At the last Son of William show, lead guitarist/singer Spence Harrison solemnly sang the lyrics to such industrial-rock gems as "Deathwalker" and "The Devil in Me" while go-go dancers in bizarre costumes performed a choreographed routine on either side of the drums. Harrison, his bony face painted like Mel Gibson's in Braveheart, sweated away from within his corset and bearskin loincloth, and bassist Marcia Presley, strapped into a cleavage-proffering black dress, wore a grim expression. Drummer Kelly Bidz, his face painted pale white, kicked at his double-bass drums emblazoned with white wolves as fire- and knife-jugglers and belly dancers performed to the driving songs. Sinister-looking banners adorned with screaming ravens and the SOW logo flanked the stage. An executioner in a black leather face mask strapped a man onto a large wooden wheel facing the audience, then spun it, his victim laughing as he twirled around and around to the music.
For the final number, the dancers wore DayGlo wigs and black leotards screen-printed with life-size skeletons. Their movements, in time with the rigid hard rock, were stiff and jerky. As the song faded, they collapsed onto the fog-shrouded floor, convulsing and shorting out like waterlogged androids.
What in the name of hell is Son of William doing in St. Louis? The band's goth/industrial rock is better than that of Nine Inch Nails and a lot less pretentious. They've knocked around for ten years now, releasing seven albums and contributing to gobs of darkwave-music compilation CDs. They've made a name for themselves in Harrison's native England and received their due in Mick Mercer's 1997 book Hex Files: The Goth Bible.
So why do Missouri poseurs Gravity Kills get the record deal while SOW, a power trio fronted by a genre-topping songwriter, must scrape the bucket to mount the occasional haunted-concert spectacle? There's no simple answer for that one.
"It's just been an uphill battle," says Harrison. "When we were in England, we were getting a lot of coverage, but it was spread so thinly in the underground. There's not been a real glorious moment. The best things that have happened so far have been the shows in St. Louis. I think that [glorious] moment's yet to come."
Let's hope this band's ship does come in, because SOW, headquartered in a refurbished recording studio co-owned by Harrison near Grand Center, is ready for the big time. Their music is hard enough for the industrial/metal crowd, dark enough for goths and slick enough for Elektra to bust open the door with a wheelbarrow of cash.
In the meantime, locals are lucky to enjoy songs such as Harrison's "Your Reality, My Insanity," performed in a tricked-out chamber of horrors for a modest crowd of black-clad fans jumping up and down in glee.
Saturday's "Night of the Ripper" Halloween extravaganza will feature Son of William, DJs, vendors, a costume contest, giveaways, a gothic-fashion show, an open bar and a theatrical re-enactment of the Jack the Ripper murders by the Hydeware Theatre.
"The first killing is supposed to happen right before we get onstage," says Harrison.