, 1978-1984 book. In the event the group immersed themselves in a certain period of history that shaped the world we live in and that, as we now know, lead to an altogether different story.

The remainder of the CD is taken up with a live performance from The Living Room, London from 1983. It delivers no real surprises, and given the number of Death In June live releases, and the accompanying The Guilty Have No Pride DVD then this is solely for Death In June fanatics. The first half of the CD is a worthwhile historical document capturing the group at a nascent stage and is worth seeking out if this incarnation of Death In June appeals to you. Death In June - The Phoenix Has Risen is available from selected mail-order outlets worldwide. For The Guilty Have No Pride CD/DVD package go to or