The Sisters Of Mercy was formed in Leeds by Gary Marx and Andrew Eldritch. With one guitar, a three-watt practice amp and no money, they recorded a single "to hear ourselves on the radio." Eldritch founded the record label Merciful Release to issue it and pressed one thousand copies. Described by the band as "unattainable and even more unlistenable."
Throughout the early 1980s the gothic rock band released several singles on Merciful Release. The label allowed them to control the format and image of the records, typically in a black sleeve with artwork centrally mounted and a head and star logo on the rear of sleeves. A notable example being Henri Matisse's Blue Nude in gold on black for the single “Alice.”
Each album was recorded by a different line-up; Eldritch and the drum machine called Doktor Avalanche are the only points of continuity throughout.
In 1985 the Sisters played Armageddon, a farewell tour, and after their final show “Wake” at Royal Albert Hall guitarist Wayne Hussey and bassist Craig Adams left to form a new group. They announced their debut concert for January 20 1986, which they were going to play under the new name the Sisterhood. Alarmed by the similar name, Eldritch decided to secure the rights to the Sisterhood name as quickly as possible. He registered a company under the name and prepared a record to be released on his own label. The single was released on January 20 1986, the same day that Hussey and Adams played their debut concert in London as the Sisterhood. The press hype about the two conflicting parties made the single enter the UK Indie Chart on February 8, where it got to no. 1 on 15 February 1986. The reviews in the music press were unanimously negative.
The group ceased recording activity in 1993, when they went on strike against Time Warner, which they accused of incompetence and withholding royalties. Although Time Warner released them from their contract in 1997, they have not signed to another label, despite showcasing numerous new songs in their live sets.
Since 1985, and the departure of the other original members, the Sisters of Mercy has become uniquely Andrew Eldritch's artistic vehicle. Former members of the group established the bands Ghost Dance and the Mission.