Sanctuary: The Complete Discography
Vex were enthusiastic participants in UK anarcho-punk circa 1983, playing shows with the likes of Conflict, kitted out in the requisite armor of studs and leather, raging against the Thatcherite machine. And yet, once the needle drops on the Sanctuary reissue, you are treated to a far more subtle, mysterious and seductive palette of sound - easily in line with Josef K, early Sisters of Mercy, Christian Death, and Killing Joke than Crass. Indeed listening to it with virgin ears in 2014 places it squarely in the gothic camp; hell, Vex could be heralded as one of the unwitting forefathers of the g-beat sound (Belgrado, Cemetary, Blue Cross, Anasazi). So it goes with the strange and wonderful British sub-subgenre of positive punk, which also birthed the Mob, Sex Gang Children and Southern Death Cult. Basically, punk stripped of its yobbish piss and vinegar, gripped with an existential panic at the state of the world, and utilizing a far more expansive palette of sonics and well emotions, as well as a more flamboyant presentation.
Out of print for decades, Vex's Sanctuary 12" seemed destined for GREAT LOST ALBUM status until Sacred Bones unearthed it and then added some extra tracks to encompass all of Vex's ouvre. And Vex has fucking withstood the test of time admirably. Eldritch anthems run headlong into lirthe punk heaviness. There's a sense of keening possibility in every liquid guitar run, anchored heavily reverbed drums and JD-style bass. And the singer marshals existential outrage into every glorious war whoop and bellow. "Sanctuary" could have been an anthem for the Cult. "It's No Crime" nicks a few ideas from "The Wait" but with an altogether different kind of tension. "Relative Sadness" is a masterclass in deathrock darkness; in another world, constant mixtape fodder. "Rushing To Hide" is a staccato, metallized mantra that seems to anticipate Ministry and other industrial abusers. (Great vocal echo too. A demo of "Pressure" closes the album magnificently, giving sly hints of "Love Like Blood" level pop mastery. If only...