Long silences and frontman Andrew Eldritch's knack for enlivening the band with creative twists in sound make the Sisters of Mercy something like the Harry Houdini of goth rock. Over the past 18 years, a litany of challenges -- band member departures, legal battles, and record company troubles -- has forced the outfit to regroup just when hitting its stride. But oddly, each setback has created a favorable result: The exit of guitarist Wayne Hussey and bassist Craig Adams in 1986 led to the Sisters' finest moment, "This Corrosion" -- an overwrought gothic opera incorporating industrial-dance rhythms -- the following year.
An ongoing rift with East/West Records (WEA) has kept the band from recording and limited its performances to random music festivals. Eldritch hates the company so much that he has refused to release any Sisters material since 1990's Vision Thing, opting to play new songs live instead. That means this week's concerts, two of only four shows scheduled in the States, marks a great opportunity to see what's been brewing in the dark recesses of one of the founding institutions of gothic rock.
-- Robert Arriaga
Sisters of Mercy play Thursday and Friday, Feb. 5 and 6, at 9 p.m. at the Maritime Hall, 450 Harrison (at First Street). Tickets are $30; call 974-0634.