For some artists, the cult is as good as it gets. There's never a realistic run at the mainstream, and even with such a limited inferred fanbase, a decent career can be carved out of life along the fringes of fame. So many manage to do it, especially in today's interconnected Internet world, that old school success seems almost unnecessary. For former Christian Death frontwoman Gitane Demone, a stint as part of the founding Goth rock outfit has lead to an interesting and often elusive time as a compelling solo artist. Toning down the shock in favor of fetish and sensuality, Demone now rides the musical rails somewhere between torch and torment. She can play a venue like an intimate cabaret. At other instances, she's totally in touch with the death metal moments that made her (in)famous. As the two DVD set Life After Death indicates, Gitane Demone is an acquired, mostly European taste. But said loyalists have kept her going for nearly three decades now, and it doesn't look like she's stopping anytime soon.
Mazzo, Amsterdam, Holland, 1989 - "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me", "Strange Fruit", "(This is) a Man's World"
ATS, Dutch Television, 1992 - "Sound of War"
VPRO Radio, Holland, 1993 - "Golden Age", Love for Sale", Little Birds"
ISC Club, Bern, Switzerland, 1993 - "Somewhere", "Eye to Eye", "Gloomy Sunday", "Lullaby for a Troubled Man", "Lover", "Sing the Blues"
Indie Tour, Querfurt, Germany, 1995 - "I Only Have Eyes for You", "These Vulnerable Eyes", "Manic Depressive", "Alien", "Despairiosity", "My Death"
Skin Two, UK Video Magazine, 1992 - "Passion", "Pleasure and Pain"
Fetish Generation Documentary, Denmark, 1995 - "Tongue of Fire", "Interview", "Cool Domina", "Perv"
Zillo, Hamburg, Germany, 1994 - "Tongue of Fire", "Perv", "Loveless"
Dream Home Heartache Tour featuring Rozz Williams, Zwischenfall, Bochum, Germany, 1995 - "Time", "Pope's Egg Hat", "A World Apart", "In Every Dream Home a Heartache", "Flowers", "Moon Without a Tear", "Lead Us Not"
Christian Death featuring Rozz Williams and Gitano Demone, Astoria II, London, UK, 1996 - "Spiritual Cramp", "Cervix Couch", "Lament", "Luxury of Tears", "Ashes", "Cavity", "Sleepwalk"
Kato, Berlin, 1998 - "I Lost a Friend to Heroin", "Speed", "Incendiary Lover", "What Now, My Love?"
Divided into two parts, Life After Death covers both sides of Demone's distinct persona. Disc one ventures into her softer, smoother flirtations with jazz. It's all clubland and cooing. Disc two takes us into the outer fringes of her often outrageous brainstorms. One sequence in particular shows her using a strap on dildo on a leather covered lady during a particularly disturbing stage turn. The best moments here however are the quite ones, especially Ms. Demone's residency in a Holland radio studio. With nothing but her voice and a piano for accompaniment, all pretense is stripped from the songs and we are left with nothing but otherworldly, almost ethereal music making. There are times when the videos themselves look like outtakes from a particular melodious snuff film, especially the documentary think pieces at the beginning. Yet it's great to have access to this information, to hear our star talk about her life, her legacy, her lengthy fascination with fetishism, and her overall love affair with her audience. This is not some isolated individual. Gitane Demone recognizes the importance of fans and plays to and for them every chance she gets.
Those outside her sphere of influence may find this hard going. More tone poems than tunes, Ms. Demone's music is meant to evoke emotion and feelings - even if said sentiments are sad and uncomfortable. Atonal facets frequently fill in for structure and solos, and when the singer goes off on a jag, the results can be either brilliant or baffling. Toward the end, as guitars take over for ambient keyboard noodlings, we understand why this gal left Christian Death. Even with its provocative, scandal-laden style, such one note music marginalizes what she has to offer. It has to be said that her work here with Rozz Williams is wonderful, stage set like an intimate night out at a local bistro. As the music moves between ballads and brashness, the intimacy is almost intoxicating. For those wondering where the real visionaries are in modern music, look no further than Gitane Demone and Life After Death. Even with most of this material being over a decade old, the complexity and creativity argues for something far, far ahead of its time. Maybe, in 2009, it's time for everyone to finally catch up.