When i write reviews one of the common traps I try hard not to get lost in is comparing every new band I review to one of the sacred dark gods of the 80’s and 90’s. It’s a pretty common tactic and lets face it an effective one. It’s easy to associate with what is familiar. Often feels like the world of goth/industrial/darkwave/new wave/ect has pretty much been discovered and artists are searching for ways to test the boundaries of what is possible and find some new ground. I figured I would take a moment to acknowledge this is a reality for a lot of people.
There is a reason you hear the joke from DJs that the same request for This Corrosion is what sends everyone running to the dance floor. Spinning the hottest new single doesn’t seem to do the same. As someone who is rediscovering the glory of astounding new music coming out in the last 3 years, I understand. However here is something else I have come to appreciate. Paying $80-$150 to see the shrunken husk of 62 year old Peter Murphy trot out on stage to sing the hits is nostalgic and fun, especially if you never saw it before. I’ve done it recently and it was enjoyable. However I can tell you it wasn’t close to seeing Actors, BootBlacks , Bellwether Syndicate, and Schedule IV share a stage in Detroit all in their prime and play a mind blowing audio assault for 4 hours. Then have the bands give you a hug after the show for a mere $12. Perhaps seeing Bauhaus in 1981 was exactly like that, but I don’t know because I was 4 years old.
So while I occasionally compare a band I review to an old sacred band, I try not to make that my primary tool for expressing to you what I am hearing and what they mean to me. In the following article I will do just that. I’m going to list a pantheon level classic Goth/Industrial/New Wave/Cold Wave band. Then list a few brand new bands I think are somewhat in their vein who you could probably see in near your home town for $15 or less that would put on the type of show people who saw Joy Division or The Dammed in 1978 speak of in awe because they were there. This is not to say the comparisons I make are exact and that these new bands are carbon copies of your recognized classics. However after doing this for a while I feel there is something that links them to my ear, and this is my editorial. I hope this helps you find something new to run out to the dance floor when you hear that is not Blue Monday 😉
Let’s start with the holiest of hollies. Joy Division. Look I worship Joy Division. The lyrics, the post punk vibe, Peter freaking Hooks signature bass lines. It’s my favorite band, I own every record on vinyl and have seen Peter Hook and the Light 5 times in 5 cities. However, Ian Curtis died when I was 3. You are not seeing Joy Division today. However you can see these incredible bands right now and get their albums.
Antipole – Perfect post punk precision with the dark lost feeling Joy Division could stir with a modern fresh feel and beautiful execution to make Martin Hannett proud. They have two amazing albums out and a third on the way. To me this is the sound Joy Division was moving towards if they hadn’t become New Order.
I know a slight cheat to also pick Kill Shelter here because Karl from Antipole also played on this song. However the reason why this speaks Joy Division to me is the power of the lyrics on this album. To put together so many artists with different styles and combine them with one powerful voice from Pete Burns with that driving base and simple concepts that sounds so relate-able and enormous.
Another I will add to this list is Spectres from Vancouver produced by Jason Corbett of Actors . I feel like this band took all the building blocks of familiar 80’s new wave and rearranged them like a rubic cube into some strange new pattern. The guitar work here has a distinctly New Order feel.
The Cure – Robert Smith and the lads made it ok for a person to have feelings. To be both sexy, passionate, and be lost in the romanticism of getting in touch with every aspect hurt, loss, love, hate and everything in between. That slushy flanged out guitar and driving bass inspired a new generation of current bands making beautiful in touch new music. Here are a few.
Twin Tribes from Texas were my first review on this page and inspired me to believe in new music again. This album is everything I love about the Cure and such a fresh and original take that finds it’s own place. They are currently on tour and a must see live show.
It’s hard to pick just one element of Creux Lies from California to compare because it has a perfect synthesis of Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, and New Order. The result is undeniably enjoyable and a live show near the top of my list to see in 2019
Wingtips are a Chicago band creating glorious emotional dark dream pop that makes me think of the best parts of The Cure Wish. A total package of sound, aesthetic , and concept. The song writing fills me with that same immersive Cure feel.
Sonsombre just put out a new album and is planning a tour, (Which Amaranth will get to play a show with) they truly captures everything wonderful about old school goth rock with a modern energy and dance beat. This is a band bringing the glory of goth rock past into the present.
The Kentucky Vampires from you guessed it Louisville Kentucky. They also bring that traditional guitar driven goth sound. A bit more Mission mixed in with the vocals but that old school tone is undeniably there. It’s fast, dark, and dripping with Fender jazz Tube amps.
Ian McCulloch and Echo ATB have a sound driven by some of the best vocal range in the genre which open up so many possibilities for style. That’s what makes me think of these great new bands.
Actors are the real deal. The post punk darlings of Canada have a wide range and an electric stage show. Singer Jason Corbett is a show stopping performer that ranges from heart breaking beauty to acid intensity just like Ian in his prime. It’s also the quality of the songs and lyrics that set them a part. They are a must see live show.
David Gahan has the voice of sex. Depeche Mode have been riding the line between pop and darkness for decades and stand timeless
Crying Vessel are another well ranged collaboration I recently got the pleasure to see live at Cold Transmission festival. Slade Templeton has that same dark smooth drive of Gahan and a little extra razzle dazzle of Bowie sorely missing from the dark music scene.
IAMTHESHADOW from Portugal captures that passion driven sex appeal of Gahan with the flare and intensity of Peter Murphy. It holds a raw and jagged beauty which comes from the dark recess of the human soul and tempts with danger.
Kiss of the Whip from Baltimore really explores that other side of Depeche Mode. Martin Gore had a very unique style of his own and added songs with romantic vibrant synth driven melody hooks. That classic romantic beauty was once an essential part of the goth mystique. Kiss of the Whip is bringing that back.
Ok Confession time, so far the holy bands of dark music have been far to Male centric. To me a big part of what made me fall in love with this music was the androgynous feel that has always been tied to it. When I was about 13 I fell in love HARD with Annie Lennox and Eurythmics .
I can never get enough of powerful women with beautiful voices and fearless delivery and Black Nail Cabaret is a revolutionary march with feminine mystique
A new wave for Goth/Industrial Music that I got the supreme honor of opening for was Switchblade Symphony. These ladies made a lasting mark on this scene to inspire future generations
Bauhaus – Time to get back to Peter Murphy and company. Probably the true Godfathers of modern goth. They pushed the boundaries of art and expression in dark music.
When Peter Murphy wasn’t feeling up to finishing the tour David J called in Curse Mackey to finish. That should really tell you something. His amazing solo album Instant Exorcism was much more Industrial than anything Bauhaus ever did. What is the same is the intelligence and literary depth of his lyrics in an art driven musical experience.
Elz and The Cult are a Turkish dark pop band that embrace the concept of over the top artistic expression and sleek sex appeal of sound that Bauhaus made their career on. It’s luscious, expressive, and daring.
Killing Joke really ran the gambit of sounds from New Wave, Post Punk, and Industrial and succeeded at every one. It was this fluid progressive feel that made them relevant over several decades.
Palais Ideal like Killing Joke are so hard to categorize because they flip between style and genre like most people change socks. However one thing stays constant and quality and intelligence of concept that always puts me in mind of the decades spanning relevance of KJ.
This album from Stoneburner was such a game changer. A culmination of an amazing career from Ego Likeness Steven Archer doing things with percussion and modern electronic sounds that push the boundaries of the early pioneers.
Look it is hard to compare Jim Marcus and Go Fight to early Industrial founders because frankly he is one of them. His band Die Warsaw was as much a pioneer as anyone in the genre and someone who really showed me the possibilities of Industrial music beyond angry intensity. This album Tokyo Sexwale is seriously a modern day classic with all the street cred of someone who was there in the beginning
The Joy Thieves are a Chicago Industrial Super band in the vein of Pigface. They really put the rock elements of the 90’s back into industrial and hearkens back to those sounds that made industrial great. Plus they have several members that were around for the original wave.
Look I feel like I could keep going on this piece for another 6 hours. Maybe I will add to it later. I hope you hear my main take away. There are current bands, making the music you love, right now. Touring the country in small clubs you can see for reasonable rates in their prime that are on the level of bands like Joy Division and the Cure who you probably didn’t hear about until they didn’t exist or were playing for money in stadiums getting $100 a ticket. Go listen to the bands everyone else is going to find and talk about 5, 10, 20 years ago now. Connect with them like never before with modern social media. Embrace this dark music renaissance.