Catching Up with The Cult Sounds: New LP “Death of a Star”

Dark rock band The Cult Sounds has been covered by S&S before, such as in this introductory interview and this review of their Halloween compilation.

https://thecultsounds.bandcamp.com/

Their lineup is Bennett Huntley (vocals), Ryan McBride (lead guitar), Jordan Hageman (rhythm guitars, keys, programming), Wyatt Eagen (bass), And Justin Riley (drums).

Fortunately, we’ll see much more of them in the future. Their newest LP, Death of a Star, is scheduled to release sometime in 2021.

McBride tells me that, compared to their previous works, this one will be more “ambitious.” “We definitely weren’t afraid to take risks and incorporate different musical styles or genres when writing,” he tells me. “Also, this year has given us nothing but time to make everything just how we wanted, then listen to it over and over and go back and make any changes we felt the songs needed. If we were finding our identity with the first ep, then on this record we’re seeing how far we can take it.”

Hageman seconded this. “We really pushed our songwriting even further and experimented more. He continued by saying that “this record takes more of our inspirations and influences than we got to explore on the first EP – we brought in bits of things outside of Post-Punk and Goth to add to the palette of sounds and textures.”

Bouncing off that note of genre elements, McBride states “moving forward, we’ve woven a lot of heavier elements into our already atmospheric sound, both musically and conceptually. Right from the onset of the album, fans will notice a marked difference in our approach to the album and it only goes up from there.”

Finally, Huntley pitched in. “Overall, it’s a huge step forward for us, in terms of what we felt capable or comfortable doing compared to when we first put out our debut EP, and even as far as what I think any of us has been a part of musically up to this point. It’s a complex record and I’m really excited to see it released. I still struggle when people ask me what kind of band we are, because I’m not even sure. Day to day, song to song, we take influences from everywhere and it’s constantly changing and forcing us to evolve our sound. The full-length format has given us the chance to explore that, to stretch our legs, and 2020 gave us the time to really mature and improve as songwriters. It’s a natural growth from our earlier material but also there’s plenty that I think might surprise our followers.”

I was given access to four tracks off it: “What Gets Done in The Night,” “Pale White Horses,” “Ritual Scars,” and “Afterlight.” Right off the bat on the first track, I can see the almost metal-styled speed, power, and aggression. “Pale White Horses” is a bit softer and could perhaps be qualified as a ballad. “Ritual Scars” picks the hard energy right back up and runs with it. This is a song I would happily scream-sing along to while driving a car down a highway. Finally, “Afterlight.” It starts with a strong guitar riff that reminds me of 80s hair metal in a good way. The vocals are intense, and the energy is still nice and high.

I asked if there was any such retro influence for that particular track.

Hageman responded, telling me “as far as Afterlight goes I think there’s always some retro influences because we are influenced by a lot of music from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s as well as the music we grew up with like AFI, Alkaline Trio, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Type O Negative, My Chemical Romance, etc. We never consciously go into a piece of music with a preconceived notion of wanting to capture a decade or a sub-genre since we plot the songs as we go in writing them pulling different ideas for each section wherever that inspiration comes from at the time.”

There’s also an accompanying music video for “What Gets Done in The Night.”

It’s incredibly cinematic and smoothly shot. After almost two minutes of tense introduction, the band comes into view. As they play, we see various props around the room such as candles and an animal skull. They’re playing in a vividly painted room, which the camera gracefully pans across. The band toasts with glasses of an unknown liquid. Together is makes for an almost eerie or occult vibe, in a subtle way. This nicely accompanies the repeated lyrics concerning the devil.

I asked about the occult aspects, and Hageman confirmed my assessments. “There’s definitely some occult imagery in the video to go along with the concepts of the song’s metaphors and we also were heavily influenced by 70’s horror films and wanted to do as much of that as we could.”

I wondered if this occult theme goes through the rest of the album, too.

Huntley responded that “I think some of those references to the occult appear naturally in most of what we do. It’s a big part of what inspires us across the board, whether it’s from music or movies or literature. Black candles, rituals of the flesh, devils and demons, that’s what rock n roll is all about!”

“The title “Death of a Star” can be taken many different ways,” Hagemen added, “and each song explores the concepts of death in different facets and aspects in our everyday lives and in our culture.”

So, that concludes things. Death, rock, and a mini film- all things to look forward to with this new material!

What Are They Up to: Interviews with Vanity Kills, Ashes Fallen, and Black Rose Burning

Vanity Kills

[Photo Credit: Cameron Rhys McNamara]

Vanity Kills is the intense, cyberpunk-industrial band of Joe “Crow” Aaron. S&S has already covered them on several occasions: an interview from 2019, a review of album Chapter 2: Enemy, and a shoutout in the Halloween Compilation Release.

The band has been a friend of S&S for years. But where are they now? I reached out to Joe Crow himself to figure out what he’s been working on since the release of his last album. In the works are: 1- a third chapter album, 2- a B-sides album, and 3- a collection of covers.

The covers are being release intermittently on YouTube with the intent to compile them on Bandcamp upon completion. The B-sides, which are, according to Crow, “a collection of songs that didn’t make it on to the last album, alternate versions of previously released songs and remixes,” most likely going to be released in March. Chapter three’s release is as of now still uncertain.

Onto the topic of the B-sides and third chapter, do you see yourself exploring some uncharted creative territory?

Definitely. The b sides record is definitely a product of experimentation. There’s some more mellow moments there, some really dark stuff and some stuff that’s just outright weird.

The third chapter also tonally different to the second and first. It feels kind of like a 90s industrial album with modern production techniques. Sort of going back and taking influence from the places that first got me into the genre when I was in my teens.

It’s likely the B sides record will be a Bandcamp exclusive as a companion piece to Chapter 2. So everyone who has that will receive it automatically and be included with future purchases.

Regarding production, have you indulged yourself in any new equipment?

Nothing too extravagant. Picked up a Roland r8 for a bargain and a tb303 clone. I’ve also invested in a good amount of software instruments. As much as I’d love to get into more hardware it’s just not feasible at the moment and the ability to create new patches without routing audio and midi each time helps me stay in the zone with my limited attention span.

So, on your previous album and in a previous interview, you cited bands like Stabbing Westward, Ministry, and even Prince as having influenced you. Since the third chapter is going to be comparative to a “90s industrial album,” is there any new set of artists behind its inspiration?

Well all of those are there, probably more than the last record. As well as things like My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Circle of Dust, Nine inch Nails early material, through to the more electronic rave artists like the Prodigy, Underworld etc.

Gosh I love that early NIN stuff

Pretty hate machine and the broken EP will always stick in my mind as my personal image of NIN. I love damn near everything else but those are 2 I can go to any day in any mood.

Any closing remarks for your fans?

The support we’ve had for this album has been immense. I didn’t expect it after so many years if inactivity but old and new have come out in support and I’m eternally grateful. We’re going to finish off the album cycle with videos for every song from chapter 2 and swiftly onto the next chapter. So there’s plenty still to come. With some surprises along the way and one day more shows. Thank you so much and stay safe.

Ashes Fallen

Ashes Fallen is a California-based gothic rock band composed of James Perry (lead vocals, guitar), Jason Shaw (guitar), and Michelle Perry (vocals, percussion, keyboard, art).

S&S has previously reviewed their album Ashes Fallen as well as Thy Will be Done.

Their most recent release, We Belong Nowhere, was put out this august.
So, what have they been up to since then? I reached out to member James Perry to investigate.

Recently, they were part of the ARG (Anti-Racist Goths) streaming festival. It took place on January 1st, but you can watch their segment of it here.

“It was a real honor to be a part of it,” member Perry tells me. “Davey Bones and company are great.” The band performed their songs “We Belong Nowhere,” “Blood Moon,” and “Unrequited.”

How has it been adapting to virtual/streaming instead of live concerts?

I guess the main thing I’d want to add around that is just that the fact that we’ve been able to put on virtual performances has opened some doors for us and enabled us to participate in some really great events including being on the bill with some acts we really love and that influenced us, so while it’s unfortunate we can’t get out there in person, the situation has also presented some great opportunity for us. I don’t see livestreaming as a “replacement” for in person live shows, just another vehicle we can use to create and get our music out there. Michelle has always wanted to be able to design stage shows for us but it’s just not practical when you’re going on second out of four bands on a Tuesday night and you have 10 minutes to set up, but when we’re performing at home, we can have all the time we want to make something special visually! Last September, Michelle and I moved to a turn of the 20th century converted church and have made that our home base for the band, and it’s been a great space for online performances!

Do you have plans to take part in any more online streaming festivals?

We will be playing at Virtual Temple 3 at the end of January (January 30th, at 7 PM Pacific / 10 PM Eastern), hosted by Temple in Salt Lake City. We’ve been lucky enough to be invited to perform at all three of their “Virtual Temple” events and they’ve been great, a lot of fun. We go way back with DJ Mistress Nancy, she’s a good friend. Hopefully someday we’ll get out to Salt Lake City to perform in person, and get to meet all the new people we’ve met online through live-streaming performances and virtual club nights and everything! That’s all we have scheduled for now though. We’ve been working hard on writing our next album, and we’ve decided to take a break from performance to allow ourselves time to get it finished.

I’d like to hear more about that next album. What new creative directions are you exploring with it?

We were a brand new band when we recorded and released our new album, and most of the songs were songs I’d already written and had performed as a solo artist, and we’d only played a few shows together. We all think our sound has evolved some, although I don’t think people who liked our first album will be disappointed or anything! We’ve made a conscious decision to simplify and strip down our sound somewhat. The arrangements aren’t nearly as busy. We’re still very much a gothic ROCK band with two guitar players, but we won’t be relying on thick, metal-type guitars so much of the time. Michelle and Jason are both contributing more to the songwriting this time out, and Michelle’s going to be doing more singing on this album.

As far as subject matter goes, the last couple of years have given us an awful lot to talk about! We’ve got songs in the works about the political situation in this country, letting go of the past and moving on, the pandemic, as well as the passing of my mother just a few months ago. She was the sweetest person you could ever hope to meet and my first inspiration to become a musician. We’ve also got a song in the works about Maila Nurmi, better known as Vampira. Michelle really wanted us to record an ode to her, and it should be a fun track! It’s not so much about the Vampira character, but the woman who created her, and how she created this amazing legendary vision that was so influential, and yet she had her creation essentially stolen from her, and then lived in utter poverty and isolation for decades before finding some modicum of recognition in her final years.

Wow, that sounds like a lot to look forward to. Any estimate on when it’ll be released?                               

It’s a little hard to say. We haven’t been able to get together as often as we’d like because of the pandemic and because “real life” gets in the way so often! We’re just about done writing it though, and just need to spend some time getting it all together. I’m hopeful we can have it out the first half of the year.

The singles we put out last year, “Thy Will Be Done” and “We Belong Nowhere” will be on the album too, and hopefully they give some indication as to where our sound is heading.

Thanks! Last question- any closing remarks for your fans?

Thank you all for your support and please stay healthy! We can’t wait to be able to perform in person again and dance and celebrate the darkness together again.

Black Rose Burning

S&S has written about Black Rose Burning before in a review of Open the Gate, listing it as one of the “Top Postpunk/Synthwave/Darkpop albums of 2020” at the end of December. High compliments! Open the Gate was released mid-November.

So, what have they been up to since then? I reached out to instrumentalist and producer George Grant for more information. Plan to expect, if all goes well, the release of a second record in spring.

Are you diving into any new stylistic territory or techniques on this new record?

I think it will retain my signature “sound” which I think is mostly my voice (I don’t hear too many – if any- like it in the genre, and I’ll probably be relying on a more synth-based production this time. A bit more experimental? Probably. Still infused with heavy hooks? Definitely also. I don’t think I’m ready to write my version of something like Pink Floyd’s Echo’s yet. But I will at some point.

You released a cover of Red Skies- The Fixx in the past. Any plans for more covers, potentially on this new record?

I have a few floating around on my drive – the one that looks most promising right now (if it ever actually happens) is what I think is a cool version of Buzzcocks “Ever Fallen in Love”. Anything else I’ve been toying with hasn’t gone far enough to even count yet.

Oh I absolutely love that song!

I also may be doing a collaboration with Scary Black closer to spring as well. We’ve talked on it – but haven’t made solid plans as of yet

That would be cool, I love Scary Black

Yeah I dig him a lot too. As a writer/musician and just as a person too

Now for a hardware question- have you treated yourself to any new gear in preparation for your upcoming music creation?

A LOT of software. I’m always looking for new sounds. The more ammo – the more sounds. As far as gear – I have so much already I couldn’t even think of what more I could need. I even dug out the theremin to see if I could use it on the new record! The recordings could easily turn into a free-for-all.

Yes! A theremin! I’ve got a kinda-theremin of my own, and it’s definitely great for weird noises. Can’t wait to hear you potentially use it. Any last thing you can tell your fans about the new album without spoiling too much?

If they liked the last one – this one will be even more epic. The first record was my training course...

Sounds and Shadows Top 20 Goth/Darkwave Albums of 2020

What an amazing year for the Goth/Darkwave genre. A lot of fresh talent has come forth to leave their mark. In equal measure are long term veterans that have risen from the darkness to give new offerings. Our team took on the unenviable task of choosing the releases that moved us most. We are not including singles or compilations. These are not by any means every band I bought and loved in 2020 for goth. These are all bands that released an original album in the year 2020 that built a haunted house in the ruined graveyard of my head and I want to share with you now.

20) Raven SaidBeyond the Darkest Hour – My favorite of the amazing wealth of goth sounds coming out of Russia. This is a high energy shadow punk driving acid spit flavor of Misfits and Batcave. Andrey Agapitov vocals are sinister, fluid, and have a unique meter I am in love with. The guitar riffs are scorching. It keeps hitting different layers and hitting them hard. This album really shows how wide and beautiful this genre stretches.

https://ravensaid.bandcamp.com/album/beyond-the-darkest-hour

19) The Wake – PERFUMES AND FRIPPERIES – This is another band that has a lot of accomplishment under their belts. They really optimize what I think of as the Midwest goth sound. The guitars have this awesome fire feel, like molten splatters flying towards you. The vocals are mature and a have a rich quality. Lots of organic sounding drums that give a urgency. This is a noteworthy return for a band that has stood the test.

https://thewakeus.bandcamp.com/album/perfumes-and-fripperies

18) Rosetta Stone – Cryptology – So Rosetta Stone have been around for the long haul. They continue to put out exciting music and have been a staple in the genre. This album has a wonderful stripped down flavor. It makes it feel very intimate. “Valiant Try” is a straight up jam. I think what really captured me was that this was a familiar voice but they really peeled the mask off and gave you a look at a deeper layer.

https://rosettastoneuk.bandcamp.com/

17) WitchHands- Unto Death – Call it Death rock, Doom rock, Goth, ect. Just make sure to call it one of our top albums this year. Thick rumbling bass, slashing energy whip guitars. All called forth by Ryan’s mad carnival caller vocals. He spins tales with the conviction and charisma of a tent revival preacher. I think the biggest thing to hear is the massive step forward for their production levels so you can hear the power of every aspect. It’s glorious to behold and makes me want more WitchHands.

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

16) The Kentucky Vampire – Crimson Curse – Hailing from shockingly, Kentucky, here is another band that brings old school sinister pipe organ and fire bright guitar riffs. From Secret Sin records the tone and emotion of their 5 records is everything true fans of 80’s death rock long for. Abbas has a haunting voice full of chorus and foreboding. Brandon of Sonsombre does mastering for them and helps add a sense of continuity to this new goth sound. This record really highlighted the return of wicked guitar riffs in modern goth music.

https://thekentuckyvampires.bandcamp.com/album/crimson-curse

15) Astari Nite – Here Lies – This album has that captivating power of The Cure “Disintegration“. The music is like a tapestry woven before your eyes. The vocals are a heart cry that begs and pleads and owned me from the start. The guitar leads are a gorgeous second vocal melody that winds through the songs with an intricate voice of it’s own. This is more of the romantic aspect of goth music. Get ready to fall in a deep pool of meaning.

https://astarinitengp.bandcamp.com/album/here-lies

14) The Cult Sounds – The Cult Sounds – This was another pleasant surprise I got this year. Adrian got me into this band. The strength and range of the vocals here is astounding. I think the most amazing ability of this band was the ability to emote dynamics by changing the structure from verse to chorus. I love the retro power of a Black Sabbath power chorus back into a dreamy romantic goth style. You can really hear the ability of the musicians wielding their talent to maximum effect. I expect huge things for this band.

https://thecultsounds.bandcamp.com/album/the-cult-sounds-remixed-remastered

13) Pilgrims of Yearning – Forsaken Lands

I have reviewed a few singles from the Boston witchy harvest dark rock. It’s striking and powerful, hints of Switchblade Symphony with a brighter flowing tang. Juls Garat has an angelic choir of a voice and gets offset by thunder rich basslines from Sean Woodbury. Claudio Marcio does a double duty on bonfire wall guitars and snapping drum sounds. I like the curt furious pace. This album was a long time coming and for an opening salvo it was really worth the wait. I love the Cure Standing on the Beach singles hectic jerk worldview to dark music. They really know how to strip it down and draw you in, then when they have you in the trap they spring the jaws. Favorite tracks: The Besieged Bachanalia, and The Visitor.

The standard is set for a new force in dark rock music. This is a journey worth taking with a very mystical and stormy feel. They are on my new list of must follows for all future release.

https://pilgrimsofyearning.bandcamp.com/

12) Shadow Assembly – Arcane Fusion The sophomore offering after their debut “Ghostcrawl” a twisted and brooding rock driven concoction with Brandon Prybus of Sonsombre. This new album opens the portal of darkness even further by using a different vocalist/lyricist for every track. This album is not only a prism of the wide varieties in modern gothic rock, but also a who’s who of the vocal talent of the current scene. I will act as your ferryman on the River Styx as I lead you through each track on this modern classic.

Overall this album is a synthesis of talent that really highlights what is possible when you have a maestro that knows and loves the music other artists make and finds a way to make each tone flow together to build something greater than the some of it’s parts. It is currently available on bandcamp for digital download and a CD run. If you want a good place to place your finger on the pulse of modern goth, this album is a great place to start.

https://shadowassembly.bandcamp.com/album/arcane-fusion

11) The Birthday Party MassacreDiamonds – Look they are one of the biggest names in the modern genre and that’s for good reason. The gorgeous production pushes this towards darkpop (which is not a bad thing). It’s driving, passionate, and the drum builds and transitions are ungodly. This record feels like running through the darkest parts of Hogwarts. Yes it has a child like innocence about it, but at the same time a depth and soul. TBPM still have a lot of ground to cover in their journey.

https://thebirthdaymassacre.bandcamp.com/album/diamonds

10) Rosegarden Funeral Party – At The Stake – I have shockingly never reviewed an album from the Dallas TX traditional goth explosion. I’ve heard singles but never dove in head first and I’m not afraid to admit that was dumb. Sinister reverb guitars, blistering transitions, and laser strike vocals. Leah  is a force of raw untamed storm winds striking out at an unsuspecting world. It’s haunting and full of driving pop hooks. Consider me won, consider me a fan. Favorite tracks : Torture DeclineFear of Feeling NothingJustification.

https://rosegardenfuneralparty.bandcamp.com/album/at-the-stake

9) Caroline Blind –The Spell Between – Caroline has been a mainstay for so long in this scene. Sunshine Blind “Liquid” was one of those albums that really showed me how much more the goth sound could be. This album features years of reflection and a power and beauty of delivery that makes me well up with emotion. The surrounding musicians she brought in to add depth and shading to the tracks are an all star list of talent. A powerful voice to remind us of the past and excite us for the future.

https://carolineblind.bandcamp.com/album/the-spell-between

8) SOPOR AETERNUS & The Ensemble Of Shadows – Island of the Dead – Honestly this is one of those bands I am embarrassed I didn’t already know about. I heard this on the Pat 626 show and I fell instantly in love. It’s dark, quirky, and utterly unique. It has a mystical and theatrical quality full of poetry and intensity. Brooding and whip crack sharp with hammer dulcimers and vocal deliver as sharp as a dagger. Music like this is my dark secret passion. More Harpsichords in goth NOW!

https://soporaeternus.bandcamp.com/album/island-of-the-dead-2020

7) Mary – Die Before Death – My newest goth obsession from Toronto. It is fast paced, spicy, with an old school New York feel. Strong sweeping vocals with a lot of depth and meaning. It also has a complete album feel with the sweeping tempo and dynamic shifts. Take me through the full range of emotions in one record. Another Cold Transmission signing. I expect big things in the future from him. This album is my sleeper pick of someone I was not familiar with before but will be heavily invested in ever future release.

https://maryofficial.bandcamp.com/album/die-before-death

6) A Covenant Of Thorns – Black -I have been waiting on this release for a long time. It’s what inspired me to write this piece. Scott-David Allen is a true master of this idea. He has been making songs of heart rending sadness and beauty for decades. I can honestly say this is an opus. The best I have heard yet. The production level here is next level with it’s Depeche Mode level darkpop and his amazing voice pushed to the front where it conveys a delicate yearning and sadness which is lost in the modern era. The whole record is a pilgrimage to the top of a mountain where he offers up his heart like a saint to the object of his love. The passion and idea are so raw but the mixing and song writing is done with a craft that shows the dedication such a personal offering deserves. YOU NEED THIS RECORD! (He screams from the rooftops)

Top Tracks: All of them…

but Numb – A gorgeous synthwave love poem full of hope and expression

Signs of Life – Damn it is hard to pick but this track is so crispy. Allen’s voice is everywhere on this one. The feeling cuts to deep and love lies at your feet. The chorus just opens up like a bird flying over the sea. It’s so bright and dark at the same time in perfect balance.

Choke – This one has a little more edge and sinister to it, but it is still yearning. Because sometimes a little kink can still be romantic.

https://acot.bandcamp.com/album/black

5) Black Angel – Kiss of Death – London UK artist Black Angel is putting the bat cave rock back into death rock. I feel so much of The Mission and later Sisters dancy flow to gothic rock. Their music reminds me so much of the goth club scene, swinging arms, leather and lace. Gothic music has always been tied to expression with the body, that is something Matt Vowel’s has grasp and fused into the future. The use of banging rock guitar riffs with a southern flare really created something fresh and memorable.

https://blackangelmusic.bandcamp.com/album/kiss-of-death

4) Crying VesselPleasures For The Wicked – Slade and Basil also bringing that softer dark edge to gothic rock. Horror author Slade is integrating imagery of the macabre an sinister with a glam razamtaz feel. Gorgeous layered production and flange rich echo’s that simmer with Bowie and Love and Rockets. That special darkness you find on the edge of a rainbow after a storm. Available on Cleopatra Records.

https://cryingvessel.bandcamp.com/album/pleasures-for-the-wicked

3) Night Nail – March to Autumn – Two things made this album incredible for me. 1) The complexity. The layers, instrumentation, lyrics, it all has a depth to it that doesn’t seem to be the goal of a lot of darkwave. 2) How genuine it feels. I have interviewed Brandon and I know he is one of those rare souls that when I hear his music, I feel like who I am seeing is the exact person on the album. The album also has the rich treat of Valentina (VV and the Void) providing additional vocals and keys for contrast and perspective that adds shading and definition. This is an album to think to.

https://music.nightnail.com/

2) IamtheshadowPitchblack – When I think of goth, I think of passion and vocals that capture a room. Lisbon Portugal’s IAMTHESHADOW does that in spades. Pedro Code has the best baritone in modern goth. It’s sexy, crooning, dangerous music that sounds like a full bodied red first touching your lips. It’s music to give yourself over and get lost in. Like the first time you heard Peter Murphy and thought this is the sound that encapsulates the image I want to see in the mirror. This album was a perfect bridge of the old school organic and the new school electronic. Like a chemist finding that perfect balance of styles. Now on Cold Transmission Music.

https://iamtheshadow.bandcamp.com/album/pitchblack-2

  1. Sonsombre1000 Graves – This album really shows a band finding themselves. I feel like the success of TVOE really gave a confidence to embrace more of what they are. The guitars are a giant black furred wolf growling with hair standing on end. The bass is a thundering storm bellowing out a foreboding prophesy of an uncertain future. The keyboard is rushing wind stirring the leaves on a damp autumn morning. Brandon’s voice is a dangerous and sinister whisper full of echo’s making a spectral challenge. These lyrics are a forgotten poetry of Byron and Poe singing to that darkest part of our nature. I know this review is starting to get pretty metaphorical but poetry demands poetry and Sonsombre makes me want to embrace the dark poet in my own heart. In my opinion no one is doing more to forward the rebirth of goth music in the modern era than Brandon and crew. They are leading the charge and wearing giant brimmed hats while doing it.

https://sonsombre.bandcamp.com/album/one-thousand-graves-2

It’s Time To Bring the Romance Back To Goth Music.

So dark music/goth has always run a parallel for with me Romanticism. Love, loss, passion, distance, these ideas that Robert Smith perfected and were such a intimate part of that original concept. Then as the scene evolved and became broader the norm stretched further from that idea. Today as the wind is chill and the leaves have abandoned the trees I am thinking about bands that are still pluming the depths of this idea. As a song writer the most difficult thing for me to write is a genuine love song, that captures the feeling but doesn’t step over into cheese. I tried to come up with examples of releases I have not previously discussed on the page.

A Covenant of Thorns: Black – I have been waiting on this release for a long time. It’s what inspired me to write this piece. Scott-David Allen is a true master of this idea. He has been making songs of heart rending sadness and beauty for decades. I can honestly say this is an opus. The best I have heard yet. The production level here is next level with it’s Depeche Mode level darkpop and his amazing voice pushed to the front where it conveys a delicate yearning and sadness which is lost in the modern era. The whole record is a pilgrimage to the top of a mountain where he offers up his heart like a saint to the object of his love. The passion and idea are so raw but the mixing and song writing is done with a craft that shows the dedication such a personal offering deserves. YOU NEED THIS RECORD! (He screams from the rooftops)

https://acot.bandcamp.com/album/black

Top Tracks: All of them…

but Numb – A gorgeous synthwave love poem full of hope and expression

Signs of Life – Damn it is hard to pick but this track is so crispy. Allen’s voice is everywhere on this one. The feeling cuts to deep and love lies at your feet. The chorus just opens up like a bird flying over the sea. It’s so bright and dark at the same time in perfect balance.

Choke – This one has a little more edge and sinister to it, but it is still yearning. Because sometimes a little kink can still be romantic.

Creux Lies : Blue – New single out from Sacramento’s favorite dark dreamers has thundering drums to drive is golden thread poetry. It’s a thicker richer sound than phenomenal 2018 release “The Hearth“. Ean’s voice is wide as the ocean and and dances on the mist. It’s really hard to capture the range and beauty of Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen) but I feel like that is exactly what happens. My secret favorite part is the outro with old school lofi keyboards. I need a whole hell of a lot more of this and I need it now!

https://creuxlies.bandcamp.com/

Twin Tribes (Cult of Alia Remix) : Perdidos – Twin Tribes has mastered the post punk passion and sultry beauty of bands like The Cure. This latest remix by Cult of Alia is a softer more subtitle ghostly whisper tantalizing love lost beyond the void. the pulsing keyboard rhythms take the place of driving bass and conjure images of haunted towers. I’m so hungry for another Twin Tribes album, but this was a welcome repose.

https://twintribes.bandcamp.com/track/perdidos-cult-of-alia-remix

Selofan: Partners in Hell – This gorgeous Greek darkwave really deserves it’s own full review. I am embarrassed to say I have not written a review of them yet and they really deserve it. Per the theme I am going to focus on the track “There Must Be Somebody“. Driving mod synth tones flow down a moonlit river while a women in white calls forth with longing. This is beauty and horror blended together in true gothic fashion. Joanna Pavlidou’s voice is heavy with heart and touches you with icy clarity. Pavlidis’s basslines and chorus of synthesizers create a water color image of stormy regret and movement. Why have I not spent more time with this band?

https://selofan.bandcamp.com/album/partners-in-hell

Mortal Boy: Chronoception – LA darkwave band which is beautiful as it is intense. I love the Richard Butler flavor to the vocals. The star strike guitars really add a wonderful contrast to the darkwave style. This is definitely music full of plum red wines and flickering candles. It drips of both passion and loss. Favorite track “Kiss Me Poison” which combines all the best parts of the vocals and woven tapestry. If you have a special goth partner in your life, this is the music they want to hear as you bring out a romantic dinner.

https://mortalboy.bandcamp.com/

The Secret French Postcards: Colours – New Cold Transmission Music release from Sweden. I love the post punk feel and organic drum sounds that add clarity and precision to this droning croon. This album is the moment in the movie where the protagonist looks across a crowded club and locks eyes with their soulmate. Olli’s vocals are drenched in warm and earnest love. Offset by resonating guitar lines and keyboard cascades by (IAMTHESHADOW) Pedro Code. It’s feels modern and fresh while the melodic vocal chant reminds me of Steve Kilbey (The Church). This is a band I keep feeling grow with every release. This one is out on 12/11/20 and preorder is available now.

https://thesecretfrenchpostcards.bandcamp.com/album/colours-2

Lust For Youth: Lust For Youth – Self titled album from the Danish synthpop band giving huge New Order vibes, which is never a bad thing. This record feels like staring at the sky while rain falls down. It’s cool, it’s stark, and it reminds you why you want to keep hoping for more. I was two tracks in and I’m already a believer. They aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but they are doing something familiar very well. A dark tone while centering in on lyrical hope. My favorite track was “Great Concerns“. This album was a journey of connection and the power of the human experience.

https://lustforyouth.bandcamp.com/album/lust-for-youth

Korine: The Night We Raise – I have been deeply in love with this band since Twin Tribes played them for me on our podcast. From Philly this band is glorious dark dream slush with encompassing vocals and swirling synths. This new album from Sept took another step forward in production and clarity. It also has a razor fang edge to the beauty of the music. Sometimes love bites hard and while wrapped in a velvet glove of tone Korine cuts you to the quick. This is a record you really need to spend the extra moment with and peal back the layers. The cotton candy sweet on your tongue is truly just the first layer.

https://korine.bandcamp.com/


What are your favorite romantic dark tracks I missed? Post them below 🙂

Cold Transmission Makes It Easy

Sometimes being a music reviewer is hard. Mainly because I am lazy. So rather than digging through my stacks tonight in search of new music. I will turn to the very trustworthy source of Cold Transmission Music and their new Zeitgeist 13. CT takes great pride in their ear for fresh worldwide talent. So this compilation is a wonderful place to get 32 handpicked bands masterly mastered by the amazing Pete Burns for under $5. These were my first impression stand outs.

https://coldtransmissionmusic.bandcamp.com/album/zeitgeist-vol-13

HallowTalk to Her – One of my favorite new CT bands. This song had a racing heartbeat and a booming Chameleon’s base wave. The vocals do this beautiful delayed explosion and drip with longing. Every time I started and stopped listening today, I always came back to this track.

IamnooneSolve et Coagula – Giving a little taste of Britpop Stone Roses flavor with a constant high speed Bernard Sumner guitar downward drone. Really keeps the cadence and lifeforce.

RaskolnikovFall Colors – Really cool Swiss band that caught my attention. This unceasing keyboard drone never lets to fall to the skeletons chasing you, or get to close to the one of your future. I love the lilting OMD sound in the vocals. There is a no trend I’m loving of beautiful melodic vocals in post punk. Let’s try and limit the amount of Ian Curtis baritone monotone. It really took me to an Autumn state of mind.

https://raskolnikovmusic.bandcamp.com/

EchoberylListen To Oblivion – This French duo really brings the heat. I feel like this should be the updated cyber sexy theme to Carmen Sandiego. Cecillia has a cold burst of sparkling air quality to her voice and adds depth and texture to the driving beat.

Paradise CoveLost – Sometimes you want to hear a band reinvent the wheel and sometimes you want the razor sharp syncopation of post punk. The the vocals come in with a passionate and pleading chant that hooks me in. It’s a slow burn scorcher worth the wait.

Cut CityReplacement – What a breath of fresh air in doom and gloom. This has the crisp drums and power push of post punk. It couples it with a bright and crackling sound. I think I heard major chords. I feel a lot of early 2000s New York here. Lovely crooning vocals to pair for a gripping and soulful smash. Must dig deeper into this band from Sweden.

https://cutcity.bandcamp.com/

Clone CultureThey Shoot, I Die – Italian Post punk rockers bring a nice dash of glam to this Nextwave ballad. I love when you hear a band just blends well. It really shines through when it is effortless like this. This track has one of those chorus hooks that sticks to your head like honey to the bowl.

CamlannTo Vatican – Absurdly young and talented Indonesian band unleashed this song that is both exotic and passionate. The vocals are haunting and expressive in a way that captures me. I have such high hopes for the future of darkwave with young spirits like these leading the charge into the future.

Empathy TestMonsters – Look I have spent a lot of time talking about Empathy Tests titanic album Monsters. It’s a top contender for our album of the year. Basically if you don’t have Monsters, you need Monsters.

https://empathy-test.bandcamp.com/album/monsters

Bedless BonesCreation – My hands down favorite band from Estonia has given an exclusive track for this compilation. They always have such a surreal swirl to their sound. The drums are built for war and the keyboards contract that primitive echo with an electronic wisp. This is dream fuel music.

https://bedlessbones.bandcamp.com/

Two MoonsSecond Life – Had not heard this band before but it was a pleasant surprise. A totally unique quirk Nick Cave feel to the vocals. The music is cinematic and had perfect ebbs and flows. I will be immediately seeking out there catalog.

Plague GardenLost – Snake slither true traditional goth with darkwave dreams will always make my list. This done with expert precision by some dear friends from Colorado. This flowing narrative is rich and the setting is a desolate wasteland of sorrow. Love this band, love the track.

https://plaguegarden.bandcamp.com/releases

The Neu NeonCrush – This Berlin band is scorching florescent motorcycle synthabilly brain candy. It’s driving, beautiful, and always feels inches from speeding off the cliff. This sound mixes the best parts of 10 things I love.

https://theneuneon.bandcamp.com/

Kalte NachtInmost Desire? – Hot sounds from Athens Greece. The vocalist has that Shannon Light Asylum force and 70’s punk rock aggression. It cooks a long at breakneck darkwave. I had never heard this band before but believe me they are on my radar now. This is the power of a good compilation.

https://kaltenacht.bandcamp.com/releases

Berlin TaxiCount On U – Sleezy dark NOLA streets drip from these elegant and shimmering vocals. The music is wonderfully subtle and blends the power of the voice perfectly. I would like some more please.

https://berlintaxi.bandcamp.com/

Did I listen to every track? Your bet your sweet bippy I did. They were all worth it. However these are the songs that really grabbed hold. You are going to be hard pressed to get a better playlist for this price.