One of the great indicators of the Goth Rennaissance we are experiencing is the rise of more and more new festivals. The amount of talent currently in the darkscene added to the return of many legacy bands have led to great value for fans. These festivals have become goth summer camps to meet up with music scene friends often only interacted with online. In the last three years one that I always here praised by bands from around the world is Absolution Fest in Tampa Bay Florida from promotor/dj Mark Paradise from Communion After Dark and co promotor Pete Olen of Endoxa Booking. I think two things have lead to Absolution Fest’s success. 1) They place a focus on fresh up and coming bands rather than only having legacy headliners. 2) Positive people above name recognition. Everyone one I know who has played this festival raves about how every band there becomes friends and lifts each other up. This attitude and positive energy bleeds over into the crowd and gives everyone the sense of connection and community the scene has longed for.
The list of bands this year is staggering. I will go through some of the highlights along with links and information. Starting with the main even page below.
Kanga – Once again from the city of angels electronic glitter napalm pop Kanga is an experience not to be missed. Deeply respected in the genre this is glorious textural production you feel in your bones. New Album out October 6th.
Visceral Anatomy – The Alter ego of one of my favorite IL bands Wingtips. This incarnation of the duo place the lyric writing and singing on Hannah for a wonderfully different feel. I love the way their story is being told through a different lens.
Aeon Rings – Florida band I recently made song of the day and reminded myself I need to listen to more. Fierce EDM with Davey Partains piercing lightning quick vocals. They also have a new album out in Oct.
Last Grasp – Florida goth trio I had never heard before this review. First thing that grabbed me, what an amazing jazzy walking goth bassline. When you lay the foundation this well Epiphania it is easy to build on. Matthew DeFeis provides a nice rich Eldrichesque baritone vocal to round out a lovely trad goth feel. I’ll be looking for more.
Panic Priest – The magnificent Chicago darkwave crooner that makes every show feel like an intimate experience. violet beam guitar rifts, clarifying synths, and Jack’s top tier vocals are guaranteed to impress.
Double Eyelid – A dear friend Ian Revell coming from Toronto. They also understand how to embrace the camp of darkness. The songs all have razor hooks and interesting stores. This is a band that NEEDS more attention.
Black Rose Burning – One of the most underrated talents in our scene George Grant from Brookland. I’m so glad to see major festivals start to recognize their talent. They just dropped a new album “Ad Astra” Mastered by: Jason Corbett (Actors) and it is nothing short of breath taking. George is the musical genius of goth Peter Gabriel.
Empathy Test – The standout London band that has shot to worldwide notoriety with their dreamy emotive narrative style of songwriting. Another band I am yet to see live but that I can’t wait to. This is a band with headliner energy travelling across the ocean to delight American audiences.
WINGTIPS – The previously mentioned Illinois band also preforming Thursday as Visceral Anatomy. Perfect dream chaos synth music that somehow gets better every time I see them live. That is really saying something as I have seen them 7 times and each one my jaw drops and the connection and power of their performance. If you have never witnessed Vincent and Hannah do yourself a favor.
Helix – Amazing electronic team up of Tom Shear (Assemblage 23) & talented solo producer Mari Kattman. The married couple collaborate seamlessly to create steamy cascading electro art. I love the parts, I love the whole, I love getting lost in these songs.
BlakLight – LA darkpop darting between light and shadow. I always love the Peter Hook (Revenge) shadowsynth vibes I get from this band. I have never seen them live but I’m sure the floor will be pulsing.
NITE – The amazing Mendes brothers from Texas who flutter on the wind between post punk and synth pop. Always icy razor-sharp production and gorgeous glam vocals. A band I keep hearing the growth of with every release.
Additional shout out to Obscura Undead our dear friends in the scene and sponsor.
Obscura Undead is a collective of goth creators passionate about new and obscure goth, darkwave, post-punk, and other dark alternative music. Evolving and changing with the chaos is life and lead by Azy Bats, Obscura Undead celebrates five years of commitment to the members and bands of our dark scene, Tampa events, and inclusive goth-erie. We are a zine, a compilation, a mixtrack, a podcast, a promoter, a DJ group, and a supporter in love and darkness of all Goth has to offer.
A new year has started and we are already flooded with amazing releases. Tons of legendary bands are coming out for one final farewell tour or album. Here at S & S we like to focus on the new and fresh. The hot singles of the darkscene not showing up in more reputable charts. All of these singles were voted on by our group of Artists/Djs/Promotors/Reviewers/Superfans. If you have a single releasing in February go to the Sounds and Shadows Facebook group and submit 🙂
Beborn Beton – Dancer In The Dark – (Germany)
Astari Nite – Bowie In Daydreams – (Miami Florida)
Vazum – Night Shade – (Detroit Michigan)
Scary Black – Everything Rots (Louisville KY)
Iamnoone – King Of Pain (Italy)
En Esch – ET NOS UNUM SUMUS – (Berlin Germany)
Klack – New Buildings – (Madison Wisconsin)
Cerulean Veins – Love Won’t Save Us Now (San Diego, California)
Leaether Strip – Last Station – (Vegger, Denmark)
Dissonance – I Don’t Like Who You Are – (Dallas, Texas)
Beborn Beton – Dancer In The Dark – A new year, a new #1 finish for the German darksynth destroyers. This single will crawl into your ears and live there for a week. Pure crooning spun sugar by Stefan Netschio this album really can’t arrive soon enough but the release date is March 17, 2023.
2) Astari Nite – Bowie In Daydreams – What a beautiful tribute to the thin white Duke. It’s sassy, it’s fantastical, and Mychael really captured the Star Man attitude. I feel like I just took a swing around the sun.
3) VAZUM – Night Shade – Detroit Cold Fi duo with this new unseely court fairy driving banger with a nice lyrical shade thrown. They always bring something creative and against the grain of the scene status quo. Loving how vocal forward the harmony is on the chorus.
4) SCARY BLACK – Everything Rots – Every time I hear something new from Albie, I get genuinely mad he isn’t apart of every discussion of the biggest names of modern darkscene. This single is TERRIFYING. The emotional projectile vomit of dark viscus sound is staggering. The first time I played it my hands were shaking. If you love goth music, please go listen to one of the best artists of the last 10 years making it.
5) iamnoone – kind of pain – Before I even get to this single by the Italian Cold Transmission Music duo, I have to address this amazing cover art. Something about the texture of it just haunts me. The new single and video is a lovely bouncing shadow disco with a bit of Peter Hook Revenge energy and teardrop synth chimes ala The Cure. Grab a cup of tea, this song, and raindrops streaking down the window.
6) EN ESCH – ET NOS UNUM SUMUS – This track is a little outside what I think of as darkscene singles, but it is such an interesting concept by the industrial legend I am ecstatic it was chosen. To really appreciate you have to read the liner notes. An immersive thought piece with brilliant high hats.
It’s based on a very special and unique concept and sound installation I created for the Berlin government, “Kulturprojekte Berlin”. A stand alone musical piece that is something completely original and inspired – every known national anthem playing together at the same moment. 206 national anthems playing at the same time!
The Untied Nations has 193 member states and I also added the anthems of observers and known non-members.
The German Esch lyrics in the beginning and at the end are taken from the poem “An die Freude” (Ode to Joy) written by German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller in 1785.
The other lyrics written by me are translated into Japanese and spoken by Keiko Yoshida, translated into Polish and spoken by “fdisk@interia” an internet friend of mine I that I have been unable to contact (please contact me, I want to credit you correctly) and the English part is performed by Sylvia J. Carrasquillo.
7) Klack / Inconscio Viola Split EP – New Buildings – So in spite of being one of my favorite team ups in EDM music Matt and Eric, this one flew a little under my radar. It was a spit EP on New York label SYNTHICIDE with Inconscio Viola. First thing I notice, it has MORE cowbell, I have immediately bought in. Trademark razor samples and Matt’s cascading growl. Stomp your boots and join the Klack. What if we made the whole track the breakdown?
8) Cerulean Veins – Love Won’t Save Us Now – Now I must admit I was not familiar with the San Diego band but they are definitely here now. Lovely pounding late Mission style goth rock with a great ringing anthem chorus. Crisp charging builds mastered to perfection by the always on point Pete Burns.
9) Leaether Strip – Last Station – With absolutely no surprise for anyone, Claus Larsen releases this shimmering crystalline EDM modern classic as a tribute to Kurt. Poetry, pain, love, I may have misted up a bit.
10) Dissonance – I Don’t Like Who You Are – Cat is a singular vocal talent that draws in top collaborators like moths to the flame. On this particular track it is Jon Van Herrman and Rath Campbell. I love this new broken glass edge to Cat’s captivating vocals. It distracts you with shine, right before the knife slides between your ribs.
The muted energy and drab majesty of post-punk is still very much alive, and Miami’s Astari Nite are at its forefront. A relatively new act, the band’s first album Here Lies, released in May of 2020, was a stirring exercise in gothic rock, headed up by its singles “Dearly Beloved” and “Capulet Loves Montague.” While the band’s sophomore full-length has yet to be announced, 2021 began with a new single in “All Else Is A Curse,” followed by “Pocket Full of Posies” this summer. To cap off this calendar year, Astari Nite have given us a remix of the former, with the help of NITE.
Where the original mix of the song is more guitar-driven, letting open strings ring out, the NITE remix is a club track through and through, with more synth passages, a slightly quickened pace, and more prominent percussion. The kick drum comes through to drive the chorus forward, giving more of a bounce to this haunting and contemplative track. All told, it is a solid remix, and definitely something I could see filling a dance floor, though with a bit more energy than the old standard that is the goth two-step.
Best of all, the remix is available for free on Bandcamp (or pay what you want), so stream and/or download the Pixie remix of “All Else is a Curse” by Astari Nite and NITE here:
And if you haven’t heard the original mix from earlier this year, stream that here:
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. 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.