It was a long hard week for me. Time to lose myself in someone else’s head. Who are the songs transporting me to another place?
FIRES – Changeling – New single from Aedrea. The title here really tells the story. Such a bold metamorphic shift in sound. In particular the vocals have this wispy Chelsea Wolfe quality full of fairy fire flickering promise. The music is a shifting fantasia, almost an entire film score journey in five minutes. Tender raindrop keys, crushing storm front guitars, and bisecting buzzsaw percussion. A cacophony of sound and beauty. As an added bonus it contains a Bside called “exit/Void” with a spoken word poem surrounded by sinister overtones. Another glorious example of the captivating burning mind.
hallowed hearts – Ruins – NYC’s Hallowed Heart have a new 5 track EP. I love the opening concept of ruins. The things we left behind. The memory of who we were for future strangers to find and wonder at. These are not songs for the dance club. An energetic medium tempo darkwave for walking the dark streets. Pulling the collar of your coat up to stave off a bracing wind. A grey and bleak musical tone offset by the courage of Alex Virlios vocals that cover a wide range and spew forth challenge to cast light on the sullen path.
Supernova – A lovely beckoning open with locomotive punching guitar sounds. Virkios vocals start by painting a rich baritone at home in the post punk style, but then crackle with energy for the chorus. I loved the punch and diversity of sound here. Real feelings of introspection and self discovery.
Circle – Beautiful firefly rising ballad to break the pace of the EP. I love the way the guitar lines push forward and guide the voice here. It’s a beautiful and maudlin song of spiritual longing. Two minutes in the ballad takes on real power and teeth.
Overall: This is an album that takes you to very specific moments and paints a picture in the mind. It’s a journey worth taking and a moment worth looking for.
IAMTHESHADOW – Everything in this Nothingness [Still] – I have waiting long for this release on Cold Transmission Music. A re-release of the Portuguese darkwave darlings debut 2016 album. Pedro and company have been tantalizing fans with rich passionate heart bursting serenades. Getting to return to the opening stanza of their journey and combining it with the years of experience and musical wisdom is an experience to waken the ears and minds of their fans. The music is a crystal pool of water on an autumn night. Beautiful, bracing, and teeming with life. I’m going to now repeat a sentence I have uttered in every Iamtheshadow review I have written. “Pedro Code has the best baritone voice in modern goth/darkwave.” It is a force of nature that moves the heart like a poem by one of the great masters.
Wait, thats not all. In addition to the album, they released a companion remix album and it is such a brilliant homage by some of the top artists in the scene….and me 🙂 It Includes Kill Shelter, Thewalkingicon, Antipole, Crying Vessel, The Frozen Autumn, and yes Amaranth.
I think what was so impressive with this was the extreme level of talent, as well as a deep personal admiration everyone involved had for Iamtheshadow. There is nothing more engaging for a remix album than when you can really hear a reimagining full of love for the source material. I’ll be selfish for a moment and say getting to sing a duet with Pedro was a dream come true and a terrifying challenge. Collin did a masterful job remixing the song as well. Again hard to choose a standout track, because every song was a passionate love letter to an artist we deeply respect.
White Cauldron – Nine Hells – Wicked release from last year that somehow fell through the cracks on me. The nearby Colombus Ohio band is really hard to place in a box. Sharp spinning blades of Industrial, clashing with jittering witchouse, textural keyboards, and a coven choir of misty swirling vocals. Throwing so many elements together could cause you to be lost in the miasma, but the mix is precise and razor blended to let every element find a voice. I’m not sure how many members the band has beyond Bess but the ultimate power of the release is that feeling of 20 clashing minds swirling around and finding focus like a spectral eruption in a cemetery.
Empty Tomb: This song is the cacophony at it’s best. The overlapping harmonies ranging from Nu Metal spitting to banshee haunt wails are a powerful and unnerving effect I found myself captivated by.
Die This Death: This opening bassline has such a filthy stank on it. It rises and grooves like a buzzing swamp consuming a corpse. The rapped out vocals almost put me in mind of Cypress Hill. Just such a unique and conjured ritual of darkness and decay.
Overall: This is a complex listen for all it’s parts. It often rides the line between background chill and chaos dance mix. With everything going on I found myself constantly surprised how easy it was to get lost in the flow of it. I want to take this ride again.
Astari Nite – Pocket Full of Posies – Look if Astari Nite has a new single, I am here for it. That said, holy crap this is a jam. An enchanting garden of mythic colors and romantic poetry. It bounces between complex layers and stripped down emotional delivery. The vocals are that beautiful teardrop smooth Robert Smith croon which makes my heart well. This band continues to impress with every release.
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 with Brandon Prybus of Sonsombre. 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.
As the scene of Goth/Industrial/Darkwave/Post Punk/Shoegaze music continues to experience an amazing renaissance, live shows are becoming a haven for the masses of fans to connect. This year boasts a boatload of amazing festivals where bands and fans can meet and share their love of this scene, so I will try and put together a guide of some of the great ones so you can plot a trip full of memories to last a lifetime.
Dark Spring Festival– (Boston) I am super excited for and will be at this one. This a brand new festival is anticipating its first year and they are already starting out strong with an amazing lineup including some of my favorite up-and-coming bands, mixed with long-term favorites. Great town with a cool scene. *Best New Festival
Dark Spring Festival Berlin – This brilliant festival inspired the aforementioned Boston one. It was started by Christian of Golden Apes and features Swiss darkwave act Hapax, Finnish Goth Rock elders Two Witches, Russian New Wave quintet Brandenburg, and French No Wave duo Dear Deer. Lots of Representation from Switzerland’s ‘Dark Nights’ label.
Absolution Fest– (Tampa Bay, FL) Located in Tampa’s legendary club The Castle, this festival started last year and works closely with our friends at Obscura Undead. Tampa Bay has an outstanding scene, and this lineup is off the chain. I mean, fucking Drab Majesty! This one was spectacular last year and every band who played it told me how inspiring it was. Plus, you’re in Florida heat at one of the most renown goth clubs in the US. *Best Value
Cold Waves– (Chicago) – So we went to this show last year and it was a life changing experience. The scene, the venue, the cause, the history, this is everything you hope for from a top-notch music fest. This one has been doing it right for a long time, and the lineup is absolutely stacked. Phenomenal mix of goth and industrial, old and new, plus the fact that Chicago, as a city, is so deeply entrenched in music history. Finally, Jim Marcus is doing a DJ set and I am here for that content! *Best Lineup
Convergence – (Louisville KY) Interesting new venue for this long running festival. Amaranth applied for this one but sadly didn’t make it this time. Maybe next year. However when I look at this boss lineup I can’t feel mad. They packed this show with top talent in lots of genres. *Great lineup Fresh New Scene
Cold Transmission Fest – (Cologne Germany) – Our dear friends at Cold Transmission records started their first festival last year and we had the opportunity to cover it. It was amazing. The way people traveled from all over the world to come together and share a passion for great music. After the success of last year Suzy, Andy and team have expanded and have another wonderful lineup and more to be announced. My heart will be with them again. *Great Lineup, Intimate show
ASH CODE BEDLESS BONES IAMTHESHADOW MARK E MOON DILK
Dark Side of the Con – (Parsippany NJ) – Another long running festival I hear everyone rave about year after year but I’ve never attended. I need to get this on my list. This year it is a who’s who of 3rd wave goth and industrial. Big line up with lots of established acts. If this time period in goth was your jam you can’t beat this. Plus it has a convention feel with a lot of things beyond the music (panels, art, DIY, access to bands)
Out From the Shadows Fest – (Portland) – Another festival I have heard wonderful things about from a great music city. This lineup is stellar and really runs the entire frequency of music styles. Great focus on fresh bands doing 3 stacked nights of music. Huge lineup with a lot of bigger named acts blending well with fresh faces. Plus Portland is just a great place to have a vacation if you are goth.
SYZYGYX (Wash. DC) FEARING (LA) KOMRADS (Rochester NY) LOVE HATE AFFAIR (Austin) THE ELECTRIC WEST (LA) PHYSICAL WASH (PDX) RITUAL VEIL (PDX) – TBD –
BODY OF LIGHT (Arizona) AUTOMELODI (Montreal) SSLEEPING DESIRESS (SF) MAYFLOWER MADAME (Oslo) PUSH BUTTON PRESS (Tampa) V.E.X. (members of MOIRA SCAR) (Oakland) VERSARI (Paris) WE ARE PARASOLS (PDX)
RITUAL HOWLS (Detroit) TEARFUL MOON (Austin) KORINE (Philadelphia) ASTARI NITE (Miami) SICK WISH (Boise) SEVENTEEN AT THIS TIME (Paris) MR WRONG (PDX) LIES WE WERE TOLD (PDX)
San La Muerta Festival – (Austin Tx) Austin is probably one of the best cities for goth industrial in the US. The list of bands currently out of this town is staggering. Great DJ support. I imagine this party is off the chain. They boast a monster lineup from all over the globe. The Vanishing doing a reunion and Shes Past Away.
San La Muerte Fest 2020 Sept. 17th – 19th Austin Texas
-This year SLM proudly presents: from Spain ANA CURRA (formerly of Paralisis Permanente, Alaska y Los Pegamoides, Los Seres Vacios) Ana Curra will perform Friday Sept. 18th, 2020 in Austin Texas Venue: TBA Tickets available now on SLM website
-SHE PAST AWAY One of the best current Darkwave Post Punk bands. Only Texas Show! All the way from Turkey! Sept. 19th with The Vanishing Elysium Austin Texas
-THE VANISHING (San Francisco) 20 YEAR REUNION! Only Texas Date! The Vanishing will be playing Saturday Sept. 19th alongside She Past Away! Venue:Elysium Tickets available now on SLM website
Dark Malta Festival – (Malta) Great mixture of Euro darkness. Some big names in goth/Industrial/ and metal here. Plus it is in Malta in April which i imagine is gorgeous. If you have the means, I highly recommend checking it out, so choice 😉
When our friends at Cold Transmission release two compilations back to back like this two things are generally true. 1) They feature a perfect blend of some of the hottest new music available from around the world. 2) They have one volume dedicated to Goth/Post Punk/Cold Wave and the other primarily electronic. This ended up right to form. It’s about 40 songs total at an unbelievably low price so I can’t touch on every single track. However I made a picture of Bloody Mary, hooked up my good speakers, and I am going to see how many I can do in one review. Buckle in and lets go for a ride.
Volume 10: So the genre of “Gothic Rock” is one that has been sitting on the self for a few decades without nearly enough attention for my personal taste. I feel like it is really making a huge comeback in the modern scene. Bands are really coming forth with new and exciting things from wicked goth guitar riffs and driving bass lines. I was blown away at how this compilation captured so many of these great next wave Goth Rockers from all over the world in one place. If you call yourself “Goth” and want to have your finger on the modern pulse, Zeitgeist Vol 10 is a great place to start. It puts me in mind of those old Cleopatra Records comps I fell in love with all those years ago.
Track 1: A Projection – Stockholm Sweden post punk artist off of Tapete Records. What a strong start this song is. It bounces and the snapping of those live snares gives a furious pace. This track had a lot of The Mission UK flavor and a beautiful melody. I became an instant fan. Lots of depth, lots of rawness.
Track 3: Mark E Moon – This is a previously unreleased track Delta of Venus of this Cold transmission act from the Isle of Man is a gasoline fire of dark driving poetry. I love the lyrics, the cascading synths, and Mark’s Jaz Coleman style vocals. Total Burner
Track 4: Sonsombre – Fear is a a slow driving goth rock modern classic from North Virginia revivalist Brandon Pybus. I really feel like Sonsombre are leading the charge for this next wave of goth music. Lots of Sisters of Mercy/Mission/Rosetta Stone ballad feel on those sweeping light finger drip guitars. This song makes me howl at the moon at 3am.
Track 6 : October Burns Black – Cast Aside is a “Proper” Goth rock track in every old school sense. This super band made up of bits and pieces from all around are giving you the real deal right out of 1981 preserved in dark crystal and given new life in the present. A mournful emotional outburst full of texture and power.
Track 7: Astari Nite – Dearly Beloved, This crooning shadowy ballad from Miami Florida’s robust goth scene. A lot of David Bowie/Roxy Music glam to this dark winding tale of loss.
Track 8 : Secret French Postcards – The most recent signing for Cold Transmission from Baltimore Maryland. Make Me Bleed is a beautiful track with very dark overtones but an ethereal shoegaze backdrop. One of those tracks that hits you on different layers every time you listen.
Track 9 : Icy Men – Another amazing Cold Transmission band hailing from Keiv Ukraine. They have another just released single I need to review. I love this minimalist bleak tone of isolation and desperation. I can’t understand the lyrics but i still find myself moved by the power of the delivery. The bending low range guitars create a great movement in a place devoid of hope.
Track 13: Caidas Libras – Post punk from Costa Rica. This song Poderes Simples has an intense and driving bass groove that charges through the track like a raging bull. The vocals are very whispered and low fi. I found myself wishing to hear more of it. The music has an undeniable groove and a sinister tone.
Track 14 : Paradise Cove – Inside is another previously unreleased track on Cold Transmission. I love the distorted voice and punk rock vibe. Very Alien Sex Fiends buzzing club jam feel. Slick as an oil spill on an a frozen lake.
Track 15 Scary Black – Louisville KY goth masters Scary Black bringing one of my favorites on this compilation of goodness with Starlightdancer. Those reverb dreamy guitar riffs, the sinister low register vocals, and the ringing chime bells. So old school, so fresh, I can’t get enough.
Track 17: The Gathering – Building a Bridge is the slashing builder and breaker from Vancouver also on Cold Transmission. It’s so open and harmonic, almost feels pop punk but with such perfect instrumentation and looming dark tones.
Track 20: Death Instinct – Hide is a track from Pittsburgh PA’s dark rock band Death Instinct. I love the Steven Morris drum builds. The echoing vocals with a slight lilt giving just enough glimpse of light to add some extra spice to the cold wave feel.
Track 23: Amaranth – My Turn Again is a song from Kalamazoo MI goth rockers. The singer sounds like a pretentious prick. Fuck that guy. The bass player seems hot though.
Track 25: The Bluebeard’s Castle – Another Cold Transmission band this time from France. I love this old bat cave feel yesteryear goth. Also the vocals have a touch of Jello Biafra in them which is awesome. I love the cadence and the bass underneath driving it.
I’m going to try and go back and fill in the bands I missed but this was just a marathon of reviewing. Needless to say I put in this much time because everything on this compilation is worth exploring and it takes you on a journey across the world. It makes me excited for what the goth scene is still capable of in 2019.