Lost in the ’90s: Xymox, “Twist of Shadows”


Netherlands-based Xymox had been kicking around in goth circles for most of the ’80s as Clan of Xymox, but when they signed to major label Wing in 1989, they shortened their name and expanded their appeal. Their major label debut, Twist of Shadows, was filled with more of the band’s Cure-inspired danceable goth, but this time the hooks were front and center.

The album’s first single, “Obsession” (download) set the tone, as the thunder that begins the track segues into an industrial-tinged dance beat as vocalist/guitarist Ronny Moorings (there’s a gothic name for you) sings in a Robert Smith style. The combination was irresistible to alternative dance clubs and video got a fair amount of play on MTV’s 120 Minutes (God, I miss that show):

But it was the album’s third single (after “Blind Hearts”), “Imagination (Edit),” (download) that brought the band the most mainstream attention. This time around bassist Anke Wolbert took the vocal lead over a New Order beat that was certainly more in vogue in 1990 than during the band’s mid-80’s efforts. They were rewarded with some sporadic Top 40 radio airplay and the single even charted in the lower reaches of the Hot 100, an unimaginable feat for a former 4AD band.

Did Xymox sell their souls for commercial appeal? If so, it certainly worked – Twist of Shadows spent some time on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart and sold more than 300,000 copies. The group would really reach for the brass ring with 1992’s Phoenix and its Madchester-inspired and certainly of-its-moment single “Phoenix Of My Heart,” but neither the album nor single would match Twist Of Shadows‘ success.  Now back to being called Clan of Xymox, the group continues to record and tour with another album scheduled for release this year.

“Obssession” peaked at #16 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks Chart and at #12 on the Dance Music/Club Play Singles Chart in 1989.
“Imagination” peaked at #85 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1990.

Get Xymox music at Amazon or on Xymox

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    Damn, I'm going to have to pull this puppy back out and give it a spin. I don't remember Imagination, but I played the daylights out of Obsession and Blind Hearts.

  • Andrew

    As much as I always liked Xymox, I couldn't get past the fact that 'Imagination' is a near-exact clone of New Order's 'True Faith.'

  • King of Wands


    I forgot about these guys! I caught one of their shows in Denver during the late 80s. It was at Rock Island which was my haunt for a number of years back in the day. I didn't even know who they were at the time but ended up buying a t-shirt anyway.

  • magø

    Great post! I fondly remember playing the hell out of both Xymox major-label releases back in my college radio days… and yeah, good ol' Dave Kendall used to play the crap out of “Obsession” back on 120 Minutes!

    I remember hearing “A Day” off Clan Of Xymox's debut back in '85, and freaking out!
    I wondered who the hell they were, as they sounded like a perfect mix of The Cure and New Order – my two fave bands at the time…

    It's a shame that “Phoenix” wasn't a bigger hit, as I feel that track-for-track it's a stronger album… probably because founding member Pieter Nooten was back in the band, having left after their second LP, “Medusa”.

    Lastly, just before leaving 4AD, Xymox put out a final EP that contained the original versions of “Blind Hearts” and “A Million Things”, both of which I feel are superior to the “Twist Of Shadows” versions. The EP is available on the 4AD reissue of “Medusa”…

  • Pete

    At the time it was out a friend got me into the last track on the Phoenix album, “Smile Like Heaven”, which is hauntingly beautiful. I need it for my iPod.

  • magø

    Ever heard Peter “Major Tom” Schilling's track “The Different Story (World Of Lust And Crime)” from 1989…?

    Talk about a “True Faith” clone!

  • RoyBatty

    Great post! But I thought we agreed the next LIT 90's was going to feature the still great Irish pop-punk-metallers Therapy? !!

  • benw

    Xymox went back to the Clan of Xymox moniker in the mid-90s and joined up with US ethereal/goth indie label Tess. I saw them in the late 1990s and they put on a great show. There's a surprisingly great double live album they released in 2001 or 2002 on Metropolis. Great stuff. Thanks for the Xymox love!

  • JohnHughes

    D'oh! Well, as you can see from Tuesday's LIT80s, I take all comments seriously – I just plumb forgot!

    Therapy is on the way! Cross mah heart!

  • thefxc

    Their new album, In Love We Trust, came out on Tuesday. It's not as strong as some of their recent stuff, but very good.

    The 4AD records are my favorites, but Twist of Shadows is very close; they made the template for the Darkwave bands of the 90s and 00s. Phoenix, sadly, failed, they dropped the goth for Manchester and it sounded like a busted Jesus Jones. They did two more forgettable records in that vein, but once they rediscovered the darkside they were back in stride.

    “Imagination” was a remarkably unlikely Top 100 hit, not in the least because “Obsession” and “Blind Hearts” were far better singles. I think it charted in like January when no one was paying attention…

  • RoyBatty

    Thx, mate!

  • RoyBatty

    Thx, mate!

  • RoyBatty

    Thx, mate!

  • Marko

    thanks for the tip, gonna check it out.