Standing the test of time. Two PreGoth bands still leading in this Darkscene Rennaissance

Goth music has always been a scene obsessed with the past. By nature it came from a literary concept of macabre themes. Many of the bands that started this movement have actively pushed back, famously Sisters of Mercy for example. This month two bands that were there in that early pre-goth era paving the road for the decades, creating a new wave of splintered darkscene sounds. I love in both cases, these are not fan service records standing on the name of their past. They are fresh new ideas, forged in the skill and intensity that decades of releasing albums provide. So let us discuss the latest offerings from The Cassandra Complex and Christian Death.

The Cassandra ComplexThe Plague – Rodney Orpheus and The Cassandra Complex have been entrenched in the concept of what we would later call “goth” music since before we had a word to describe it. They have toured with and played festivals with the biggest names in the scene. Starting in 1985 releasing 7 full albums and 3 live albums the last of which “Wetware” on Metropolis Records in 2000. 22 years we waited for a return with “The Plague” to burst forth with a ferocious new energy. Early releases like “Grenade” were thick with an aggressive political message. I fell instantly for this return of piss and vinegar spirit blended with fine blade refinement. A razor edge between emotional concept and ability. Although these are new songs tackling modern concepts of a post capitalism world, the album serves as a greatest hit record. Drawing on individual styles that run the range of their history. It doesn’t forget the tongue firmly in cheek humor, using wit to mock the face of power.

The Plague | The Cassandra Complex (bandcamp.com)

Released May 6, 2022

Rodney Orpheus: vocals, vocoder, synthesizers, drum machines
Andy Booth: guitar, keyboards
Volker Zacharias: guitar, bass, keyboards
Axel Ermes: synthesizers

Produced by Rodney Orpheus @ Magic Library Studio, London
Cover Art by Antony Johnston

Photo by Patrick Beerhorst

Standout Tracks: This is not an album of singles. No fractured thoughts of refracted light touching unrelated ideas. This is a record of intent meant to be played in succession. I must stress the importance of reading these chapters in order to understand the story. To say particular songs didn’t grab hold of my lapels and shake me with staggering force would be unjust as well. I will call out three.

Hotline To Elvis – Opening the album with this blistering gallop of southern twang guitar and hooved pounding bassline. Living in Kalamazoo MI I remember the Elvis hotline. It is often forgotten that bizarre conspiracy theories were not new ideas. When people want to believe something, no matter how absurd, they found a way. I love how Rodney takes on just enough southern lilt to summon the shaking spirit of the King. I blast of fire to set the scene.

We did this interview with Rodney in 2020. We have another soon to release đŸ™‚

Speed Of Sound – Ok, this is that track. A swelling ballad that captures a relatable experience that just hits different. The heart grasping hook of this bassline, Rodney’s genuine and tragic delivery with a Lou Reed poetry in blue collar hues. I must have played this track 20 times. I feel myself well up for every single one. A modern classic.

Old Boys Network – This song is about a collision of sounds and fierce satirical rebuke of the men in power which permeate and destroy every aspect of life. This synth line is a bouncing frenzy and Andy Booths guitar lines crackle with LA punk chaos. Rodney keeps the effect of clarity and grey pastel while spewing forth a Dead Kennedy’s rant.

Overall this is a triumphant return, an band that has earned the freedom and skill to treat their fans to a fearless and personal glimpse into the human experience in a failing system. It is my sincere hope that this is a path back for younger new fans to one of the bands that paved the way for the modern darkscene.

Christian Death Evil Becomes Rule – The most recognized name of the American Proto goth scene from Los Angeles “Evil Becomes Rule” marks the 20th studio album in a legendary career. In our recent interview Valor told me about EBR being a continuation of 2015 The Root of All Evilution. It would be easy to appeal to longtime fans, putting out similar albums in a fan friendly style. Some artists have wonderful careers doing just that. This has never been the Christian Death way. Always slicing the edge in every incarnation. Evil Becomes Rule took me to a new place I never expected. A shadow psychedelic blasphemy of triumph blending world beat Dead Can Dance and roaring power of Judas Priest. Maitri’s vocals are highlighted like never before and cast a sinister ritual of power.

Evil Becomes Rule | Christian Death (bandcamp.com)

Recording lineup:
Valor – Lead vocals, guitars, violin, cello, piano (inside and out), keyboards, percussion
Maitri – Lead vocals, bass guitar
Pao – Drums

Live at Reggies in Chicago

Stand Out Tracks: It is so hard use objective judgement for a song writer I have this much respect for. I will try my best to pick a few favorite tracks that struck me hard and made me revaluate the idea of what Christian Death is.

Elegant Sleeping – This track is a stalking wolf in a swirling forest mist. Maitri delivers such a delicious snarl to split the space between the dervish guitar rhythm. The break down sails right off the rails in a savage cacophony of chaos. A blistering and explosive avant garde.

Beautiful – There are other singles on this record. This one just rings out with such beauty and clarity. The chorus hooked me in hard, I kept hearing it in my mind wherever I went. Cobra strike guitar lead, dancing beside a merciless chant of longing. The organic crashing drum sounds really find their form. This single is such a penetrating reminder of how complex and emotive Christian Death are. Shout out to this gorgeous video as well to bring the concept into stark relief.

Who Am I part I – Another aspect of CD has always been a clear understanding of the power of pageantry. Drawn bow strings and the call and answer dialog vocals of Valors Bowiesque glam dueling with Maitri’s storm winds challenge. Crashing contrasting voices meeting in the middle to erect a swirling tower. A final crescendo on this journey through past and future.

Overall: I am left astounded at Christian Deaths ability to always be growing, always raising a challenge. I saw the first night of the tour in Chicago and was overwhelmed by the presence they create. Valor and company are excited for this record. That enthusiasm bleeds into every word and note. Seek out a chance to witness this live, there just aren’t as many true rock stars in the world anymore. You still have a chance to see one in an intimate setting.

Sounds And Shadows March Darkscene Singles Chart

I have never been a huge fan of “Charts”. As month 5 of me putting this out rolls around I always pause for a moment to reflect on do I want to keep doing this and why? Each time when I look at the bands who are featured I say to myself, this matters. Everyone here is chosen by the Dj’s, Reviewers, Bands, and Superfans who are all deeply invested in Darkscene music. There is no financial motivation. No Politics. Just who has our group excited. I’m always inspired to see how the bands chosen shine a light on music that needs to be heard. As always these are singles released in the month of March 2022. Rated by your votes.

  1. LyciaSimpler Times
  2. Eric ObertoCloser Than Ever Before
  3. Scary BlackTragedy
  4. Christian DeathBeautiful
  5. Dread RisksMachine Identity
  6. Object XCoasting
  7. FatigueThe Fall (Pierce Me)
  8. TenderlashZombie (Cranberries Cover)
  9. Night SinsViolet Age
  10. Thieve 6 Inside Out (The Heart In A Blender Song)

LyciaSimpler Times – A triumphant return for the Arizona based trance coldwave band. This track is a perfect blend of pastel light and dark hues. Oil spreading in a rain puddle. Mike VanPortfleet‘s vocals sit deep within the mix to create a gentle specter haunting your mind. I love seeing a band I loved in my youth break new ground while keeping their soul.

https://lycia.bandcamp.com/album/simpler-times

ERIC OBERTOCloser Than Ever Before – Texas composer, film maker making a bold return to music and immediately taking our chart by storm two months in a row. I love the way that Eric paints images and feelings with sound and vocal effect. This single makes wonderful use of a prowling tension that is always pushing forward but never losing it’s cold control. We had a recent interview with Eric where he shares his history and experience. Look for his music in upcoming horror movie projects.

https://ericoberto.bandcamp.com/track/closer-than-ever-before

SCARY BLACKTragedy – Another amazing single from one of the most underrated voices in the modern goth scene Albie Mason. I love the pounding thrum and vibrating batcave guitar. Albie has an abyssal sensuality so dripping and raw like blood drenched fangs. If you love goth music and haven’t heard Scary Black, that is the first thing you should do today.

https://scaryblack.bandcamp.com/track/tragedy

Christian DeathBeautiful – Living Legends of the goth genre come forth from beyond the veil with a second single from the upcoming album. I was at a loss for what to expect and nothing could have prepared me for this rich blend of organic strings, dark blue guitar waves, and venom dripping vocal chants from Maitri. As a 17th album I was immediately struck by how powerful Valor and Christian Death continue to strike. The contrast on the chorus is a sky splitting gorgeous hook, inspiring beauty on black feathered wings. “I want you to look beautiful, at my funeral”. I’m actually interviewing Valor tomorrow and I can hardly contain myself.

Dread RisksMachine Identity – Another two time winner the Doomdustrial band from Texas with a second single off of Automated Disappointment. This release comes courtesy of label Re:Mission Entertainment. It’s brutal, cruel, and furious with a chanting cadence of nearly hip hop horror. Dread Risks are doing something fresh and special the world needs to be aware of.

https://remissionentertainment.bandcamp.com/track/machine-identity

Object XCoasting – So I don’t know much about the Reno NV band, so lets learn together. I love that is a father daughter project, I fully support that kind of purity. This is a dreamgaze indie float through amber waves of grain. Rachael Fuhs has a bright and captivating vocal style. I look forward to more.

https://objectx.bandcamp.com/track/coasting

FatigueThe Fall (Pierce Me) – DJ Sawtooth of Massachusetts additional project. Loving the dark water currents and hovering trance vocals. Great synth builds and dance floor power. The final build gathers speed and energy in the perfect moment. I love when an artist understands timing composition.

https://fatiguema.bandcamp.com/track/the-fall-pierce-me

TenderlashZombie – North Carolina darkwave artist covering the 1994 classic from the Cranberries. Candy really put their own spin on this, a slower minimalist grind of ringing synth bells and wispy phantom fury. Another great band from Swiss Dark Nights label that I will be digger further into.

https://tenderlash.bandcamp.com/track/zombie?fbclid=IwAR0SrJlJJsMe29ioS974Z90W1svHg9yvy8efNRdm6bC0SmVtWM6xP3QsYzo

Night SinsViolent Age – First single from the upcoming June release of Philly dark dance act Night Sins. Huge 80’s Depeche Mode vibes. I love the thumping drive of this baseline. A familiar retro vibe but a nice execution with a lot of heart. I’m a fan.

https://bornlosersrecords.bandcamp.com/album/violet-age

Thieve6Inside Out – Ken, are you the type of asshole who would include your own single on a chart you put out? If people vote for it you are godamn right I am. Amaranth + The Joy Thieves have teamed up to form Thieve 6, releasing a electropunk cover of 1998 Alt rock classic Inside out while donating all proceeds to humanitarian relief in Ukraine. It’s a great cause, the track slaps, and it answers the question once and for all “Do you like the heart in a blender song”

https://thieve6.bandcamp.com/releases

I will have the voting available in the Sounds and Shadows facebook group for April if you have a single you are releasing or love then stop on by and cast your vote. Keep supporting underground music.

Once Again Into the Breach My Friends. Time To Review Some Music.

Another Friday night finds me tipsy and alone behind this keyboard. However I am never truly alone when I have great music and all of you to share it with. I have all my latest Bandcamp purchases, a few of which are absolutely smash hits. Please leave a comment below of who you would like to see me review in the future.

Twin TribesAltars – The beautiful lads of TX have released a remix album. Now I will always buy anything Twin Tribes put out sight unseen. I have to say this collection of remixes by some of the hottest names in darkwave was a special treat. The songs were big departures from the standard Twin Tribes style, but Luis voice still kept each song familiar. It included tracks from both previous albums placed lovingly up for sacrifice on the Altar to be transmuted and given back to the world.

https://twintribes.bandcamp.com/album/altars

Remixers Include: Skeleton Hands, Geometric Vision, Luz Futoro, Ash Code, NITE, Wingtips, Matte Blvck, Dave Parley, She Passed Away, Bootblacks, and Creux Lies. Yes you read that right. I think the power house of performers here really speaks to the immense effect Joel and Luis have had on this scene in such a short time.

Favorite Tracks:

Upir (remixed by NITE) – Damn this is gorgeous. This slow drifting synths remind me of a quiet corner in a buzzing high energy club. The beat then kicks in with a lovely synth line. Just such a bold shift from an already amazing song. This is the most I can ask for in a remix. I true homage while breaking a new vision.

ShadowsMatte Blvck remix – Shadows was the song that started my deep love of Twin Tribes. It holds a very personal place in my heart. To have it transformed in this way and still hold such an intense emotional impact is something glorious. This is that secret cult but no longer around a ancient tree but now in a lush modern club. Full of velvet and burning incense. A beautiful and dangerous collision of past and future.

Overall Impact: Generally speaking I am not a huge fan of “just remix” albums. I really love remixes included with an EP or something fresh. However as is often the case Twin Tribes have become the expectation that proves the rule. They took songs I love and collected most of the top names in modern darkwave. If you don’t know some of the bands here, you need to let this album lead you back to them. It’s very accessible and has a nice variance of sound. General fans will enjoy, fans of Post Punk/Darkwave will love.

the DramedyAnd The Light Goes White – New album from Dave Dramedy, who I recently saw playing bass for Caroline Blind in Detroit. This was a strange and experimental album that never left me bored. Dave surely has a power and range to his voice that rides the line of Mark Burgess and Iggy Pop punk edge. I really like the blend of rhythmic acoustic and harder driving bass guitar sounds. This is an album that grows on you. It seemed to get better with every listen. Like a favorite film where you notice a new detail every time you watch and always feels fresh.

https://thedramedy2014.bandcamp.com/album/and-the-light-goes-white

Favorite Tracks:

Parasite: It’s hard to put my finger on it. The inflection in the vocals. The ring of the drums. The chopping downward acoustic guitar. This song although having a very dark edge, carries a vibe of 60’s Height Ashbury psychedelia. Of the Mamas and the Papas. It covers a lot of ground stylistically. The vocals are full of piss and vinegar for how beautiful and resonant they are. This song is a jam that is hard to place in the box. Other than the box of I love this fuking song.

What’s left To Say – Just stabbing sun shard energy right out of the gate. Total bop feel with flaming guitar lines, biting vocals, and late 90s Brit Pop hooks. I just couldn’t stop my leg shaking on this one.

Overall Impact: This album is so full of twists and turns. A definite nostalgia feel, as well as a region one. I really felt the California connection in every song. I think this record is very accessible despite the complexity. It is a hard sound to describe but if The Church were being yelled at by Iggy pop to stop changing time signature and just play bops. That’s what I feel.

Christian DeathSpectre (Love Is Dead) Kill Shelter Remix – This song is a classic. Probably my favorite CD track. So how do you re-imagine something iconic? Give it to Pete Burns. Pete is such a master of the sonic scalpel cutting away tiny bits until you are left with such a precise and streamlined modern wave beam. If I had it in my heart to toss a grenade over my shoulder and purposefully stroll from a collapsing building, this is the track I want playing. It’s pure energy and dangerous intent. 10/10.

https://christiandeathrozz.bandcamp.com/album/spectre-love-is-dead-kill-shelter-remix

Overall Impact: Everyone will love this track. It’s very fresh, it’s very way back. It’s just a slamming banger from start to finish.

Deadlight HolidayBlood // Body – Our dear friends from West Michigan uncorked this badass single with some slamming sounds of Nu Metal and sizzling tempo Stabbing Westward vibes. Great production in the breakdown swirl. Loving these scratchy tear your head off vocals blistering past the crunching guitar. Also a gasoline covered dead man’s dance remix by Angelspit. I sense big things on the horizon from these young folk and I look forward to sharing a stage with them again soon.

https://deadlightholiday.bandcamp.com/album/blood-body

Raichyl SinversaYou Tell Me (Re​-​Mastered) – Remastered single from Raichyl of Philly. This is a nice crooning darkpop head bopper with an empowerment edge of 90s grunge. The guitar work is napalm scorched earth to contrast the lovely lifting vocals. A little bit of southern sass in the tone puts a nice edge to this “I’m not falling for your shit again” boot stomping driver.

https://raichyl.bandcamp.com/track/you-tell-me-re-mastered

Aesthetic PerfectionAutomaton (feat. Sebastian Svalland) – Ok I have a confession that will not win me any goth points. Aesthetic Perfection sort of happened right in the moment between when I gave up on discovering new music and the time I listened to nothing but. Daniel Graves has become a leader of the modern dark scene for a reason. So getting to hear this new single without much context is a really interesting way to stumble into the band. This track is a bop. With firecracker exploding chain guitar work by Sebastian Svalland. It is also produced by Front Line Assembly legend Rhys Fulber. So I went in blind expecting cold razor precision on the production. Which is exactly what I got. What I was pleasantly surprised by was the range and voice charisma of Graves. It oozes with thick viscus grime and light footed cadence that keeps the energy constant and focused. The song also gives a tight compressed poetry of lyrics that convey a relatable idea in the modern era without an abundance of words. There is a special anticipation when you discover a band with a rich history later in their career and get to work your way back. I may have to do some of my reaction videos to some Aesthetic Perfection classics. Put your favorites below in the comments. Also buy this track immediately because it is a slam.

https://aestheticperfection.bandcamp.com/track/automaton-feat-sebastian-svalland

Witchhands: Unto Death

There are times you just know. Something mystical about a good cover that seems to communicate something of the band, something about the album you are just about to listen to. Something just let’s you know you are about to hear something great.

https://witchhandsdxr.bandcamp.com/album/unto-death

Unto Death, the Colorado Springs band, Witchhand’s, 4th album is one of those albums. Where does one start to describe a work that is bound to become a classic filed somewhere between Christian Death‘s Catastrophe Ballet and T.S.O.L.’s Change Today? If you are into Death Rock, Goth Rock or Horror Punk, WitchHands has you. From the opening notes of the title track “Unto Death” through this four song journey’s end with “Dust (Dying of the Light),” this EP promises unrelentingly good, song after song. Trust me, I have listened to this possibly 30 times since I received a copy a couple of days before release, and it is now in my regular rotation. The crooning yells of singer Ryan’s strangely distant, yet hauntingly close vocals to Bryan’s thick thunderous drumming; The swirling dance of layers from Aaron’s screaming guitar, Josh’s driving bass and the steady ethereal keyboard work of Lance, this is a classic waiting to be recognized. The production has cleaned up and improved drastically from their previous releases, but still feels raw, reminiscent of proto death rock greats, creating a perfect balance. Unto Death is bound to find a permanent place in the collections of DJs, fans and audiophiles everywhere

Unto Death: From the first time I heard Witchands, I fell in love with the lofi sound. The gutter growl doom rock cheese. I worried the clear driving production level would kill that effect. It does not. It’s more of that energy but with laser beam precision. It’s a finer articulation, a focus to Ryan’s voice. A blend of guitar, drum and lyrics that opens the sanctum and makes you the sacrifice of this ritual. I’m still wandering through a foggy graveyard on a full moon, but the stars are clear enough to read the gravestones.

Neurenberg (Dying of the Light): We’ve brought up the tempo, and Bryan’s thundering tom fills create a languid ritual cascade. The clarity of running up a tight spiral staircase of climbing scales as the punctuating guitars weave a twisting dancer’s cadence. Lance’s vocals punch in with a newfound sense of emergency, capturing with their high energy.

*Mortification: This is our favorite track. Tribal drum rolls open, three unlicensed nuclear accelerators firing plasma at a spectre across a New York ballroom. Ryan’s voice unleashes such an intensity and urgency, his biology exploding through his vocal chords.

Dust (Dying of the Light): Closing track unleashes a thick and driving baseline. Again capturing that break neck speed and rum fills that kilter on the razor edge between doom rock and metal. This is a song of a desolate landscape, zombie truckers in the 1970’s driving through the desert huffed up on memories and formaldehyde.