This weekend I was suppose to be in Boston for the Dark Spring Festival. Enjoying the warm embrace of meeting new friends and swaying in rhythm to music. Instead here I sit in Michigan at the computer eating curried mash potatoes alone. I do have a tether to this distant world. New music to conjure dreams of adventure from the ether.
Icy Men – Low Light – I’ve been taking in snippets of this album leading up to the release today. Another strong offering from Cold Transmission. This Ukrainian band gives me a tie to a world far away. It’s the perfect sound to capture the isolation I am fighting. Everything sounds so open and full of negative space. The songs resonate with grey concrete and oppressive darkness. I am in love with the striking drums and the powerful delivery of the voice. It’s the weight and power of each track that strikes your mind and demands reflection. Dedicated to the victims of medieval inquisition this is not background music. It’s a forceful reflection of the human condition. I couldn’t turn away from how I could not understand the lyrics, but I felt the meaning.
Favorite Tracks : The Captain , Uninhabited Buses, We Shall Be Together
Sawtooth –Hostile Design – Massachusetts sinister EDM Sawtooth unleashed this ferocious team up of several guest vocalists each swinging sword cut glitch sounds and boot stomping snare beats. The most challenging aspect of EDM music can be finding range of sound and emotion when releasing an album of 13 tracks. I really enjoyed the different cadence to the poetry spoken lyrics. A real roller coaster of rises and falls.
Favorite Tracks: Devoured, Venomous Whispers, Miss America (Echo Haus remix)
Iza Grau – Vastness Hurts – Italian Post punk full of sharp edges and driving precision from Cleopatra Records. The growl and burning anger just beneath the surface of these vocals really give a fresh feeling among the mellow and blending style of most Darkwave Postpunk. Not that they didn’t find a shade of beauty with tracks like Burn Everything. This was an album I stumbled on but I am really glad I did. It’s ability to twist, turn, and surprise me has left me hungry for more.
Favorite Tracks : Burn Everything , The Grace within Nocturnal Animals, Inviolate.
FIRES – BitchCorona – Aedra has done it again. It’s a huge swing from her previous album. Complete chaos incineration that really taps into my feelings of frustration of being home bound. It’s just one track, but it’s fun, it’s fierce, and it makes me want to run outside and scream while I spin in circles in my backyard.
UIU – Acid Joe Davola – So I am a long time fan of Perth Austrailia’s synth wave wizard Greg Weir. However nothing could prepare me for this bizzaro Kraftwerk style dance jam. An express train to the underground. It’s good to have new music from UIU.
Black Nail Cabaret – No Gold – New EP and Video from my favorite Hungarian electronic band. Emese’s voice is one of those things that brings me joy anytime i hear it. Another track with beautiful pop dance sensibility but such a rich soulful vocal delivery and powerful lyrics. Their videos are such high art as well. They can really do no wrong in my eyes.
Antipole – Perspectives II – Karl Morton has returned with the second in the series of his remix albums Perspectives II. For this offering the songs have a vastly different tone. Away from post punk and into a more avant garde texture. Outstanding re imaginings by bands like SYZYGX, Crying Vessel, The Coventry, and European Ghost. I love the feeling of cold remembrance here, the songs have become a spectral haunt of intention that adds such contrast to Antipoles driven and concise style.
Mike Johnson has been a familiar face in so many important bands in the goth Industrial scene over the last few decades. For his big 60 I thought it would be nice to talk about his career and what he has meant to music for so many people. Drummers are such a rare and glorious treasure but even more so those who can play along to electronic music. Mike has used that to get snatched up by anyone with a synthesizer and a tour to travel the world bringing energy and precision to music fans everywhere. The list of bands he has been a part of is long and storied. Today lets celebrate his amazing contributions.
Ego Likeness – I got to see Mike tour with the Industrial Passion Rock band Ego Likeness a few years back. The husband and wife duo of Steven and Donna Archer play an intense and immersive stage show. This requires A lot of moving parts and a focused rhythm section.
Rick Furr added “As an artist and a person He’s a good cuddler in the bed”
Donna ““In addition to being an excellent drummer, Mike is the only one who will talk to me when I’m on my 17th straight hour of driving, just to make sure I’m not delirious. We should all thank him for that.”
Spider Lilies– The beautiful phantasmal electronic dream weavers off Jim Semonik’s distortion productions. I love the swirling cyclone blend of hard hitting industrial beats and Stacey Campbell’s ethereal lilting vocals. They have a sound that puts me in mind of Sunshine Blind and Switchblade Symphony in the 90’s. Lots of layers and complexity held together with Stacey’s clear ringing vocal melodies. If I ever find myself in a magical garden full of dangerous plants this is the soundtrack I hope to hear. They have a new track out on the Electronic Saviors compilation called “Witness” that is a must hear.
I ask Stacey what it was like to work with Mike:
“I feel very lucky to have Mike as a part of Spider Lilies, but he’s also a great friend. As a band mate, his positive outlook and dependable work ethic helps everything go so smoothly. You have to admit, he looks really cool wearing his sunglasses on stage! When touring, you can be sure he’s always got an emergency jar of peanut butter, just in case, which is smart. When things get tough, he’s someone you can talk to openly and he’s never one to judge. He’s a great hugger and shoulder to cry on, if needed, and then he can usually summon up some quality dad jokes to lift the mood.” -Stacey-
Stoneburner – One of the most frequently reviewed bands here at Sounds and Shadows, but for good reason. Steven Archer is creating some of the most dynamic and exciting new music in the Industrial genre. This band pushes the boundaries of artistic expression using electronic elements and percussion which often includes a need for a extra drummer.
Red Lokust – Pittsburgh Industrial mainstays Red Lokust have had Mike tour with them for live performances. This is high energy smash the war drums and stomp the concrete until the foundations shatters old school industrial. Often socially political and consciously aware. This band shatters rooms with it’s intensity and needs a fierce intensity from it’s percussion. It’s led by Jim Semonik who also does the Electronic Savior’s compilation
FIRES – Mike has also done live drums for the electronic sonic explosion that is FIRES. Aedra is a fiery force of nature unleashing stabbing intensity and lifting beauty. Organic guitar riffs and pounding snare snaps drive her energy in her expressive live show. I have a complete review of the album on Sounds and Shadows.
We all look forward to hearing new recordings from LINDA his new rock band in the near future. Watch for them here:
A lot of focus and credit goes to the singers, guitar players, bass players, of the world. I think anyone who has been in a band can tell you, having the right drummer is truly the glue and the heart of making music happen. Mike has had a career that has crossed so many paths in this scene and made a difference. Happy Birthday to a vampire I honestly cannot believe is 60. He makes 38 year old me look like shit.
Some other quotes from important musicians in the scene:
Neska Lapicki : “you are super epic awesome, i was gonna make joke about you farting in the van, but then i thought it was probably rick. happy birthday!!!”
Erik Gustafson (Adoration Destroyed/Grendel) :
“I’ve been on three national tours, that Mike was playing drums for the headliner.
Mike is just so full of positive energy, and is always smiling and happy to be there.
As you know, touring life isn’t for everyone, and it’s not all fun and games. It can be very stressful. Mike is just the picture of calm and content, and was a pleasure to travel with. The only thing I don’t like about him…is that he doesn’t share with the rest of us, his magic youth potion!”
Laura Bienz (Lorelei Dreaming) :
Every time our paths cross when touring and playing cons, it is immediately a dance party. We became instant friends and the dance party continues
2019 has been quite a year for my dream. It has found it’s tar dark wings and started flapping them to places I never imagined it would go. I have new writers like Collin, Katy, and Adrian. I have 4 times as many followers. Made new friends which I have come to love and value. Traveled to distant lands. Started a podcast. In general it gets me excited for the future that so many people all over the world have shared with me this love of what is happening in modern music.
Unlike last year when I did a top albums review all alone I know had a wine drenched democracy of shouting voices sitting in a room and debating what had moved them in this years music. It was an amazing feeling I had forgotten. I wanted to make this list hold weight. So we made hard cuts and decisions to get our list down to 4 genres and 10 albums per genre. Everyone had input and voice and no one 100% agreed. I love that. This was never suppose to be about me but about the celebration of art. I hope you find something new here. I know I did and it fills me with hope for places a song or album can still move me. We split it into 4 parts 1) Post Punk/Goth 2) Industrial/EDM 3) Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave 4) Wildcards
First up is Post Punk/Goth. This one is my primary wheelhouse so I took point here. There has been a true resurgence in this genre and this was a hard list to choose. The albums listed here are all amazing but we fought long and hard to try and pick some form of order. Here is what we found.
10) October Burns Black (Reflections) – London superband and Traditional goth act from London put out this amazing record this year. James Tramel (The Wake) has composed this album with Rod Hanna (Vox), Lars Kappeler (Guitars) and Tommy Olsson (Guitars) Simon Rippin. It is so full of flowing sinister goth sounds. It really holds true to the sounds of yesterday while forging new ground. Every song is an emotive blast.
9.5) Ritual Howls (Rendered Armor) – I know, i cheated. I just can’t leave this record off. We debated and argued so hard to get this list to 10. This album is just such a world beater. It’s Nick Cave putting on the armor of Echo and the Bunnyman. They are even Detroit fam. They are keeping a flame burning for a sound that cannot be forgotten.
9) Frozen Charlottes (Wax Venues) – Santa Ana post punk doom weavers Frozen Charlotte released this beautiful album in November of this year. I have been in love with Chandler Grace, Janell, and Sky’s savagely dark spit and vinegar punk goth style since their previous incarnation. With Wax Venus they really found a way to refine that edge to a razor point of intensity, Waxing and waning like the moon in a flowing dance around the fire witchcraft ritual.
8) La Me’canique (Dernier Voyage) – This is such a lovely record from Cold Transmission that really embraces the post punk ideals. It’s wide, flowing, and full of landscapes. It feels large and comes through the lens of a distant camera. I think of 80’s Duran Duran and the way they transported you to another place while listening to the songs. A vacation in musical form.
7) Mark E Moon (Refer) – Another exceptional album with a lot of traditional goth elements. Another Cold Transmission band on this list who has a wonderful vibe of old Peter Murphy but with a modern edge full of poetic lyrics and Mark’s deep resonant vocals. Lots of balance and pop hook in this record. I want to peel the layers of this onion and find the core of it’s art.
6) Crying Vessel (Illusions) Slade Templeton is bringing the glam razzle dazzle back into dark music. His dark rich voice climbs and slide around an impressive range. I found it in my heart, and building a place in my head. I had the wonderful opportunity to see them live in Germany this year and it really gave this record another plateau of range. A perfect mixture of previous styles and modern technology this record is a must have.
5) Golden Apes (Kasbek) – Berlin based post punk Golden Apes have been making music for a long time. To find an album of this power and depth of idea deep in a storied career is a noteworthy achievement. Peer Lebrecht has a voice so full of soul and power that it wraps you in it’s world. The music is a masterclass in what post punk can achieve in movement and embrace. I will finally get to see this played live in Boston this year for their first US tour. If you don’t know about this record plunge head first into one of the genres most exciting artists.
4) Antipole (Radial Glare) – Karl Morton Dahl of Norway holds the distinction of being the most reviewed artist on Sounds and Shadows. I feel moved by every album he has made. This one found a way to hit a special new level for me. Antipole is everything you love about post punk music like Joy Division and New Order. Karl is a true historian of the genre, but finds exciting new ideas about how to use modern technology to make the concept sharper and more intense. This record was such a wonderful tribute to his homeland. A record that transports you to that reflected, glittering place of dark ice. Paris Alexander and Eirene of Young and Cold records have added perfect vocal compliments to create one of this years stand out records.
3) The Dream Collision (The Certainty of Forever) – This album from Pedro Code of IAMTHESHADOW was a piece of art that left me changed and moved. Pedro has possibly the most beautiful and sensual voice in modern dark music. This record was so stripped down and exposed I found myself unforgettably moved. It is powerful and tender like Nick Cave but with the beauty and elegance of Ian McCullah. A truly moving offering.
2) Twin Tribes (Ceremony) – With their recent transition to Negative Gain Joel and Luis of Twin Tribes hold a special place here at Sounds and Shadows. Their Debut album “Shadows” was the inspiration for this webpage. They are bringing the concepts of spiritual post punk into the modern era. This sophomore offering was not a lull but a leap forward in concept, depth, and power. Rich and full of energy each song is a ritual to summon forth an intimate experience in the listener. You probably need this one on vinyl. Also they do a must see live show, find them in your town and bare witness.
Sonsombre (Veil of the Ending) – So goth music has always been so obsessed with the past. If it wasn’t Sisters of Mercy it seems people just couldn’t find a way to embrace another wave. Sonsombre newly signed to Cleopatra has found a way to capture that original Traditional concept and rebuild it with fresh sounds and modern ideals. This record was a game changer that opened a new door to a darker dimension. Poetic lyrics, powerful delivery, slithering snakes of oil and shadow woven into guitar riffs of power and delicate dexterity. If this isn’t in your collection you are living in history. The Future is Black.
Part II is the best Industrial/EDM – I grew up on industrial. It was my punk rock. My scream at the world release. Somewhere along the way i just drifted to other avenues. This year was a huge one for me to rediscover Industrial. Adding in Adrian and Collin to the family who are both stronger on Industrial than me have really helped me find this world again. The albums that have come out this year and bringing it back front and center for a lot of people. These were our top picks.
10) Klack (Introducing the 1984 Renault Le Car) – Matt and Eric are workhorses. They had a Daddybear album, Null Device, and another Klack album all this year which could have easily made this list. This album rose to the top for me. It’s perfect blend of retro and fresh feel with dance beats and unique concepts has become a go to for my listening parties. New ideas for the new industrial.
9) Lingua Ignota (Caligula) – I just found this through Adrian. Wow. It was like nothing I have heard. This is a sound so frightening and intense it gives The Goblins nightmares. It is the sound of a priestess ripping out her own eyes and bleeding from the sockets. Do not listen right before bed unless you want to be haunted by disturbing dreams. I speak from experience.
8) Kid Saint Nothing (Above_Below) – What a treat that I get to add a dear friend from Kalamazoo MI to this list. They belong here. This album is a raw heartfelt therapy session scream set to catchy dance beats. It’s wide and intense and needs to be played constantly on your listening device.
7) Dogtablet (Feathers and Skin) – Industrial music lords Jared Louche (Chemlab) and Martin King have worked with others to create this massively powerful record of animalistic spirit totem sounds. It feels like a creature speeding free under a moonlit sky. This album came late in the year but has been my constant companion ever sense.
6) FIRES (All My Dreams Are of This Place) – Aedra is a force of nature. Her intensity and vocals have really pushed the edges of the Industrial genre. This album has a tight mixture of early 2000 emo and electroclash force. Whenever I need to find my inner tiger to face the day this album is where I reach first.
5) Moris Blak (The Irregularity of Being ) – This album is a force of creative expression and cyber blending technology. Lots of amazing guest vocalists like Pete Crane, Amelia Arsenic, and Angel Metro. A true tapestry of electronic sound woven and blended with dance hall beats and shattering brash power. This needs to be in heavy rotation of every club you shake your ass at.
4) Curse Mackey (Instant Exorcism) – Curse has been a huge part of the industrial scene for a long time as Evil Mothers, Pig, Pigface, ect. This album represents his first solo offering and it is nothing short of breathtaking. This album has such a focus on lyrics with a true William Burroughs literary quality. Full of slashing beats and laser focused vocals. I own it on LP. You need it on LP.
3) Bones UK (Bones UK) – More of a big label offering but a straight burner. This album is on the top of Collin’s list this year. I love the ladies getting representation in this genre and this album cooks from front to back. Lovely pop hooks to really add some mainstream club vibe, and we unapologetically love that.
2) Stoneburner (Technology Implies Belligerence) – This record changed the game for me. It made me fall back in love with Industrial music. It has that same old school flavor, but takes such incredible chances. A thinking persons industrial with a concept and follow through. Steven Archer of Ego Likeness has unleashed something transcendent and powerful and managed to save enough in the tank to follow the record with another this year “Massdriver”. Both are incredible pieces of art you need to explore but you never forget your first love. This record was that for me.
Go Fight (Anthem) – Jim Marcus and Die Warsaw were a part of my first obsession with Industrial music. A titan in the genre and one of the great humans who holds this scene together. This record is all covers of the 80’s songs that helped build his musical life. It’s perfectly crafted. It’s full of soul. It finds a way to make something of the past connect with my present. I mean any time i can hear two of my favorite things in this life Go Fight and Shriekback happen simultaneously consider me hooked. Nothing on this record doesn’t immediately send my body into motion. This is the work of a master crafting a love letter to the things that built him.
Next up is Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave: Another brutal list to try and widdle down to 10 albums with everything wonderful released this year. As genres have expanded and new ground was broken the resulting art which is dreamy and beautiful has grown with it. This is a list of our favorites.
10) Lilith My Mother (Her Fall) – Beautiful dance magic with clear pop beauty infused with midnight dark lyrics and fallen angel vocals. Every song fills me up and has me asking questions. Do not sleep on this amazing artist.
9) Corlyx (In 2 the Skin) – Sexy LA sludge grunge is my weakness and this album is the cure. It’s sensual, powerful, and forces your body into motion. Caitlin has a voice that wraps around you and stirs that hairs on the back of your neck. Doesn’t your party deserve to be this hot?
8) Standalone (Standalone) – Steven Seibold of Hate Dept has unleashed this solo project so delicious and stripped down with beautiful synth sounds crafted with a wizards touch. It’s so personal and easy to relate to at once. The vocals are smooth and elegant and hold your heart with tender timing. So underrated.
7) Boy Harsher (Country Girl Uncut) – The feels of this record. It’s a smokey dimly let exclusive club that would turn me away at the door in music form. It’s efficient in the use of layers and sounds and has gorgeous imagery in the lyrics. I love everything about the crafting done on this record.
6) Agent Side Grinder (A/X) – Oh the delicious post punk infused stabbing drum beats. The dynamic vocals have a dark tone and emotional delivery. It’s full of songs that always feel like they are moving faster than they are. It’s that energy and crackling synth pad sound that makes ASG have such a unique sound. This album builds on everything that makes them one of the biggest names in the genre.
5) Sweat Boys (Nervous Prayers) – This record off of Give/Take strikes a special chord with me. Sitting in my room listening to Yaz “Upstairs at Erics” was such an impact on me. Waiting to hear a synth driven album that captured that same purity and exposed feeling has been something i have searched for a long time. With this record my search finally ended. It’s beautiful, electric, and makes me jump up and down like only a 260lbs man on a pogo stick can. If yuo care at all about synth pop you need this in your ears.
4) Drab Majesty (Modern Mirror) – Drab Majesty off Dais records isn’t just an album, it’s an experience. Knowing the exact amount of every sound to use to get a perfect blend is such a difficult art form. The harmonies, and flowing lush beauty. They are like aliens operating at another level from us common music plebs. This album is staggering and unique in it’s beauty and darkness.
3) Mr.Kitty (Ephemeral) – 31 tracks, all of them good. Take that in for a moment. This album was such a memorizing accomplishment. It’s an artist exposing themselves and making it sound lovely and pure. I played this record so many times this year I feel like I have a personal relationship with the artist and I have never spoken to them. If you don’t have this you need to make that a priority.
2) Hante (Fierce) – The soundtrack to a film of a better life lived than mine. Just listening to the gorgeous vocals and visual sounds on this record fill me with hope. The creative force unleashed here is an epic achievement. It makes you think, it makes you believe.
Wingtips (Exposure Therapy) – Look I can tell you what I love about this music. To me the real power of this album is that so many great musicians I know all talk about how much this record meant to them. It has been mentioned and picked on our podcast by almost everyone we have interviewed. It’s perfect, nostalgic, fresh, and full of texture and intensity. Every track is a banger. Every line is a poem. This was our combined number one pick out of one of the hardest categories to judge.
Final Catagory Wildcards: This was all the things too far out of the box to fit anywhere else. In a way I feel like it made it really exciting and definitely some of my top overall picks.
10) Scary Black (Shadow Dwellers) – Kentucky sinister darkness Scary black released this shadow storm full of familiar elements and fantasy sparkles. It’s full of dangerous dreams and lovely rich vocal melodies. I really look forward to their future.
9.5) Vlimmer (XIIIII) – German sound wizard Alexander continues to spew forth the most gloriously textured collections of sounds with pull heart strings like a horses reins. It baffles me how good every single release is.
9) The Purge (Rain) – Strange winding electronic storms. This album feels like weather shifting and changing. It has a flavor of trauma and young love lost. Thomas does a beautiful job using his vocal range to tell stories and build tension. It’s my sad rainy day music.
8) Girl Band (The Talkies) – Strange twisting and powerful. I really liked the chant of this band and the abrupt changes. This one came courtesy of Katy. Really intense sound.
8.5) The Joy Thieves (This Will Kill That) – Again a little bit of cheating here but this EP needs to be on the list. Such a perfect blend of hard rock and industrial with some of the biggest vocal talent in modern industrial. It’s smash everything in this room music because you are happy. I first described it as Clutch beating the shit out of Stabbing Westward with a baseball bat and I stand by that.
7) SYZYGYX (Fading Bodies) – One of the fastest up and coming bands in the scene. On both Negative Gain and Cold Transmission Luna and Josh are a sonic experience full of sexy dark disco grooves you would find in David Lynch’s private club at 3am. It breaks every mold and is always in my rotation.
6) The Ghost of Bela Lugosi – Ok technically not an album, but my house my rules. Australian based Vin Price has released about 12 singles this year and everyone of them is straight fire. It’s so punk rock, so raw, but so melodic and beautiful. It touches every part of every genre and I am here for all of it. It won’t play by the rules and that is part of it’s power.
4) Hide (Hell is Here) – Sheer unbridled power with a meaningful message. This is like nothing you have heard. Raw, intense, full of power tools. The vocals have more spit and acid than most metal. This album changed my world view
3) ELZ and The Cult (Psychodrama) – Visually, sonically, sassily, there is nothing about this album that does not completely enthrall me. It’s filthy, beautiful, it’s a horrible dream of a broken world that i can’t escape or look away from. I find a new layer to it every time i listen. You must have this.
2) Palais Ideal (Pressure Points) – I have been waiting to make this one of my top albums of the year all year long. This record broke all the boundaries of post punk. It’s thoughtful, precise, unique, and tells a story of some of the best science fiction I read in any novel. A thought provoking example of the power of music. Have this on LP and feel it’s warmth and glory as it was meant to be spun
Mesa Luna (Feel Nothing) – This one came to our attention courtesy of Jason Corbett (Actors). We didn’t have enough shoegaze representation here and this album was a stunner. #1 pick from Katy. It’s haunting, diverse and full of life. Take a journey with this record.
I had about 40 more albums this year that could have made this list. Maybe I will do an honorable mentions. I’m shredded though. There is currently a glorious revolution happening in music. Be a part of it. This list is a great place to start. Happy Holidays from us at Sounds and Shadows.
Music in general has always been a bit of a boys club. Sadly I feel like ladies have always faced an uphill battle particularly as producers and song writers. The goth/industrial scene has had it’s share of amazing and talented ladies as well as a progressive view, but it has never been a 100% fair shake. Since I have been getting back into the cutting edge of new music I have been overjoyed and amazed at the influx of talented female led performers currently putting out wonderful art that adds to the discussion and furthers the diversity of this scene. So I thought I would take a moment to highlight some of my favorite new artists creating music that places emphasis on the female perspective and makes this genre richer. I can’t add everyone I am listening to but i feel excited that it took me just a few moments to have several amazing artists currently enriching this scene. These will be quick hits, but I have more extensive reviews of many of the ladies featured.
Hante – Hélène de Thoury has an amazing voice and textural songs of beauty and effortless grace. She has such an unspoken coolness to her songs that paint a picture in your mind. I am transported every time i listen to her.
Sunshine Blind – Caroline Blind was an artist I grew up listening to that helped shape and mold me and changed my worldview of music. She has continued to make amazing music with the power and beauty of her voice. I always describe Sunshine Blind as a Steel gauntlet in a velvet glove. This is a cover she did of the Swans “Godamn The Sun”. It’s simple, striped down, and amazing.
Black Nail Cabaret – Emese Arva is a freaking force of nature. Her presence and power remind me of the first time i heard Annie Lennox. Her voice is pure raw energy, strength, and beauty. Wonderful range and a revolutionary song writing style that makes me want to charge up a hill and believe in a better tomorrow. I challenge you to listen to this song and not feel inspired!
S Y Z Y G Y X – Luna Blanc has a voice that feels like a slow drink of whiskey in a club owned by David Lynch. It’s smokey, immersive, and full of desire. Can’t get enough.
Tearful Moon – Sky Lesco from Texas has such a haunting and lovely voice. It redefines barriers and has such an authentic concept and sound. She charges headlong into any subject matter while writing. It is deep, rich, and isn’t afraid to delve into the deepest concepts of the human experience.
Cliff and Ivy – Ivy Silence is a dear friend and all around wonderful human. Hailing from Alaska with her husband they do a sharp edge stabbing dark goth rock full of punk sensibility. Her voice is raw and unapologetic and as it crashes through you with sultry fierceness.
Kaelan Mikla – From Iceland is an amazing female group that hits on every level. It’s driving, fierce, gorgeous music filled with simmering intensity and textural beauty. They are truly a cutting edge sound for the modern age. Every time i listen to them i get lost in the picture they paint with every song.
Corlyx – Holy shit i love this band. Caitlin Stokes has a clear and fearless beauty and style. She really captures the raw sexuality and intelligence of the modern scene. This new album has a filthy glittering glory reminiscent of the 90s but with modern flare and strength.
Audrey Burne – I always love when i can give props to a fellow Michigan band. Lilith Gates of Audrey Burne is a immensely talented and haunting vocalist that has a lovely Natalie Merchant lilt and wonderful stage presence. I’ve had the honor or sharing a stage with her and they have a wonderful driving dark rock feel that really captures a room.
Fires- Aedra is a freaking force of nature. She sings with such intensity and burning passion about her experience and her song writing ability really pushes the boundaries of industrial electronic music. This album really changed the game for me this year.
Angel Metro – Soft, sultry, understated glory. Virginia’s Angel Metro does a wonderful blend of subtle dance beats and lilting tender beauty. She really exposes her inner most feelings for every song and this courage lends the tracks a real power.
Schedule IV – Stephanie Strange again from Michigan is a friend and amazing energy on stage. This is perfect precision post punk glory that blends her high range intense vocals and intelligent lyrics to create an entrancing and intimate experience. One of our favorite bands to play with and wonderful people.
Lorelei Dreaming – Laura Bienz leaves it all on the floor every night. I’m starting to reflect on how many of these amazing ladies i actually got to share a stage with. The energy, stage presence and political savvy combines with the intelligence of the lyrics to create a wondrous and unique experience. Do yourself a favor and bask in the fiery glow of this album.
I Ya Toyah – Chicago based Ania Tarnowska brings a fierce and rocket fueled electronic dance symphony of raw sensual strength to every performance. I love these explosive pop hooks blended with crashing dance rhythms.
Leathers – Is the sultry synth dream darkness of Shannon Hammett of Actors. It’s so great to see when a performer in a band of the quality of Actors finds her own voice and shows the ability to create such staggeringly beautiful music like this with her as the center piece. I love how far this reaches from the sound of Actors to really allow her voice to shine because it is one that deserves to be front and center.
Ego Likeness – So Donna Lynch has had a long, successful, and storied career and I could have picked a lot of songs newer than this, but it’s my favorite so I’m going with it. Donna is a hurricane of passion and darkness. She has been taking on intense topics in her art for a decade and creating beautiful songs about the horror which resonates with the feminine experience and having an intimacy of truth for decades.
Bess – Aussie dark alternative rocker Bess Linda is making churning sultry dance beats full of world beat toms and off kilter warm toned vocals to shake a dance floor.
Bones Uk – This recommendation came from Collin Schipper, filthy wide room fresh sounds. It’s pop hook sensible but cutting edge in your face intensity. You aren’t wrong “Beautiful is boring”
Death Loves Veronica – Veronica Campbell is a slow, back beat, sultry drive down a long empty road. It’s effortless tension, and subtle whispers of reality laid barren with brutal honesty.
SINE – I must admit I heard about SINE and Rona Rougeheart through her collaboration with Curse Mackey. However once i dug into the power of her art for itself I found an intense flurry of disco dance beats underneath powerful vocals and world building soundscapes which captured me and brought me to my knees to beg for more.
VV and The Void – Valentina Veil has a wonderful whispering smoke swirl style. Really great at building tension in her songs to feel like a story.
Dissonance – Cat Hall has such a rich soulful voice with I feel gives a unique flare to her dark dance electronic sound.
Lingua Ignota – Kristin Hayter voice is one of the most intense things I have ever heard. It makes me realize i am not trying hard enough as a singer. Ferocious intensity shot forth like a flame thrower.
Hide – Raw, intelligent, and political. Gabel is a force of nature attacking change through the unnerving unapologetic fury of her art. This band makes me think, it makes me think about why i need to be better.
Wingtips – The duo Wingtips from Chicago features the amazing keyboard stylings of Hannah Avalon. Her stage presence and beautifully blended synths help make up one of the great new bands of the last few years.
Bootblacks – So many of these bands listed are for the vocal stylings. Lets not forget some of the amazing female musicians in this scene like Alli Gorman of BootBlacks. A straight up shredding axe master of the highest degree. Her riffs are creative and nuanced and such a big part of what gives this band it’s signature sound. This band has a very bright future and she is a backbone of that sound. New album out this year from Jacknife studios.
I know I have missed so many impressive female artist which drive and push the boundaries of this scene. Just looking through what popped into my head without much through fills me with hope for a brighter, stronger future of diversity of the dark music scene. I hope you find something here you give a try to expand your horizons with.
Kat Squared was kind enough to put all these bands together on a Spotify playlist
So as I listen to so much new music in the “Goth/Industrial/Post Punk” genre I hear a re-occurring trend to reach back to the sacred 80’s and revamp our holy dark forbears with a new twist. I think what immediately struck me in this album was rather than reaching back, FIRES has reached across the isle and pulled inspiration from other genre’s not typically heard in this scene and fired them like a laser through the leans of dark electronic music. Some electronic dance beats, emo, pop punk, and indie prog simmered down into a searing beam of light and fired through the ultraviolet fury of Aedra’s sorrow. The result is positively electric.
This record is such a contrast to the driving and precise darkness currently in vogue. Instead of cold and introspective it is a burning rage of passion and integrity engulfing you without pretense. Aedra was experiencing a physical and emotional awakening during these songs and that message strides forward courageously while being abstract and textural. This is a beautiful woman on a hill holding a fire hose attached to to a gasoline truck spewing forth blazing brilliance to incinerate every ignorant shadow around her. I find it almost more impressive that this chaotic sound weapon is maintained within such clear production and tight hooks of pop glory.
Show Me Life – Crackling energy is crackling off these guitar sounds. Overlapping and building. Her Vocals are a pleading shout to her inner self. It’s big drums and savage attack but it also breaks down in a focused introspection. These songs feel so much like a conversation but not one held polite in company. One shouted with emotion to a true friend in a moment of emergence.
Revive- Give me these glorious drum beats. The wave after wave bleeding synths. Then give me Aedra chanting out boot stomping cadence with her voice. ” Say my name, remember” This song makes me want to destroy a 50s diner with a sledge hammer on fire and scream.
Ever- If this album was all piss and vinegar it couldn’t have taken me so far. However “Ever” is a beautiful Cocateau Twins shoegaze dream slush ballad that wraps you like a blanket after the assault of the first few songs. It’s a memorizing comfort and an acknowledgement of Aedra’s range and the delicate beauty of her voice. The driving Martin Hannett Joshua Tree style bass line is the perfect counterpoint to the elegant beauty of this song.
This album is an experience. It’s personal, and is very unique in it’s delivery. I must have listened to it 20 times in different places and times before writing this (It actually released back on May 10th) but Negative Gain has done it again and stepped out of the comfort zone to support an artist who laid bare her soul in a fiery red aura. You need this.