In 2008, the paths of Shawn (Berlin Black, Veronica’s Veil) and Christine Terry intertwined, ignited by their shared devotion to the esoteric sounds of the musical underground. A passionate love tale scored by an incendiary soundtrack, their encounter in the heart of San Antonio kindled an intense storm of creativity. The couple, fueled by a unique blend of poetic lyrics and pulsating rhythms, began to redefine their creative borders through a reciprocal exchange of their talents.
A stint in San Francisco proved challenging for the Terrys, leading them back to their Texas roots. Their sonic palette, awash with the gritty textures of No Wave, deathrock, and early punk, found its fullest expression in their rowdy, whiskey-soaked live performances. Embracing the darkness, Guilty Strangers delved into a realm of raw emotion, shadowy allure, gut-wrenching sorrow, and profound tragedy. Yet, within these depths, they discovered a longing for love and profound connection.
‘The dark river that runs deep,’ quips Christine. “We went through periods where the music came out like a violent torrent, and others where it was beautiful and tragic. We always had many different sounds and textures.”
In a tragic turn of events, Shawn Terry passed away in 2015. Stripped of her life and creative partner, Christine was left to steer Guilty Strangers into an uncertain future. A shift in destiny would lead her to Los Angeles, where fate intervened in the form of guitarist Daniel Munoz in 2020. United by a mutual fascination for all things dark and cryptic, the pair embarked on a quest to finish Shawn’s incomplete magnum opus, continuing the legacy of Guilty Strangers.
“We had to find all of Shawn’s old wav files and import them into a new program. Many plug-ins did not survive, and we had to piece things back together like a particularly difficult puzzle. We saved as much of Shawn’s actual playing as possible. Some tracks we could never find the wav for, and we had to record vocals over the mixed-down mp3 and hope for the best.”
Munoz’s respect for the importance of the project helped Christine Terry through her grief. “We became best friends through it,” she says. “He had to sit there while I cried and raged, and he barely knew me.”
Guilty Strangers, a band steeped in resilience, has channeled their grief into a stunning musical tribute, offering a testament to the transformative and healing potency of music.
Their newest creation, “Memento Mori,” is a poignant tribute to Shawn and an emblem of the band’s evolution. The band has now grown to include Lisa Lex on synth, John Sikora on bass, and Matt Sherin on drums..
Daniel Munoz’s exceptional guitar mastery has invigorated Christine’s creative soul, empowering her to bring to fruition the passion project that Shawn left behind. “Memento Mori” encapsulates this bittersweet fusion of past and future – half of the tracks embody Shawn’s final vision, while the other half are imbued with Daniel’s distinct guitar artistry. This synergistic collaboration between the two guitarists is intensified by the unique contributions of the other band members.
“Memento Mori” is characterized by its sorrowful nuances, infusing the album with a softer, more refined quality. This evolution signifies a maturation of the band’s sound, yet echoes of Guilty Strangers’ inherent intensity still reverberate throughout the album, punctuating it with their signature raw energy.
The album opens with the ominous “Undertow,” a hypnotic minor chord incantation with spellbinding, whispering vocals. “Final Silence” (featuring backing vocals from Jess of Toxic Water) moves into a more gothic rock vibe with rollicking drumming and Joy Division-inspired guitar work. The intertwining voices are gorgeous in their melancholy, bringing to mind Concrete Blonde and a spoken word breakdown worthy of Patti Smith. Standout track “Darkness Comes to Call” is a heartfelt wail across the veil for a lost love, unleashing the fury that accompanies grief. ‘It’s strange but I think you can hear me’ particularly grips you into that mystery of the afterlife. “Harlot Sometimes” continues the theme, describing the isolation, loss of identity, overwhelming sadness and suffocating loneliness after the death of a loved one. “Dispensation” follows, a stirring spiritual ballad, paying homage to Shawn Terry’s legacy. Things take a turn with “Wholely Uncertain,” once again utilizing the forlorn guitar style of Joy Division that morphs into pure Americana blues licks. Christine’s strong voice is especially poignant in this track as she comes to terms with the total annihilation of loss. It’s followed by Shawn Terry’s proverbial artistic farewell: “Twilight of the Idols.”
“I had the hardest time with Twilight of the Idols because listening to it, I thought, how the hell can I write to this?” Christine reflects. “I was fully immersed in the grief process and the fact that this was our last true collaboration. He is all over everything – the music, of course, but the lyrics too. I was only 32 when he died, he was only 42. It hit me like a truck, it annihilated me.”
“Stranger Inside” deals with the deep regret Christine felt, as she meanders through her feelings and grapples with the new normal. “Don’t Know What I Need” continues this, but with a more danceable – possibly even whimsical – beat, complete with vibraslap – but her dispassionate vocals describe confusion, annoyance at sentimentality, and apathy as she goes through the motions of life. It’s the twilight of life before as she transitions into the next phase. Sentimentality, after all, brings more waves of pain. The track channels the sardonic sing-song of Liz Phair, but the bouncy disco beat sounds like something from Lightning Seeds – a startling- and alarming – contrast of the more gothic aforementioned. It’s followed up by the manic deathrock of “Internal Silence,” sounding like something more akin to Bauhaus. The album closes with the dreamy ballad, “Blue Hearts,” a curiously Lynchian psychedelic journey through the time-space continuum.
“Memento Mori,” is digitally out as of May 15th, and is accompanied by an enticing range of new merchandise, including a striking red gatefold vinyl pressing. Christine Terry hopes this album will provide an emotional outlet for listeners grappling with longing, grief, and pain.
“A very limited amount will be pressed with his ashes,” she says. “The center will have a dedication in Latin, And it will unfold with a photo of him, and it is going to be such a glorious tribute.”
In addition to this, Christine Terry is also in the process of assembling a comprehensive retrospective of Guilty Strangers from 2008-2015. This collection will feature the band’s complete back catalog on a double CD, and if fate allows, a vinyl pressing as well.
“Trying to compile them would be like writing the story of our love. Every moment we were together was a gift.”
Tonight, May 27th, Non Plus Ultra is hosting a highly anticipated show with an impressive lineup of bands, including Guilty Strangers. The night kicks off at 8:00 PM, and includes Terminal A, Self Improvement, and Shock Doctrine.
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