I have been thrilled to watch as the Goth/Industrial community grows more diverse. Hats off again to Bandcamp for really putting their money where their mouth is to support both bands and the rights people of color. I will go through some of the things I am currently listening to so you can add to your list and support a great cause.
LEATHERS – Reckless – The long anticipated EP from Shannon of Actors. A unique departure from her other projects and really highlights her essence which is more collaborative in Actors. It’s sleek, it’s beautiful, it’s as light as an angel dancing on a pin. I love the silky billowing synths and how they flow off the shoulders of her voice. The sound is such an immersive dream which slides along the borders of reality. I spend moments dwelling on how something so beautiful manages to remain so relatable.
Favorite track: Take your pick, but I will go with Missing Scene. Something about this swooping shoegaze LUSH 4AD vibe. Her voice is reverberating like a tuning fork yet ringing so clearly. I hear this song and even on earbuds I feel like I’m in an old opera house with a towering sound system feeling wave after wave wash over.
October Noir – Cover Type O Negative: Love You To Death – Loving the sound of this band. Does it emulate the band they are covering in a lot of their sound. Yes. Type O is an amazing sound though. It’s ultra bass Steele vocals. It’s crunching power chords. It’s chest pounding bass guitar. This cover is rich with extra layers and complexity. It feels like a love letter to a band now beyond the veil. You can really feel the time and dedication placed on taking apart and reanimating every aspect.
Dea Decay – Magic Lantern – This is a beautiful fun romp from Florida artist Dea Decay that came out in December 2020. A spicy club crashing electronic explosion. No vocals but instead a steady stream of adorable wicked anime samples. It’s non stop energetic explosion of adorable imagery and and surreal colors.
Favorite Track: Catronica – A little secret here, when the new netflix She-Ra came out I was blown away. It’s so wonderful and pure. This song really captures that energy and highlights my favorite character Catra. It’s sharp claws bounding around with reckless abandon.
SHIV-R – Kill God Ascend – Brand new album from the Australian electronic apocalypse know as SHIV-R. I love the expansive fantasy metal destruction fed into a machine brain and turned loose on an unsuspecting populous. Pete Crane is a force of nature in the industrial scene and has a glorious gift for poetic imagery in his lyrics. If you are a fan of the violent industrial power of Front 242 and shaking your body in dangerous convulsions, this is your jam. I’m also impressed by the range shown on tracks like Spark, a truly lovely brain infecting track of pop industrial glory. Or Black Turns Blue a downtempo marching chant of a ballad. This record is a journey. Crane’s voice is one of those charismatic characters that feels at home in every setting the music places it. This is the wonder of modern industrial.
Black Angel – Prince of Darkness – I am LOVING this modern trend of returning to guitar driven true gothic rock. Matt Vowels has done it again. This is sizzling and sensual dark driving glory. I just don’t get to make this comparison enough but this album holds that emotive blistering power of Love and Rockets. Deep brooding rich vocals, whip snap percussion, but it always comes back to the V8 power of these guitars. Everything is foot to the floor speed and slides. It’s a non stop action flick of adrenochrome and dark intent.
Favorite Track: Serene – What a gorgeous highway 51 desert hard hitting ballad. The vocals croon and tantalize as the dust rolls by on an empty stretch. I love song for outlaws.
PALAIS IDEAL – The Art of Crashing – I’ve been waiting for the follow up to the 2019 release Pressure Points with baited breath. I was disappointed only by the fact it was three tracks and not twenty. This release is a perfectly blended sound of quality crafting, unique flavor, and infectious hooks. It’s one of those releases I can’t imagine who I could play this for and have them not enjoy it. It really has a universal appeal. It feels kinetic, like Depeche Mode “Construction Time Again”. I always enjoy John’s voice, but this EP really highlights how many different things he can do while sounding distinctly himself. It’s the true mark of a singer who has found his themselves and are owning it. The other greatest power of PI is, like all great prog genre, the two components know each other and their instruments so intimately. It really feels like two blended minds working without barrier. It makes the guitar and bass lines dart, bend, and twine together in perfect syncopation. I will be playing this…. A LOT.
Favorite Track: You can’t go wrong but Results is damn near perfection. From the opening guitar riff, the workout routine bassline, and John’s drive and grit. This song feels like an instant classic from out of time I somehow didn’t hear. It also holds the higher concept lyrics and hope PI always wins me over with. 10/10
The Sinister Guitar Lord of Sacramento CA James Perry returns with a long anticipated album which releases June 4th 2021. I’ve been a fan of the hard rock edge and dark overtones of Ashes Fallen for a while now. This new record finally fully embraces the goth aspects of the gothic rock. I feel like the scene has been so hungry for a voice of processive morals and guitar driven dark music. The other major step forward for this release is the collaboration heard on keyboard and additional guitars by Michelle and Jason. The seamless blend of these other voices in the song writing process really elevate and highlight the best aspects of James talent. The mastering by Gordan Young crackles with deep lines and definition. James voice has really found it’s internal confidence and writhes and strikes like a sea serpent bursting through phrases and throwing weight on those show stopping fretboard fireworks.
Top Tracks: Honestly this who album is a front to back jam with 10 strong tracks.
Vampira (The ballad of Maila) – A lovely tribute to the horror film icon. Both in the lyrical content but also the absolute face melting riff and gothabilly guitar tone. The vocals are attitude, snarl, and croon. Michelle adds in a lovely offset tone on the chorus which swells and solidifies. The back and forth guitar solos on the bridge are an absolute masterclass in movement and melody. This song is a 10 on the AFB scale. (Absolute Fuking Banger)
We Belong Nowhere – Filthy hard edge guitar intro. James has more of a chanting subtlety and blend with Michelle’s harmonies. The chorus is a beautiful hook that pays the first 6 months rent in advance on an apartment in your head. The soul and anguish of old school goth with the complexity and precision of King Crimson.
Overall: I was absolutely floored by the step forward this album took from a sound I already loved. I feel this record solidifies Ashes Fallen’s place as one of the premier voices in the modern gothic rock scene. This is not only a must have album of 2021, but one I strongly suggest getting on physical media. The album holds such layered and intricate texture, you will want to deconstruct it on your best sound system. I’m stoked to have the band on an upcoming episode of the Sounds and Shadows webcast.
Mexico city’s Oscura scene (MCOS) has become one of the strongest Mexican urban cultures due to the amount of musical, literary and artistic works produced every year. How does this came to be? As many cultural processes there is a consensus that establishes a date of birth, this one is settled in1994 with the first visit of London After Midnight to Mexico city. Back then it wasn’t called MCOS. As a matter of fact, it didn’t have a proper name. We endlessly and (maybe) uselessly discussed if the correct term we should use was “Dark” (yes, in English) or Gótica (yes, in Spanish). As years went by “Dark” became “Darks”, and “Gótica” turned into “Gothic” (yes, now in English) and finally into” Goth” (still in English), by then the discussion ended but suddenly Post Punk made an appearance. Perhaps we all were tired of trying to find a “pure”, “true”, “honest”, yada, yada, yada term and we all agreed on MCOS since it conveyed the many genres, terms, discourses and attitudes related with what we, in Mexico City, understood as our scene. And before ’94?… Well, we haven’t agreed on that, but when I began chatting with Ken about MCOS he mentioned the term “proto-Goth”; I found it very imaginative and accurate so I decided to steal it from him (hehehe) and establish two proto Goth ages. The late one 1987-1993, and the early one 1979-1986. Of course, the “mascara traces” (paraphrasing Grail Marcus’ book) can be followed up to 1973, but of course they weren’t as “dark” as they became in ’93 nor in ’79. Mexican rock history is a complex one, in the sense that there hasn’t been a direct line of development. Local bands haven’t been able to establish such a line therefore a proper domestic scene or genre is absent. As a matter of fact our rock has had many, many bumps, cracks and blurs among many other things. Most of Mexican rock and roll, twist, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, punk, new wave, techno-pop, grunge are derivative of what we knew, through mass media, of what was going on in England and the US whether we talk about mainstream or semi-mainstream musical expressions. We even had our Brit Pop scene!!! This is still happening.. Of course, It is common that most of the acts that jump on someone else’s train vanish once the trend passes, or others change style (according to the new musical fad); but sometimes, this acts generate a scene that remains and flourishes strongly. This was the case of MCOS. It is fair to say that the first pulse of MCOS was known as “Dark”. It became a mainstream word and trend in Mexico City in the second half of the eighties, but it was just that: a trend, not a scene, not a movement, nothing like that. It didn’t had a discourse. People having fun (nothing wrong with that) following a fad. Of course, there were some people with the insight of what was happening in the US, England, and Germany, but those were the initiated ones. While they might have already known about Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Cure or Siouxie; and talked (years before the image broke into mainstream) about the Beggars Banquet or the 4AD labels; a more conservative audience, mainstream music consumers, might have had their first contact with the proto-goth look when they saw Alaska (the lead singer of the Spanish pop band Alaska y Dinarama) on Mexican TV. She appeared in Siempre en Domingo (a Tv show molded from The Ed Sullivan Show which became one of the most important platforms for mainstream music in Latinamerica) all dressed-up in “siniestro” style (“sinister”, that’s how they called Goth in Madrid in the first half of the eighties) generating a strong impact in the audience, some loved her and some loathed her. Her looks were very shocking for youth to imitate, moreover for regular teenager girls. Mexico was very conservative and since 1968 young cultivated culture (much more if it was rock related) represented something to be closely watched and reprehended by the state trough police or other authority agents, it was a common situation to see teenagers or young adults being frisked, beaten, picked up, detained only by wearing long hair or clothes out of the ordinary. Paradoxically, early 80’s Mexico began a process of modernization that contemplated its urban young population appearance, yet it should be a “friendly” and “healthy” appearance. An example of this friendly appearance was represented by the pop girl vocal group Flans which look were regarded as outlandish by media and massive audiences. Was it? Well, they were molded from Bananarama.
A second mainstream contact with proto Goth look might have occurred when Soda Stereo (considered by many people the most influential Argentinian band) reached Mexican hit parade (around 1986). By that time the band used to dress in black with colorful shirts, wore mascara and crepe hair; and such was its impact that many kids began to dress like them… upper-middle class kids, of course. It was with this look when the word “posmo” (short from postmodern) became the regular way to address people dressed like that.
Let’s give a little leap to the end of the decade: Disintegration came out and put The Cure everywhere, of course they were already known but when I said everywhere I’m not talking about the usual mainstream music channels, you could even hear some songs of the album as background on some soup operas or in a Mexican Navy tv advertisements, another thing to notice is that the word “posmo” was substituted by “dark” . How? Why? It is a mystery, but many people associated the look exclusively with The Cure, and above all, with Robert Smith. It didn’t matter that many other bands wore the same clothing style or the same palm tree haircut. Caifanes, one of the most important Mexican bands, which members wore a trad goth style have been called a Cure’s rip off by people with this narrow view. Caifanes has become a cornerstone for Mexican rock due to many initiatives the band has had in its career. Among many important things they generated was the fact that they made a crossover from mainstream rock and pop audience to the banda and grupero audience (banda and grupero are Regional Mexican music genres), the real Mexican mainstream. They did this by including a cumbia (a rhythm originated in Colombia that has a huge penetration in Mexico) in their repertoire. Little did they imagined that this song, ”La negra Tomasa”, was to became a milestone in Mexican music and audience, and they did it while they were still dressed in black. So, it is fair to say that they made the style reach to the most far regions of the country. Before that, many people who wore spiky hair were referred by mainstream observers as punks, because that was the only reference they had. After “La negra Tomasa” the term Dark displace Punk and even became part of our language. Mexicanisms Dictionary includes the word, not with its original morphology but with one which formerly used to be a pejorative term: Darketo. According to this Dictionary “Darketo(ta) refers to someone who dresses in black, is melancholic, with a depressive and solitaire attitude”. And that’s it, two lines to define a cultural scene. Well, they are not to blame, of course. We are talking about a massive point of view.
By the beginning of the following decade, Dark as a trend was fading away from mainstream which was ready to receive the next fad, the so called alternative music. Still, many people clinged to the remains of the trend; a few promoters and radio dj’s who were deeply in love with the bands associated with the genre and its discourse kept promoting and broadcasting classical as well as new bands productions. For us, Mexico City’s fandom, the classic bands were The Cure, Bauhaus, Siouxie and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Fields of the Nephilim, Christian Death and Dead Can Dance (among others); whereas the new bands were Love Is Colder Than Dead, In The Nursery, Attrition, Stoa, Human Drama, The Last Dance and London after Midnight (among others). What I’m trying to say is that the classic bands were listened by an audience which most of its members were not particularly related to the discourse of a proto-goth scene; most of these people also listened to Talking Heads, ABC, U2, Pink Floyd, Sting, etc. The audience that became interested in the new bands was very into them and anxious for what would come next; moreover because all those bands gave concerts in Mexico City within the first half of the decade. This audience was to establish the solid ground for what, four years latter, would became Mexico City Goth Scene. And what about Mexican obscura bands? As I mentioned at the beginning of this text, the development of the scene was not lineal and it can be traced to 1973 to some experimental rock bands like Decibel, El Queso Sagrado or Como México No Hay Dos. Many of their musical atmospheres, performance and part of their discourse had motives that years later would be recurring in the Dark Scene’; but most important, when this groups disbanded some of their members formed New Wave and Techno pop acts, such as: Size, Syntoma, Pijamas a go go,El Escuadrón del Ritmo, Silueta Pálida, Década 2 and Casino Shanghai. Bands that are now considered the seed of the MCOS. On an important note; they NEVER referred themselves as Postpunk or Synthpop. On the second half of the eighties came some other bands that flirted with the influence of the classic acts mentioned above, among them were La muerte de Euridice, Alquimia, Las Ánimas del Cuarto Oscuro and of course Caifanes. However, as I mentioned on the first lines, the hard core proto-goth bands were born by the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties. Santa Sabina, Ansia, La Concepción de la Luna and El Clan were the first line followed behind by the likes of El Cuerpo de Cristina, La Divina Comedia, Hélicon or Los Olvidados. Some of them, like Santa Sabina, La Concepción de la Luna, and above all El Clan would become landmarks of the Mexican Goth Scene once it became solidly established in ’94. Still, the acts that would represent a breakthrough for the development of the scene and its consolidation as MCOS would see the light (or should I say; the darkness) around the last five years of the past millennium.
What an amazing year for the Goth/Darkwave genre. A lot of fresh talent has come forth to leave their mark. In equal measure are long term veterans that have risen from the darkness to give new offerings. Our team took on the unenviable task of choosing the releases that moved us most. We are not including singles or compilations. These are not by any means every band I bought and loved in 2020 for goth. These are all bands that released an original album in the year 2020 that built a haunted house in the ruined graveyard of my head and I want to share with you now.
20) Raven Said – Beyond the Darkest Hour – My favorite of the amazing wealth of goth sounds coming out of Russia. This is a high energy shadow punk driving acid spit flavor of Misfits and Batcave. Andrey Agapitov vocals are sinister, fluid, and have a unique meter I am in love with. The guitar riffs are scorching. It keeps hitting different layers and hitting them hard. This album really shows how wide and beautiful this genre stretches.
19) The Wake – PERFUMES AND FRIPPERIES – This is another band that has a lot of accomplishment under their belts. They really optimize what I think of as the Midwest goth sound. The guitars have this awesome fire feel, like molten splatters flying towards you. The vocals are mature and a have a rich quality. Lots of organic sounding drums that give a urgency. This is a noteworthy return for a band that has stood the test.
18) Rosetta Stone – Cryptology – So Rosetta Stone have been around for the long haul. They continue to put out exciting music and have been a staple in the genre. This album has a wonderful stripped down flavor. It makes it feel very intimate. “Valiant Try” is a straight up jam. I think what really captured me was that this was a familiar voice but they really peeled the mask off and gave you a look at a deeper layer.
17) WitchHands- Unto Death – Call it Death rock, Doom rock, Goth, ect. Just make sure to call it one of our top albums this year. Thick rumbling bass, slashing energy whip guitars. All called forth by Ryan’s mad carnival caller vocals. He spins tales with the conviction and charisma of a tent revival preacher. I think the biggest thing to hear is the massive step forward for their production levels so you can hear the power of every aspect. It’s glorious to behold and makes me want more WitchHands.
16) The Kentucky Vampire – Crimson Curse – Hailing from shockingly, Kentucky, here is another band that brings old school sinister pipe organ and fire bright guitar riffs. From Secret Sin records the tone and emotion of their 5 records is everything true fans of 80’s death rock long for. Abbas has a haunting voice full of chorus and foreboding. Brandon of Sonsombre does mastering for them and helps add a sense of continuity to this new goth sound. This record really highlighted the return of wicked guitar riffs in modern goth music.
15) Astari Nite – Here Lies – This album has that captivating power of The Cure “Disintegration“. The music is like a tapestry woven before your eyes. The vocals are a heart cry that begs and pleads and owned me from the start. The guitar leads are a gorgeous second vocal melody that winds through the songs with an intricate voice of it’s own. This is more of the romantic aspect of goth music. Get ready to fall in a deep pool of meaning.
14) The Cult Sounds – The Cult Sounds – This was another pleasant surprise I got this year. Adrian got me into this band. The strength and range of the vocals here is astounding. I think the most amazing ability of this band was the ability to emote dynamics by changing the structure from verse to chorus. I love the retro power of a Black Sabbath power chorus back into a dreamy romantic goth style. You can really hear the ability of the musicians wielding their talent to maximum effect. I expect huge things for this band.
I have reviewed a few singles from the Boston witchy harvest dark rock. It’s striking and powerful, hints of Switchblade Symphony with a brighter flowing tang. Juls Garat has an angelic choir of a voice and gets offset by thunder rich basslines from Sean Woodbury. Claudio Marcio does a double duty on bonfire wall guitars and snapping drum sounds. I like the curt furious pace. This album was a long time coming and for an opening salvo it was really worth the wait. I love the Cure Standing on the Beach singles hectic jerk worldview to dark music. They really know how to strip it down and draw you in, then when they have you in the trap they spring the jaws. Favorite tracks: The Besieged , Bachanalia, and The Visitor.
The standard is set for a new force in dark rock music. This is a journey worth taking with a very mystical and stormy feel. They are on my new list of must follows for all future release.
12) Shadow Assembly – Arcane Fusion –The sophomore offering after their debut “Ghostcrawl” a twisted and brooding rock driven concoction. This new album opens the portal of darkness even further by using a different vocalist/lyricist for every track. This album is not only a prism of the wide varieties in modern gothic rock, but also a who’s who of the vocal talent of the current scene. I will act as your ferryman on the River Styx as I lead you through each track on this modern classic.
Overall this album is a synthesis of talent that really highlights what is possible when you have a maestro that knows and loves the music other artists make and finds a way to make each tone flow together to build something greater than the some of it’s parts. It is currently available on bandcamp for digital download and a CD run. If you want a good place to place your finger on the pulse of modern goth, this album is a great place to start.
11) The Birthday Party Massacre – Diamonds – Look they are one of the biggest names in the modern genre and that’s for good reason. The gorgeous production pushes this towards darkpop (which is not a bad thing). It’s driving, passionate, and the drum builds and transitions are ungodly. This record feels like running through the darkest parts of Hogwarts. Yes it has a child like innocence about it, but at the same time a depth and soul. TBPM still have a lot of ground to cover in their journey.
10) Rosegarden Funeral Party – At The Stake – I have shockingly never reviewed an album from the Dallas TX traditional goth explosion. I’ve heard singles but never dove in head first and I’m not afraid to admit that was dumb. Sinister reverb guitars, blistering transitions, and laser strike vocals. Leah is a force of raw untamed storm winds striking out at an unsuspecting world. It’s haunting and full of driving pop hooks. Consider me won, consider me a fan. Favorite tracks : Torture Decline, Fear of Feeling Nothing, Justification.
9) Caroline Blind –The Spell Between – Caroline has been a mainstay for so long in this scene. Sunshine Blind “Liquid” was one of those albums that really showed me how much more the goth sound could be. This album features years of reflection and a power and beauty of delivery that makes me well up with emotion. The surrounding musicians she brought in to add depth and shading to the tracks are an all star list of talent. A powerful voice to remind us of the past and excite us for the future.
8) SOPOR AETERNUS & The Ensemble Of Shadows – Island of the Dead – Honestly this is one of those bands I am embarrassed I didn’t already know about. I heard this on the Pat 626 show and I fell instantly in love. It’s dark, quirky, and utterly unique. It has a mystical and theatrical quality full of poetry and intensity. Brooding and whip crack sharp with hammer dulcimers and vocal deliver as sharp as a dagger. Music like this is my dark secret passion. More Harpsichords in goth NOW!
7) Mary – Die Before Death – My newest goth obsession from Toronto. It is fast paced, spicy, with an old school New York feel. Strong sweeping vocals with a lot of depth and meaning. It also has a complete album feel with the sweeping tempo and dynamic shifts. Take me through the full range of emotions in one record. Another Cold Transmission signing. I expect big things in the future from him. This album is my sleeper pick of someone I was not familiar with before but will be heavily invested in ever future release.
6) A Covenant Of Thorns – Black -I have been waiting on this release for a long time. It’s what inspired me to write this piece. Scott-David Allen is a true master of this idea. He has been making songs of heart rending sadness and beauty for decades. I can honestly say this is an opus. The best I have heard yet. The production level here is next level with it’s Depeche Mode level darkpop and his amazing voice pushed to the front where it conveys a delicate yearning and sadness which is lost in the modern era. The whole record is a pilgrimage to the top of a mountain where he offers up his heart like a saint to the object of his love. The passion and idea are so raw but the mixing and song writing is done with a craft that shows the dedication such a personal offering deserves. YOU NEED THIS RECORD! (He screams from the rooftops)
Top Tracks: All of them…
but Numb – A gorgeous synthwave love poem full of hope and expression
Signs of Life – Damn it is hard to pick but this track is so crispy. Allen’s voice is everywhere on this one. The feeling cuts to deep and love lies at your feet. The chorus just opens up like a bird flying over the sea. It’s so bright and dark at the same time in perfect balance.
Choke – This one has a little more edge and sinister to it, but it is still yearning. Because sometimes a little kink can still be romantic.
5) Black Angel – Kiss of Death – London UK artist Black Angel is putting the bat cave rock back into death rock. I feel so much of The Mission and later Sisters dancy flow to gothic rock. Their music reminds me so much of the goth club scene, swinging arms, leather and lace. Gothic music has always been tied to expression with the body, that is something Matt Vowel’s has grasp and fused into the future. The use of banging rock guitar riffs with a southern flare really created something fresh and memorable.
4) Crying Vessel – Pleasures For The Wicked – Slade and Basil also bringing that softer dark edge to gothic rock. Horror author Slade is integrating imagery of the macabre an sinister with a glam razamtaz feel. Gorgeous layered production and flange rich echo’s that simmer with Bowie and Love and Rockets. That special darkness you find on the edge of a rainbow after a storm. Available on Cleopatra Records.
3) Night Nail – March to Autumn – Two things made this album incredible for me. 1) The complexity. The layers, instrumentation, lyrics, it all has a depth to it that doesn’t seem to be the goal of a lot of darkwave. 2) How genuine it feels. I have interviewed Brandon and I know he is one of those rare souls that when I hear his music, I feel like who I am seeing is the exact person on the album. The album also has the rich treat of Valentina (VV and the Void) providing additional vocals and keys for contrast and perspective that adds shading and definition. This is an album to think to.
2) Iamtheshadow – Pitchblack – When I think of goth, I think of passion and vocals that capture a room. Lisbon Portugal’s IAMTHESHADOW does that in spades. Pedro Code has the best baritone in modern goth. It’s sexy, crooning, dangerous music that sounds like a full bodied red first touching your lips. It’s music to give yourself over and get lost in. Like the first time you heard Peter Murphy and thought this is the sound that encapsulates the image I want to see in the mirror. This album was a perfect bridge of the old school organic and the new school electronic. Like a chemist finding that perfect balance of styles. Now on Cold Transmission Music.