Back in the ancient past (2010 or so), a young, devilishly handsome DJ interviewed William Faith and asked if he had any advice for up-and-coming artists. Faith recounted the difficulty of crafting a truly original sound and suggested focusing on combining influences in hitherto unseen ways—the more disparate the inspirations, the better. After all, a smoothie can taste wholly different from its ingredients; the blending creates something new.
This conversation played on repeat in my head as I dug into Trippy, the latest release from New York’s Sapphira Vee. Already known for experimenting with a variety of goth/industrial subgenres, Vee tries on trip hop for her new EP. She admits the four songs might not be “pure” trip hop, and I agree; while Vee wears the Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps, and Tricky influences on her sleeve, these inspirations cling to her goth/industrial roots, forming a unique growth for her most distinctive release yet.
Four different artists join Vee—one for each song—yet the choice to use trip hop as a springboard creates a singular style despite each performer’s varying backgrounds. Cis Machina and Dogtablet both favor slower hip hop beats mixed with stringed instruments straight out of a Portishead single, while 2Bit Heroes delivers a Massive Attack-inspired synth wave and John D Norten relies on traditional bass, guitar, and strings. Yet in all cases, the mood reminds me of early 2000s goth rock or, in the case of “Tangential,” industrial. Maybe it’s the droning strings, minimalist staccato riffs blended with held guitar, or the delicate use of spooky piano that jogs my memory, but to combine this atmosphere with a more traditional trip-hop backbone results in a sound both familiar and breathtakingly fresh. In the post-punk revival of the past 5 years, any act that can reshape history in a way that inspires new possibilities with sounds that came before rather than simply rehashing them deserves recognition. Vee and all her co-conspirators on Trippy:consider yourself recognized.
The biggest lesson Vee gains from trip hop, however, is how to do more with less. Goth and industrial prefer bombastic deliveries, with melodramatic melancholy defining the former while the latter prefers explosive anger. Yet even Trippy’s cover image implies a muted efficiency: a simple picture of Vee in a hoodie subtly morphs into a mind-bending waterscape easily missed at first glance. In the same light, no screamed or crooned theatrics are on display here; Vee’s lyrics are sung half-hushed, bordering on whispers or spoken word. She mostly abandons overwrought metaphors; while some staple tropes such as “what goes around comes around” and the tried-and-true comparison to bait fishing pop up, Vee spends most of her time musing on personal issues rather than aiming for some wide, universal circumstance. Thus, Trippy stands as possibly her most vulnerable release: no extra flash or flair, just a woman and her friends making music they love about themselves.
Standout Track – “Blindsight”: The most obvious trip hop song on the EP, Dogtablet’s collaboration results in a short, potent jam showcasing Vee’s reserved but effective lyrics. There’s just enough left vague to allow for opposed interpretations; either Vee sings about a desperate—though terrifying—need for vulnerable openness or she uses the illusion of exposure to safely manipulate any she might fear. Leaving the song on loop results in introspection that will eat away more of your day than you might realize.
In the past four years the “Darkscene” goth adjacent movement has continued to expand at a glorious rate. Here at Sounds and Shadows I have seen a similar growth of our Music Review/ Webcast/ Facebook Group/ grow at an equally surprising rate. Trying to choose top albums of the year when the rate of interesting worthwhile music is firing out of a fire hose of content at an unprecedented rate is an increasing challenge. As always, I will do my best to draw attention to glorious new music that has moved me in some way. Thank you to all our supporters and please keep this scene alive. You are the lifeblood that makes it happen.
This is always so hard, I love so much new music. I started with about 136 bands I reviewed. With hard choices got down to about 60. I really want to make the bands I picked feel really special. Have you all know, I felt pain with every cut. So I am going to break this into genre categories a little.
Gothic Rock/Post Punk/Shoegaze
Kill Shelter – Asylum – Kill Shelter releases their third album Asylum, and the world has started to catch on to the soft-spoken genius setting the standard for this new wave. Featuring a slew of the biggest names of the scene: Stephan Netschio ( Beborn Beton) , Valentina Veil (VV & the Void), Karl Morten Dahl (Antipole) , Emanuel Åström (Agent Side Grinder) Alessandro Belluccio (Ash Code), William Faith (The Bellwether Syndicate), Ronny Moorings (Clan of Xymox). An impressive list of talent and experience which speaks to the respect Pete has catered as a producer and song writer. This album tackles an even darker theme of trauma and the most shocking pain of the human experience. Casting a light through a wide range of vocal prisms. The completion of a journey started just after Damage in 2019 and meticulously refined over four years.
Kill Shelter has done it again. Creating a personal emotional journey through post-traumatic stress with expert production and collaborative vocal performances that shine a light on some of the top singers in the scene. I can’t wait to release and rare upcoming interview on the Sounds and Shadows youtube page. We dig deeply into the process and feelings of one of the most important artists the modern era. When we speak to future musicians who are in the know about what influenced them in our time. Kill Shelter will be the Joy Division like name that trend setters were appreciating in the present.
Has it really been 13 studio albums for Aurelio Voltaire? This review is special to me. As someone who writes “Goth music with a heavy dose of humor” it is hard not to give credit to the OG that inspired me all those years ago. Here he taps into his own inspiration from an artist and film that burned a codpiece shaped scar into every 90’s goths soul. It appears we also share a passion for collecting every talented guest star he could cram into this shadow glass menagerie. Let’s have a look at this list.
15 members of David Bowie’s band spanning nearly every era of the Starman’s career from the pianist on 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars to the saxophone player on Black Star, Bowie’s last album. The Black Labyrinth was co-produced by Mark Plati who produced the 1997 Bowie album, Earthling as well as the post humus release, Toy.
Other guest musicians included members of My Chemical Romance, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Vision Video, The Cog is Dead, Frenchy and the Punk, violinist extraordinaire Mia Asano, Ally the Piper, D and D songstress Ginny D and an international cadre of musicians making up the orchestra and choir.
The 20 song release is clean like twilight in a fantasy world briming with the mystery of a firefly forest and the pageantry of a catholic funeral. Voltaire’s iconic is the ringleader that ties together the spectacle. If you don’t know Voltaire, you have missed one of the most gloriously self-aware experiences in the dark scene. If you do you are in for a journey with one of the great bards of our time. Let goth music be fun. Let it be the giant melting black candle musical theater it was always meant to be. I both teared up and laughed out loud listening to it. You need this album.
3) Secret Shame – Autonomy – I am constantly amazed by the slippery edges and bursting intensity of the NC band. I’m just blown away by how many sonic emotions are crammed into this firefly jar. The haunting lilt of the vocals, the gnashing wolf jaw guitars, the shifty darting baselines. The production here is razor sharp. Anyone who says modern music lacks complexity is not listening to this. This is songwriting that is emotive, that transports you out of your own mind. Blending the best aspects of four genres to create something fresh and provoking. 10/10
4) IAMTHESHADOW – The Wide Starlight – Things you can always count on from a new IAMTHESHADOW release: 1) Pedro delivering the richest baritone in modern darkwave. 2) Soul baring poetry 3) Perfect precision of mix and master. Everything else about the sound is completely in the air. “The Wide Starlight” is an expansive new sounds full of twinkling stars over violet plains. The album came out on 10/14 and marks a turn towards hope which my soul has hungered for. Cold Transmission Music has been a fertile creative ground for Portugal’s premier darkscene act. This is a band that has continued to set the standard in European darkscene music that is constantly pushing their own boundaries and core sound. The truly greats make powerful songs while always redefining who they are
5) The Cassandra Complex – The 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.
6) Golden Apes – From The Sky – Berlin Germany based band which remains one of the most underrated post punk bands in the world. With Peer Lebrecht unmistakable and encompassing voice crooning poetic romantism that seeps under your skin. I loved the brighter expansive hope Christian, Gerrit, and Frank infused the guitar lines with. The change in concept from “Kasbek” displays another prism of range and proves Golden Apes story is far from over. I’m excited we will get an interview with them in 2023.
7) 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.
8) Pilgrims Of Yearning – Hadal – Long awaited release from Boston transplants POY which hits the mark perfectly. I love hearing a band grow from album to album by keeping the mystical wanderlust that made their sound stand out, yet graduating their production and layering to make the energy sharper. Juls voice captures a haunting Siouxsie “Superstition” 90s vibe while the guitar rhythms fold and dart like a weaver on a loom. This is a band that really exposes their story with brazen courage and beautiful delivery. A contagious spooky tendril of psychedelic darkness winding around your vision. This is a band I have watched grow and refine. It fills my heart to watch the maturity and ascension of their sound and wisdom. I can’t wait to see the next path of their journey.
9) The Burying Kind – Tragic Airwaves – I may be too close to this record. Enraptured by the story surrounding it. I can’t help but be struck by the staggering beauty and truth of it. It was this thing I got to watch grow and refine from infancy into something that mattered. Something that transcended genre and the music business. An abstract feeling that wells within you in solitary moments, a place of memory and blurry edges. This 12-track full length is a solitary lighthouse on a grey shore with Scott-David‘s romantic tragic poetry delivered with piercing emotional impact. The music is layered and complex for decerning listeners to unravel. I love nothing more in this high-speed age than hearing the time and intent that went into an artistic concept. It’s a presence and weight that gives every listen a reverence.
This is an album for connoisseurs. For fans of My Bloody Valentine and The Cure a like. It is a place for diving into mystery and unraveling the depths of something that doesn’t come simple in a world where everything is designed not to make you think harder. We used to rejoice in music that made us swim beneath the surface. It’s time to rejoice in it once again.
10) Mark E Moon – Lux Vindictae – New lineup, new sound, and explosive delivery from Isle of Man shadow croon gothic rock Mark E Moon on Cold Transmission Music. A blazing light of vindication as the title states. The first single Blacklight bursts through a wall with shaking intensity. The drums pound relentlessly as Mark delivers confident sadness tinged with raw fury. Phil is spinning barb wire distortion in precision loops. The black mirror reflection of Shelly Rourke on vocals as contrast Mark’s cavern shaking Eldrichesque power. As the engine roars down an unlit highway this album swerves in tone and style without warning leaving you always on your heels. Mark really throws his soul into the vocal delivery. The tracks are all pure heat and poignant, each under 5 minutes.
I think two main changes stand out in contrast to 2021 release “Old Blood ” 1) the extreme nature of the peaks and valleys in tempo and style. This album runs the spectrum where Old Blood worked to perfect a singular idea. 2) Rourke’s vocals have really found a sharp and resilient force to break the power of Mark’s tide. In particular track 4 Drowning is a gorgeous ballad of imagery that highlights the new sound with strongly defined lines. It shows a passion and maturity of song writing that portrays subtle differences in depth as you sink below ever darker waters. I love the panning synth lines. The background to those glimmering delayed guitars flickering through the pressurizing water.
11) Black Angel – The Black Rose – I know, I did an 11th album. I just couldn’t bring myself to leave this record off the list. It is so haunting and rock heavy in a time goth music wants to be anything but. Matt has this amazing ability to capture the sleazy opaque waterfall of endless motion regardless of tempo. The vocals by Corey Landis and Maneesha Jones are the perfect seasoning on the dish. I have a confession that will probably have me cancelled by the true metal folks, my favorite Ozzy is “No More Tears” and that includes Sabbath. This album hit with that same timeless power. As long as Matt Vowels is cranking out records, this guy is buying them. Someone really needs to sign him.
(Special Mention) Cleopatra Records – The Unquiet Grave – Growing up in the Velveeta Valley suburbs of Detroit in a time before the Google search, Spotify playlists, Youtube suggestions, and Sounds and Shadows I had a sacred ritual. Once a month I would coat myself in black from head to toe and pedal my bike to a mini mall which contained a record store. Here in the new CD releases I would take my caddie/busboy money and purchase the latest Cleopatra Records sampler. Now these compilations took many themes, tribute cover albums, up and coming goth bands. This was how you found the next band that connected you to the wider world. I would race back home, tear apart the packaging and dream of one day seeing my own name in the liner notes. This ritual mattered, it made me feel connected to other kids like me that I didn’t know. Somehow, I knew they were out there. When I saw Procession Magazine bring back this series of goth compilations, my faith was confirmed. To see one of our songs, appear here, that dream has finally come true. So, I welcome you all to join me in my room, as I light a candle, press play, and journey into the macabre world of “The Unquiet Grave” searching for dark diamonds in a cruel sea.
Curse Mackey – Immoral Emporium – Instant Exorcism moves beyond the prophesy of a post capitalism hellscape and dives into a meat and bone reality. A bizarre of debauchery and barter where every sin in imagination is on display and the price of souls are always plummeting. In a time of surface shimmer and digital commodity the Immoral Emporium casts a sharp reflection that burns to the core of the decay of empathy in the modern age. Instant Exorcism was raw and biting, a mad profit’s fervor. Immoral Emporium is a cleaner enticing beacon. Drawing the listener to their own corruption with shining golden salesmanship.
There is something about the level of narrative imagery and production expertise that stuck me about this album. It haunted me like a re-occurring nightmare, a prophesy of danger that hangs above our future. Curse has been such an impressive part of shaping Industrial music while a part of someone else’s project. It is incredible to see the darkness he is able to articulate when left at the helm of his own vision.
2) ESA – Designer Carnage – if you are talking about the modern evolution of EBM (Electronic Body Music) British act ESA and Jamie Blacker have to be part of the opening discussion. This is an artist who has truly defined a genre by meticulous craftsmanship of the musical and visual idea of bass beats so shattering, you feel them in your bones. This album had multiple singles in our Darkscene Singles Chart. Jamie continues to be an innovator in the field of expanding the definition of Electronic music for another generation.
3) <PIG> – The Merciless Light – Raymond Watts has continued to evolve at an exponential rate. Rather you are speaking of music, personal growth, or human interaction. The industrial progenitor has bounced around the boundaries of what this genre entails for decades, to keep the punk rock ethos of the original concept alive. I love the crushing jagged grind of this record, while hushing the edges, letting the menace whisper and hang in the air. Bringing in an all-star line up of contributors Abbie Aisleen, Jim Davies, En Esch, Mark Heal, Jimmy Livingstone, Mona Mur, Mike Watts. This album brings so many emotive hooks that really highlight how good Raymod has always been at conveying emotions in a compressed infectious package.
4) Silver Walks – Various Positions – I met Daniel McCullough near a dumpster behind Cold Waves in 2019 and heard “Lantern” in 2020. Immediately I knew this album was going to be something special. Dan is one of the most underrated song writers in modern electronica. The people in the know, they understand this. I hope this album is what makes that clear to the scene at large. I think one of the first points to strike me, all but one song are over 5 minutes. In a world of short singles, Various Positions is stretching your dance floor endurance. While making EVERY song a banger. Infectious dance beats that ebb and flow in texture, with razor blade twists. You can really hear the patient precision that went into each song’s construction. There is a thematic post apocalypse spiritual journey that makes me close my eyes and get lost in the story, while stomping in time to infectious hooks. This whole album rides a highspeed tightrope between progressive and ear candy.
This album also has a spicy list of A + contributors to bring Dan’s vision to light. Stella Soleil , Coral Scere, Tim Heireth, Marc Heal, James Francis, Eva X, and many more mixed lovingly by living legend John Fryer. Part of the testament to this albums power are the names that agreed to be a part of it. Album art & layout // Joshua Mccallister silver walks logo by Jim Marcus. Eric Oehler wizard shimmers the mastering. Photo of Dan // Kirsten Miccoli I just saw Dan thanked me in the liner notes, so now I am crying.
5) Dread Risks – Automated Disappointment – GiddyYip this DeathRock Electro Cowboy shit!” A wise man once said about Texas IndustroDoom band Dread Risks. That wise man was me. Releasing 3/25/22 on Re-Mission this album is a return to the meaner barb wire aggression of industrial music. As an evolution from the past this aggression is no longer aimed outward but directed at addressing and concurring personal trauma. I love the molten glass cutting attack and melodic beauty of the vocals. The overhand bastard sword swing of the drumbeats. Berserker rage in clean focus. This is the next great wave in electronic musical concept. I am enthralled with the idea that Industrial music still has fertile land to create new artistic ideas. I even got a thank you in the liner notes, my heart cries.
6) KMFDM – Hyena – This album brings you much of what you love if you are a fan of KMFDM. Bonfire bright drum beats overlayed with trash compactor crushing guitars. I think the biggest change from the KMFDM of my youth is the maturity of Sasha’s voice. It is a more mellow growl without losing the glistening sharp metal. This record is a culmination of injected circulation right into the dance gland. I really keep expecting for a lot of these old school Industrial bands to lose the modern pulse, I keep being surprised. I feel like this is a ban that grew up with me. Their sound evolved at the same rate I needed it to.
7) AUTHOR & PUNISHER – KRÜLLER – San Diego, California artists put out this album that is a bit absurd in it’s scope. On paper doing captivating emotive singles in the 5-8 minute range should not work in 2022. Yet, anyone who hits play on this 8 song album is immediately captivated and washed over by the unnerving perfection of these hooks. This truly is something else no one is doing. It is so mysterious and fresh I don’t know how to process it. Which is a rare feeling in 2022.
8) Spike Hellis – Spike Hellis – After seeing them at the Skull Festival in Detroit this year, I haven’t been able to put this away. LA based electronic flamethrowers who answered the question if Alec Empire hadn’t pulled a 180 and became a cryptobro what would a cleaner crisper refinement of the magma fury become? Hearing Spike Hellis really helps me understand what is meant by “Electronic Body Music”. It is felt in the tissue as much as heard in the ears. The range of feeling on this chaotic labyrinth darts through every hidden crack of the human experience. It really must be heard live to fully comprehend ,but having a map of the recorded experience can go a long way towards grasping the subtilty of what is happening. I really need to line up an interview with this band in 2023.
9) Dogtablet – Ashes – New 5 song EP from Industrial legends Martin King and Jared Louche. I had the pleasure of attending a listening party at the Post Punk Industrial museum where Martin provided some background for these songs. I love the grinding and deliberate nature of these tracks. Track 3 “Careless” Feat: Coral Scere is a haunting and memorable collaboration that shows how Martin continues to get the best out of everyone he works with. Another amazing EP from a legend let off the chain to work with whoever he wants in a style completely their own.
10) Deathline International – Pax Americana – Basically a COP International all-star collaboration which includes living legends like John Fryer, GW Childs IV, Angela Goodman, Steve Watkins, Licia Johnson, sinister guitar lords James Perry & SLam, and vocals by Th3Count. Transporting us to a smashing old school Industrial runaway train with modern clarity and aerodynamic tempo. I think the biggest challenge when bringing together this much talent and trying to give everyone a voice, is the director aspect. Giving everyone a chance to shine in the spotlight. This album really feels like a collaboration. Mutual respect placed in the atom smasher and obliterated into something fresh.
Special Mention: Gasoline Invertebrate – Cracked Wax Battery – Brian Gaupner (The Gothscicles, Space Couch, TigerSquak Records) holds a special place in my heart. I feel a bit of twin spirit in how he approaches music. That feeling that music is an experience better shared. The visual of a Cracked Wax Battery is such a striking image. That bleeding yellow goop pouring out of an old battery carcass. Bringing in great artistic names that are also friends of a mutual vision like: Gopal Metro , Ed Cripps, Zoog Von Rock, and MORIS BLAK. A plasma whip of electronic dance beats cracking the air with aerobic intensity. Brian takes some of the jovial madness of Gothscicles off his voice and replaces it with hissing menace. The NES throwback energy of these synth lines are a nerdcore street cred of belonging. Gasoline Invertebrate always makes you feel inside the curtain.
Brian Graupner is inspiring to me in particular for proving to the goth community that our scene can be silly as hell and that is ok. I equally love that he has a project so serious and old school industrial crunch that it leaves no choice but to acknowledge his talent and craft. So, when he makes a Gothsicles album you know it was because he chose to be goofy as hell, which adds a layer of punk rock power.
Panic Priest – PSYCHOGORIA – Speaking of world class baritone voices Jack never disappoints. New album released10/21/22 on Negative Gain featuring the crooning beauty and slashing guitar mastery of Jack Armond. The Chicago based songsmith always layers the club friendly dance beats with a healthy dose of guitar accents to make a truly distinctive blend. The tempo here is a fast-paced bop, but the bottom of a chasm on the vocals gives every track a sense of soul and foreboding. Every album gets tighter and smoother. Jack’s voice is one of those definitive sounds and elevates everything it touches, and his blend of organic guitar licks and prism explosion synths makes every album memorable. Psychogoria is the most impressive evolution yet. It’s time for everyone to recognize one of the great talents out our modern scene. I just interviewed jack and it will release soon.
2) Vision Video – Haunted Hours – Athens, Georgia pop goth stars have grown more in the last few years than anyone in my memory. The music is nostalgic, expertly crafted with the newest techniques, and delivered with a romantic stirring beauty too often lost in the modern scene. Dusty has an infectious glowing moonbeam of a personality which has made him a public figure outside of music. This band has truly achieved a fresh interpretation of everything you loved in 80’s goth spun in a centrifuge and launched back at you with electron energy.
3) Rohn-Lederman – Rage – We love music because it has the power to change the energy inside us. To enhance, diminish, alter, the sounds and stories built by artists change our emotional chemistry. Emileigh Rohn (US/ Chiasm) and Jean-Marc Lederman (Belgium/ The Weathermen, Ghost & Writer) have found a balance in their own artistic chemistry beginning in 2021 Venus Chariot on COP International which has continued to refine in a centrifuge into a potent emotional catalyst. With this newest release “RAGE!” they have bottled a frantic and aerodynamic monorail careening over changing landscapes.
I would consider myself a coinsurer of the duo’s collaboration. How is RAGE! different from the previous releases? By being the culmination of a series of experiments to produce a sleeker, faster, more agile vehicle. To refine the fuel of Emileigh‘s lyrics into something that burns hotter with honesty and volatility. The songs all contain a defiance and anger. Not a heavyweight clumsy, smashing anger. A precise, defined glowing fury of purpose. The details and subtilty of the music are built like a virus in their elegance and destructive nature. The vocals hold a sharp edge without bubbling over. It adds a tension that forms the shading of the grand design.
4) The Birthday Massacre – Fascination – Chibi and company has done more to expand the cone of what is goth music than anyone in the last decade. This new album infused an intensity of emotion due to the band facing some serious real-life trauma. It is explosive like a foam cannon of feeling sprayed on a receptive crowd. There are certain records that ride the line between fantasy and precision execution so perfectly it is hard to see the lines. That is how this album feels. I keep waiting for TBM to run out of gas, and they keep lighting bon fires.
5) Null Device – The Emerald Age – Wisconsin based dark synth band with a new driving political statement full of spiraling hooks and razor edge tapestry. The perfect mix of this album is so economical it makes the motion and pace feel like a UFO that darts and accelerates in a way modern technology has not produced. The vocal duties bouncing between Eric and Jill feels like a conversation of perfect syncopation. This album came out in Nov 2022 and every time I hear it holds a familiarity and nostalgia that defies logic.
6) Minuit Machine – 24 – This release combining the amazing talents of Hélène de Thoury and Amandine Stioui is staggering for its quality as well as tragic because it might be the last pairing the two. Helene has suffered some health issues which have caused her to step back from the project for the time being. This EP is nothing short of breathtaking in it’s seamless pulsing sophistication. Every track harnesses an effortless magnetic vouge you can’t help but want to be close to. Amandine’s vocal’s ring through the air with every phrase like a struck chime. A haunting electronic overture that paints a perfect moment while promising what could have been.
7) Hexheart – Funeral Flowers – Seatle WA SynthBard Jasyn Bangert has a June release of cybernetic serotonin pumped straight into your brain. I love the “Upstairs At Erics” bopping light synth and nostalgic warms. These tracks wrap around you like a favorite sweater. The AI captivating vocal effects are a fresh note contrasting the synthpop throwback. Every track feels like a cult 80’s film you are the only one who remembers. I really want to hear a cleaner vocal for the next album, because it is the final step towards perfection.
8) Sapphiria Vee – Aerial Human – Sapphiria Vee has sprouted wings and taken to stormy skies with the newest release “Ariel Human“. A bracing new pace and sinister promise. Featuring a rouges gallery of impressive collaboration from Jean Marc- Lederman, Roger Ebner, then Mixed and mastered by sonic wizard Jules Seifert. Send your mind a flight. Sapphira’s ability to draw talent towards her with both her powerful voice and magnetic personality gives her access to a wide brigade of masterwork tools. As a producer she knows just when and where to implement each sound like a conductor in a symphony.
9) Eva X – I Dream Of Reality – The progression of shadow pop artist Eva X has been a magnificent sight to behold. After a series of singles and videos this full albums with impressive remixes really shows the elevation Gaby can achieve. A poetic blend of vulnerable beating heart, and higher concept science fiction that paints a wonderful journey while keeping the hooks high and tight.
10) Junksista – OA – This German based band on COP International is one I haven’t given nearly enough press to. Every time I hear them I am absolutely floored by the razor wire combination of owning a space in your head pop melodies and the way too cool to hang out with me punk rock attitude. It just drips with effortless expression and after party in the know. It is hard to hear this and not feel inside the most exclusive salon where everyone is invited. Speaking of invited the album features a who’s who of guest talent. This album deserves a special award for band I put off the longest to deep dive into that left me regretting every moment I wasted not knowing them.
Sidewalks and Skeletons – Exorcism – I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sidewalks and Skeletons for the webcast and was really excited to expand my knowledge of the “WitchHaus” genre. When I first decided to dive in I reached out to a few friends: Kenzi Burke (FIRES) and Hunter Hunter (W/O) for suggestions. Sidewalks and Skeletons of England was one of the first suggested. I suppose going in I had some pre conceived notions of what “WitchHaus” meant, but I have to say I was presently surprised by the texture and diversity of sound on this album. From track one “Exorcism” a glitchy sliding bass beat slither of technomancer energy tendrils, to “Shadow” feat: Goo Monday with it’s throbbing electronic club pulse, this album rings with a clarity and precision that tells a winding story of internal energy. I kept being struck by influences I never expected to encounter like shoegaze and ethereal which gave the entire journey a slick and winding synthesis. I am always impressed when in 2022 I hear something new. A fresh blend of ideas from a chemist taking previous concepts and making new science. It doesn’t happen enough. It is happening here.
2) Mona Mur – Snake Island – German Electro punk Icon released this guitar heavy banger of an album featuring Goldkind. I love the Avant guard crunchy slam poetry punk ethos feel. The individual tracks capture such a range of furious emotions but in the end always return to being a hard rock album. In a time where music is so plentiful and genres are so fractured, it feels refreshing to hear hard rock. The cover of Motorhead classic “Ace of Spades” the dripping with venom and intensity. The single Schieldwall is sun gleaming on a silver hammer smashing the quarry with reckless abandon. This record encapsulates what previous generations artists have to teach the next about how music can be the spearhead of a movement.
3) Josie Pace – IV0X10V5 – 2022 was such a big year for Josie and Ken, Detroit’s Industrial Pop darlings. Fresh off a tour with Aesthetic Perfection they are winning over every crowd they are in front of. Josie is drenched in “It” factor from her voice, attitude, and look. This record is brimming with infectious singles, slamming beats, and a voice that laser cuts the darkness. Now on Negative Gain they are strapped to a rocket ship speeding towards superstar. IVOX10V5 is the perfect refinement album that will finally show the world what Detroit audiences have seen for a while.
4) Kali Dreamer – October Requiem: 1988 – Derek Christopher turned me on to this Columbus OH artist who is doing a truly unique blend of old school goth and hip hop cadence with a macabre edge. I was immediately hooked, the poetry of the lyrics with the truthful confidence of cadence. You can’t mistake the terror rap elements of Esham in the dark lyric style but the talent and beauty of Kali’s vocals add a modern and gorgeous element. I was truly floored by the quality of this. I just don’t hear enough to surprise me with it’s uniqueness anymore. This album achieved that.
5) Katy Needs A Life – With Friends Like Bees – This is another special release. I feel like I watched it grow up. Born here right in Kalamazoo MI, in Collin Schipper‘s (Amaranth) studio, done by Katy May (Sounds and Shadows). This record is everything I love about ultra sad dreamgaze pop, with none of the pretention I often associate with the genre. Every song is a flailing arms, heart flinging, explosion of narrative intensity. The music of Reggie, David, and Jake is a furious and frantic cohesion of chaos and pastel dreams. Katy has a voice full of purity and unapologetic raw truth that blasts through a sea of cold ultra-produced crystal. This is such wonderous walking around with your own thought’s music.
This record is the first full length with the entire band and spells a glorious future for Katy and company. On top of that it is expertly mastered by none other than Jason Corbett (Jackknife Sound Studios) (Actors). I think sometimes those of us that do musical support of others get lost when it comes to our own projects. This is an unforgettable must have record.
6) Lorelei Dreaming – Retold Fables – Long have I awaited this 6 track EP complete with wonderful remixes by Chicago dystopian pop princess Laura. It’s so clear and textured from their previous release. Laura’s voice breaks through the wall and takes it’s rightful place on center stage. The album opens with an absolute banger in Of Stars. I’m loving the rippling synth sounds to add a fantasy feel. Each song is a striding step forward for an armor clad paladin facing down the demons surrounding her. This album was so worth the wait and every song is an adventure. The remixes are a brilliant contribution with the likes of Kanga, Sawtooth, Eva X, Angel Metro, and more. I love seeing so many top tier ladies involved.
7) SINE – Mantis Complete – Texas nightmare whisper artist Rona Rogueheart dropped this culmination of the Mantis journey in November. A thrumming David Lynch fever dream impossible to place in a category box. The album cover is so appropriate as an angler fish draws you through the underwater darkness with a glittering light, only to open it’s jaws and bite down on you. It’s sinister subterfuge with the electric tension of a great thriller. This record also includes some unreal remixes by the likes of Clan Of Xymox and Leatherstrip. A couple different singles here which placed on the S & S darkscene singles chart like my favorite track “Je Suis”. Another album that charts its own course into mystery.
8) The Picassos – Exhumed – I love nothing more than the chance to shout to the sky about a gifted and haunting band in my own backyard of Michigan. We even have the honor of playing with them at Skull Festival 11/20/22 at Noir Leather in Royal Oak Michigan. This album which dropped August 2022 is a darting ebony fencing match of furious clashing metal that strikes and counters with such speed you lose sight of the precision in the illusion of chaos. Charles is a master chef of sound, taking ingredients with familiar tastes and adding a pinch here and a skosh there. Some Pixies, Nick Cave, Violent Femms, flamenco guitars, stirred in a pot, raising the heat. The result is a powerful and heady stew served with pageantry and soul. This is truly one of Detroit’s great talents of the decade.
9) The Waning Moon – The Waning Moon – Wonderous new collaboration project from Zac Campbell(The Kentucky Vampires) , and Ariel Maniki (The Black Halos). Two powerhouse talents of the modern traditional goth scene forging an alloy of blackened metal which echos with loss and remorse. Unlike their more organic percussion based projects TWM features aa blistering tempo freight train which unshackles Campbell to terrorize the fretboard and Ariel to use a haunting cadence full of ice cold foundation and strength. Only 4 tracks on this EP, but each sets the tone for a future force that fills a need in fans who hunger for traditional goth.
10) Sever The Servants – Sever The Servants – Brand new collaboration that sprung from the Sounds and Shadows group. A world grinding doom tank apparatus rolling through a nightmare hellscape of Hide Tepes and Mike Nolen imagination. Stone walls on all sides as Hide starts filling the room with dank modular synth water. Mike who doesn’t usually do vocals hisses out a poisonous danger that left me floored and impressed. I hungrily await the future offerings of this project. A perfect synthesis of styles to form a stronger bond.
11) Assasun – Sunset Skull – German song architect Alexander Donat of Vlimmer has changed gears once again with such a massive swerve proving once again there is nothing he cannot do. This new project is a psychedelic electro punk disco with shades of Tuxedomoon, Legendary Pink Dots, and Coil. It never solidifies into something familiar, it never quite strays into madness. A tightrope walk underwater. This record is almost disturbing in it’s creative Germaness. I can’t wait to hear what is next.
12) Vaselyne – The Sea Says – The Dutch duo Yvette Winkler and Frank Weyzig with the eclectic blend of rolling foam over a dark sea. This world beat blend of orchestral synth and organically woven vocals which hold a history in their entrancing delivery. Contrasted by sharp and vibrant guitar lines to add modern rock to the ancient mysteries. The PJ Harvey cover hits hard on my nostalgia bone but crafts a fresh and unique lens to the alt rock classic. If I ever go into a cave overlooking the sea and light a fire to dance shadows into the morning, this is the record I’ll bring.
This is the final 2022 singles chart of the year, and it is chocked full of amazing songs. I want to take a moment to thank all of you for participating. This chart has really made a difference highlighting songs that don’t always make it on other charts. Chosen with no entry fee by our group of Dj’s, Artists, Promotors, Reviewers, and Super Fans. Every song here was released in December is the broad “Darkscene” genre from around the world. If you have a release next year, or know someone who does, join the group and share with our community.
The Bellwether Syndicate – Beacons –
GIR x TSA – Upside Down Dreamwalker Remix (The Static Architect)
Black Angel – She
The Joy Thieves – 6 to 3 – Armalyte Records
Arden and the Wolves – Pai Nosso
Komor Komando (feat. THE TRUE UNION) – One by One (Brute Opposition remix)
Unwoman – Have Yourself a Gloomy Little Christmas
Ashes Fallen – At The End of All Things
Jason Priest – My Name Is Priest – Midnight Mannequin Records
Jason Alacrity – Angels Cut –
The Bellwether Syndicate – Beacons – Chicago show stopper’s have a brilliant new single that roars like a muscle car charging down Woodward Ave. Flames spewing out the engine to chase back the darkness. William croons with an extra edge of piercing determination. The mix is clear but always feels like a toe on the line which makes it feel dangerous, on the verge of shattering the glass bubble. They just took this song on the road with Then Comes Silence from Sweeden. Of everyone I currently follow in the modern darkscene, no one has more “rockstar” energy than William with a mic in his hand. I am definitely getting an interview with them in 2023 so watch for that
God in Rehab, The Static Architect – Upside Down Dream – Nashville, Tennessee with a flame thrower industrial pop banger. Leslie Benson has a bit of southern swagger that belts through the wall of thick wall of sound guitars and sledge hammer percussion. I didn’t know a ton about this band going in, but the production is top notch and I will be checking the back catalog.
Black Angel – She – Another blistering goth rock anthem from California producer and guitar wizard Matt Vowels. This track growls like a V8 engine jutting out of a classic car with flames on the side. This bassline is always revving my foot and taking me through the turns. I am afraid to drive with this song playing for fear I will get a ticker for reckless endangerment.
The Joy Thieves – 6 to 3 – Chicago Industrial superband back with another single in the charts. This one A timely new release while the rights of women to control medical decisions about their own bodies is called into question. Joy Thieves will be donating 100% of the money raised from the sale of the ‘6 To 3’ EP, and its accompanying line of exclusive t-shirts and hoodies to the National Network of Abortion Funds. We are always quick to point out when someone falls short, so I was happy to give credit when artists stand on the right side of history.
Arden and the Wolves – Pai Nosso – I love that Arden had a prominent part on this chart. I know how much soul and devotion they put into this track. It is heartbreaking and gorgeous with her smokey delivery and this goosebump piano line. The swell of this track feels like an affirmation that keeps feeding you strength to move forward through the darkness.
KOMOR KOMMANDO – One by One (feat. THE TRUE UNION) (Brute Opposition remix) – Belgian based electronica body music with punk rock ferocity which I knew little about before hearing this single. I now know this, it slaps and spews forth at you with the chaotic fury of a demon hoard. The project is Sebastian Komor‘s solo project this track features from wicked fire whip vocals from Azul of The True Union. I look forward to learning more, so that Jean-Marc Lederman isn’t the only Belgian artist I know 🙂
Unwoman – Have Yourself a Gloomy Little Christmas – Not something I see much in the Darkscene community, Erica Mulkey from San Fransisco blended in string accompaniment to create this shadowy soulful version of the holiday classic. I need to add it to Kelly’s dark Christmas list.
Ashes Fallen – At The End Of All Things – I love to see how thirsty this group is for guitar based traditional goth. I love the crunchy blasting 90’s tone of Stabbing Westward on the sonic spray of this song. I am giving impressions on the original which was chosen by the charts, do yourself a favor and check the badass remix by G.W. Childs IV and it’s synthwave shimmer. James’s voice is dripping wet on this track. It really makes everything loom with darkness over the mix.
Jason Priest – My Name Is Priest – Minneapolis, Minnesota artist of Midnight Mannequin Records with this gorgeous synth texture and guitar ballet with a blend of Magnetic Fields indie pop and New order technique synthwave. It’s dialed in so tight and shimmers every time Jason raises, he vocal heat. I can’t get enough of the glorious craftsmanship of this song writing. Every decision made here is just what i wanted it to be.
Jason Alacrity – Angels Cut – LA band I was not really familiar with before they made the chart. I am loving this sword swinging dervish EDM club banger. The vocals have a great rough edges on oil color translucence. The whole track was always spinning like a blender and bluring the world. Definitely a band i need to get to know better.
I will continue to run this chart in 2023. I feel like it matters to give an open field to find amazing bands not making it to other charts. If you or someone you know has a release in 2023, join the Sounds and Shadows Facebook group and add it for consideration. Hopefully 2023 is another great year for music.
I am so proud of how the Sounds and Shadows Darkscene Singles Chart has grown in the last 2 years. This chart is chosen entirely by our groups Artists, Djs, Reviewers, Promotors, and Superfans. I took the number 1 pick from each month this year. So they were all top picks in no particular order.
Jan – Gravity Corp – Another Day
Feb – Dead Cool – Game Of Trust
March – Lycia – Simpler Times
April – Stoneburner – Contacting Iris
May – Leathers – Runaway
June – Dead Cool – Send Me An Angel
July – Kill Shelter (Feat Stefan Netschio) – In This Place
Aug – Pilgrims of Yearning – La Mar
Sept – Leathers – Ultraviolet – Artoffact Records
Oct – Panic Priest – AngelSteal – Negative Gain
Nov – Matt Hart – Terraform
Dec – The Bellwether Syndicate – Beacons –
Gravity Corps – Another Day – Spacey driving dance beats from Mark Sousa. This futurepop trance rhythm with the melodic bass whisper vocals and sharp mastering of Eric Oehler (Klack). This is sensational music to fire finger guns on the dancefloor to.
Dead Cool – Game Of Trust – Wilmington, North Carolina stellar splashing synthwave goodness full of mystery and mayhem. Ringing front striking vocals and cascade keys. The husband and wife John and Angela Yeagher create a sinister story that is always driving forward. Awesome cover art to complete the image by Morgan Elizabeth.
Lycia – Simpler 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.
Stoneburner – Contacting Iris – Steven Archer is always pushing the edge hard and furious. This time by interweaving with Sci Fi author Peter Watts with a punishing new sonic canvas so relevant to the emotional mindset of the population. This artistic journey keeps getting larger and more intricate.
Leathers – Runaway – Another gorgeous smash hit from Shannon Hemmett of Vancouver. As part of the darkscene darlings Actors this synthy dreamwave project continues to grow and impress with every release. Masterful execution with a personal delivery.
Dead Cool – Send Me An Angel – I had no idea anyone had 2 number one wins in 2022 but here we are 🙂 From Wilmington, North Carolina the darkwave duo of Johnny and AngelaYeagher made this broken glass glittering on concrete version of the 1989 Real Life dance classic. A cool take on the original with much more menace to change the feeling. The band continues to be a fan favorite with our listeners and a number 1 single win speaks to their bright future.
Kill Shelter Feat (Stefan Netschio) – In This Place – I have a full review on S & S as well as an interview with Pete releasing tomorrow. However it is fitting this single off an early contender for album of the year is top song in July. Stefan of Beborn Beton delivers heavy resonant drops of tone into an unlit cave pool. 10/10 absolute banger
Pilgrims Of Yearning – La Mar – I was so ecstatic to see the Boston shadowsynth band finish in 1st place. Delicious 90’s Siouxsie with texture snake delay guitars. Juls delivers a haunting and soulful performance. This is a must have in your collection. One of the most criminally underrated bands in the modern darkscene.
Leathers – Ultraviolet – So we had two double winners in 2022. Just shows how much of this year was a blur to me. Shannon deserves every great thing that happens to her though. New single from the Canadian synth extravaganza that is the project of Actors members and currently on tour with them. I love how if this was ever a “side project” it has evolved into a distinct powerhouse of twilight all on it’s own. There is a reason it was a definitive #1 in our most voted on chart to date. Force of nature single you need.
Panic Priest – AngelSteal – Jack has a gorgeous and razor streaming style between the cracks of the darkscene. Warm crooning Baritone, waterfall backdrop synths, and lightning crackle guitar leads. Panic Priest always needs more recognition and having this single as number 1 is a fitting start. People need to start recognizing Jack as one of the top voices in the modern scene. Interview coming up with Jack in Jan 2023
Matt Hart – Terraform – Great to see UK artist Matt Hart get the number 1 spot. This single is a banging narrative short film in sonic form. Dystopian sci fi full of underground machinery, perseverance and rebirth. I love the sharp edges and skull smashing mid-tempo beats.
The Bellwether Syndicate – Beacons – Chicago show stopper’s have a brilliant new single that roars like a muscle car charging down Woodward Ave. Flames spewing out the engine to chase back the darkness. William croons with an extra edge of piercing determination. The mix is clear but always feels like a toe on the line which makes it feel dangerous, on the verge of shattering the glass bubble. They just took this song on the road with Then Comes Silence from Sweeden. Of everyone I currently follow in the modern darkscene, no one has more “rockstar” energy than William with a mic in his hand.
So the last week I have heard a ton of people talking about the insane ticket prices of the new Depeche Mode tour. Now I have been lucky enough to see the life affirming spectacle of Depeche Mode and David Gahan “Paper Monsters” and everyone who can, should see it. It is truly one of those goosebump shows from a band that boasts a four-decade catalog. Gahan can still FULLY pull off the leather vest. While I saw a lot of folks complaining about the post Capitalism ticket prices, I didn’t hear nearly enough discussion of exciting bands in the genre you can see live in their prime for under $20. Let’s talk about some hot new releases now.
IAMTHESHADOW – The Wide Starlight – Things you can always count on from a new IAMTHESHADOW release: 1) Pedro delivering the richest baritone in modern darkwave. 2) Soul baring poetry 3) Perfect precision of mix and master. Everything else about the sound is completely in the air. “The Wide Starlight” is an expansive new sounds full of twinkling stars over violet plains. The album drops on 10/14 and marks a turn towards hope which my soul has hungered for. Cold Transmission Music has been a fertile creative ground for Portugal’s premier darkscene act.
IAMTHESHADOW Pedro Code – Voices, Synths, Guitar and Programming Herr G. – Electric Bass Vitor J. Moreira – Synths
Track 7: Voices & Lyrics by Kristien Cools (Splendidula)
Favorite Tracks :
The Wide Starlight – Choosing the title track seems a tad on the nose , but what can you do when a song of this beauty and staggering power comes along. It is the perfect representation of what is special about this album from every previous IAMTYHESHADOW release.
I Am The Dark (Feat: Kristen Cools) – As someone who has sang a duet with Pedro, I know how intimidating it can be. This was a perfectly composed blend from the Belgium artist. Spiritual, sinister, and a wonderful halfway point to break the tone.
Overall: It is so difficult to make a statement like this about an artist I am so deeply invested in. I need to inhale this record deeply several more times. On it’s face “The Wide Starlight” has the potential to be my favorite IAMTHESHADOW album.
Panic Priest – PSYCHOGORIA – Speaking of world class baritone voices Jack never disappoints. New album out 10/21/22 on Negative Gain featuring the crooning beauty and slashing guitar mastery. The Chicago based songsmith always layers the club friendly dance beats with a healthy dose of guitar accents to make a truly distinctive blend. The tempo here is a fast paced bop, but the bottom of a chasm of the vocals give every track a sense of soul.
Favorite Track: Dead Lust – I suppose some of the other tracks have more pop appeal. This one just oozes with raw vampire sensuality. TYhe vocals split the sky and have a Dead Or Alive horror vibe I can’t let go of.
Sapphira Vee – Ascent – New remix EP from NY electronic lounge artist Sapphira Vee on Distortion Records. Featuring reimagines by several up and comers as well as scene legends. I love the eclectic blend here from Texas Doomdustyrial artists Dread Risks to Michigan lightening waterfall producer Chiasm. The common thread in all of Saphira’s releases are the honesty of tone that bleeds truth with every delivery.
Favorite Track: Metamorph (Dogtablet Mix ) – Martin captured this amazing slow motion crawl across the floor feeling for this track. It really highlights the higher range of Sapphira’s voice which she often uses sparingly and lends more power when leaned on.
Dogtablet – Ashes – New 5 song EP from Industrial legends Martin King and Jared Louche. I had the pleasure of attending a listening party at the Post Punk Industrial museum where Martin provided some background for these songs. I love the grinding and deliberate nature of these tracks. Track 3 “Careless” Feat: Coral Scere is a haunting and memorable collaboration that shows how Martin continues to get the best out of everyone he works with.
Favorite Track:16 Times – Martin has the ability to call on top tier vocal collaborators, I keep finding myself draw most to his own growing vocal confidence. This song is a spinning tendril of dream and imagery.
JUNKSISTA – 0A – This German based band on COP International is one I haven’t given nearly enough press to. Every time I hear them I am absolutely floored by the razor wire combination of owning a space in your head pop melodies and the way too cool to hang out with me punk rock attitude. It just drips with effortless expression and after party in the know. It is hard to hear this and not feel inside the most exclusive salon where everyone is invited. Speaking of invited the album features a who’s who of guest talent.
Guest Artists: Black Nail Cabaret , Die Krupps, Vaselyne , Omnimar, Helalyn Flowers.
Favorite Track: Fuck Your Pretty Face – I’m hard pressed to choose a favorite on this masterclass album. This is an unequivocal JAM. The drums, the guitar wail, the visceral vocal delivery. It’s one of those tracks I could never tire of.
We will have an interview with Junksista coming soon.