Stars join Paraorchestra to re-imagine a collection of sombre songs for new album

Death Songbook, a new album by Paraorchestra recorded with Brett Anderson, Charles Hazlewood, Nadine Shah, Gwenno, Seb Rochford (Sons of Kemet) and Adrian Utley (Portishead), will be released on 19 April 2024.

Featuring original compositions and re-imaginings of music by Echo & The Bunnymen, Suede, Depeche Mode, Mercury Rev, Japan, Black, Skeeter Davis, Jacques Brel and more, the idea for the collaborative 12-track release came about during the pandemic.

Delicate Re-imaginings

Charles Hazlewood, founder and artistic director of Paraorchestra, was struck by the idea of an album of “very delicate re-imaginings” of some of the most morbidly beautiful and poignantly sombre songs, entitled Death Songbook.

Charles discussed the idea with friend Brett Anderson of Suede, who found it a concept close to his heart, agreeing to help curate and sing. “The only rule,” Charles says, “is that all the songs have to have a relationship to death or the death of love.”

Image © Kirsten McTernan

Brett Anderson’s vocal performances, by turns chilling, passionate and wracked with desolation, lend a unique dark magic to the Paraorchestra’s re-imaginings.

Articulated by composer/orchestrator Charlotte Harding, each composition offers little by way of adornment, instead twisting and reconstructing the songs.

The album’s opening track, Echo & The Bunnymen’s The Killing Moon, is out now. Watch below:

Love & Loss

Speaking about the project, Charles Hazlewood said: “So much of the greatest art, certainly from my point of view, is intrinsically melancholic. Music which is about death, or the death of love, about loss, about anxiety, there’s a transcendence in that music.

“My go to, whether I’m feeling happy or sad or somewhere in between, will be melancholy music because that’s where the catharsis is, that’s where art is most resonant.”

Image © Kirsten McTernan

Suede’s Brett Anderson added: “The Death Songbook idea came up during the bleak days of lockdown. As soon as he suggested it, I was sold. I loved the idea of curating a suite of songs about loss and sadness and regret.

“I’ve always found happy songs depressing, it’s been the murkier themes that have somehow sounded more joyous to me. Songs about doubt and fear and grief confront feelings we all struggle with, so to know that we are not alone in that fight can be quietly life-affirming.”

Melancholic Magic

Fellow contributor, Nadine Shah, said: “I’ve worked with Paraorchestra on a few occasions now, one on the hottest day imaginable at Glastonbury. Their talent is insurmountable and I love to sing with them. I’m a great admirer of both Brett Anderson and Charles Hazlewood so an opportunity to do this all again on Death Songbook was one I would be sure not to pass up. A moment of melancholic magic with a bunch of fellow goths.”

Paraorchestra recorded the majority of the Death Songbook album live in an afternoon at the peak of lockdown, socially distanced across Europe’s largest opera stage – the Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. The project returned to the Wales Millennium Centre for a live performance in October 2022, where they recorded three additional songs.

Image © Kirsten McTernan


1. The Killing Moon
(Composers: Ian McCulloch, Les Pattinson, Will Sergeant and Pete de Freitas)
2. Unsung
(Composers: Brett Anderson, Leo Abrahams, Leopold Ross, Seb Rochford)
3. Holes (feat. Nadine Shah)
(Composers: David Fridmann, Adam Synder, Jonathan Donahue, Grasshopper)
4. Nightporter
(Composer: David Sylvian)
5. She Still Leads Me On – LIVE
(Composers: Brett Anderson and Richard Oakes)
6. Wonderful Life
(Composer: Colin Vearncombe)
7. The Next Life
(Composers: Bernard Butler, Brett Anderson)
8. He’s Dead
(Composers: Bernard Butler, Brett Anderson)
9. Enjoy The Silence (feat. Gwenno) – LIVE
(Composer: Martin L Gore)
10. The End Of The World (feat. Nadine Shah)
(Composer: Sylvia Dee and Arthur Kent)
11. My Death – LIVE
(Composer: Jacques Brel)
12. Brutal Lover – LIVE
(Composers: Brett Anderson & Charles Hazlewood)

Death Songbook is due for release via World Circuit / BMG and is available to pre-order here.

Two special live performances will accompany the album’s release, firstly at London’s Roundhouse on 24 April, followed by a show at Manchester’s Aviva Studios, home of Factory International on 26 April. Last remaining tickets are available here

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