When I ranked Black Angel “Kiss of Death” in the top 5 goth albums of 2020 it was largely due to their ability to bring back something to gothic music I feared lost forever. Adrenalin fueled hard rock. These are deep rich tones and sexy shadowy gothic concepts. With early Mission semi truck baselines and buzz saw guitar work cutting through your conciseness. The video is a beautiful high production old school MTV cinematic affair. True LA glamor style done with a London posh darkness.
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 is a California-based gothic rock band composed of James Perry (lead vocals, guitar), Jason Shaw (guitar), and Michelle Perry (vocals, percussion, keyboard, art).
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...
One of the things I love most about the current Goth/Industrial is the sense of community. If there is pettiness or competition between this wave of post goth, I am yet to see it. Having that level of support for each others projects can lead to some beautiful artistic cross over and collaboration. Michael Louis of Twilight Chronic took a twisted ritual dagger and jammed it in his own ego to birth the modern goth superband Shadow Assembly.
Arcane Fusion is 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.
Beneath The Rows: Feat (Brandon Prybus of Sonsombre) When you think gothic rock in 2020 you think of Brandon. This opening track is a rumbling mid tempo growler perfectly suited to Brandon’s voice. It’s a cloak flapping in the wind, booted feet crushing worms on grave dirt. It’s icy wind on your face and howling a ghostly whisper in your ear. This hard stomping concept is a rethought soundtrack for Children of the Corn.
Plaything: Feat (Marselle Hodges of The Blue Hour) What a lovely transition. This is the first video from the album. It’s a sexy Switchblade Symphony style banshee swamp ballad. Full of mist and silk. I love the blend of sizzling guitar rifts and ghostly wails. This track made me an immediate fan of Marselle.
Down With The Dead: (Feat vISION) This is a fierce chanting call from a squirming mass grave. A lot of mid 2000 shock goth flavor. A mass grave rave rolling through the mud with lost souls and carrion creatures.
My Ophelia: (Michael Louis of Twilight Chronic) Absolute banger old school gothic rock. The palm muted guitar riff here just drives on an empty street full of twists and turns. Michael’s voice is a depthless echo calling out a deathwish in the labyrinth darkness. You really hear the soul poured into this song.
Cult of Ishtar (Feat: Ariel Manikj and the Black Halos) This track is a ritual of summoning. Ariel’s vocals are exotic and delivered with intention. The bass line here is darkfunk explosion. A lost ruin of wild vines and blood sacrifice. I found myself wondering back into this sinister scene again and again. Time for me to start diving into Costa Rica goth.
Release The Ravens (Feat: Ken Magerman of Amaranth) Ok this is weird, I can’t review because…it’s me. I will talk about it though. I was highly honored when ask to be a part of this. Doing guest vocals and lyrics on someone else’s music is always bizarre. I tried to summon someone else, outside my usual style for Amaranth. Michael crafted this beautiful ballad and I kept picturing this person in isolation sending messenger ravens to a lost love now beyond their reach. Collin really captured a different me like the pro he is. Goth music really falls into that crooning baritone these days and I wanted to use my sing songy higher range. I feel like it had that perfect blend of cheese and power.
Green Farie (Feat: Nino Sable of Aeon Sable) If you have ever chased the green farie you know the surreal slither of the veil between worlds. Nino has that perfect muted horn twang to their voice. The lovely harpsichord sound of this delicate ballad is the adhesive that holds this evaporating beauty in tact. A very Dead Can Dance medieval goth resurgence. I can’t get enough of this track.
Dr. Dealer (Michael Louis) Another track from Michael this one slow and brooding with a slushy trancelike guitar riff. His voice is a chorus and of demonic voices in a psychedelic swirl. Mainline a spike of shadows and sink into the floor.
Lost Places, Forgotten Faces (Feat: Andrey Agapitov of Raven Said) One of the most underrated bands in the goth scene from Russia. This one is a spiral staircase spinner. Andrey whispers and croons from beneath shadows. The keyboard and guitars lull you into dream until the verse strikes again with a fearful energy. This song was meant for spinning on the dancefloor.
Woman Torn (Feat: Rod Hanna of October Burns Black) Modern hard rock goth artists Hanna brings out that southern style Fields of the Nephilim dirge energy to this synth and guitar rich midnight sky ballad. I love the sliding effect on the guitars and how it blends with his chorus rich voice. Bringing the past into stark relief in the present
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.
Goth music and culture has always been rooted firmly in the past. It often has felt this subculture awards time served in the scene and knowledge of the obscure history of the bands, clubs, and fashion of our progenitors. However in order for a culture to carry on it must evolve and strike a chord in future generations. This happened in the 90s, then again in the mid 2000’s as new waves of goth music found and audience. Each time adding to the story by paying homage to the generations before it. As time went on “Goth” has splintered into smaller subgenres which have pushed further from that original concept until a tangled and complex web reached towards the edges of other genres. I for one embrace how rich and diverse the concept of goth culture has become. In future articles I want to explore some of these subgenres and how they are impacting modern music. In this article I will be focusing on the return to the core. That first idea of guitar driven dark music, with throbbing basslines, ethereal keyboards, and haunted lyrics with romantic natures.
1st Wave: The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Killing Joke, Bauhaus, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, The Birthday Party, Sisters of Mercy, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Fields of the Nephilim, The Mission.
2nd Wave: Rosetta Stone, Nosferatu, The Wake, Children On Stun, Dead Can Dance, Lycia
3rd Wave: Angels of Liberty, Merciful Nuns, Switchblade Symphony, O’Children, Ritual Howls, Pink Turns Blue, The Horrors, Sunshine Blind, Golden Apes, Black Tape For a Blue Girl, Razed In Black.
Finally a new slew of darklings is raising that torch and producing the next wave of goth rock. I think it is key that these are bands who came up listening to the post synthesis goth and found their way back to the root. It gets me excited for the future.
Sonsombre – Leading the charge in this next wave. A band now signed on goth mainstay label Cleopatra. Sonsombre brings back that electric tempo and graveyard theme with flickering guitar riffs that flow like a fencers duel. You can feel that early outlaw goth Fields of the Nephilim on their 4 amazing albums. With no sign of slowing down. If you are ready to jump into that next wave, this is a great place to start.
The Kentucky Vampires: 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.
Scary Black: Another amazing new goth act from Louisville KY. What the hell is in the water out there. This is a one person band that has such electric energy and frightening tone. Singer Albie has one of those deep baritone voices that comes from the bottom of a well and fills you up with emotion. 3 albums and the napalm fire single Starlight Dancer.
Twin Tribes: These lovely lads from Texas have taken the world by storm. Dreamy private ritual sounds that bring the beauty and heartbeat of The Cure back into the mainstream. Tender poetry and swirling texture smoldering in a cauldron on a moonlit night. Already with two breakout albums and additional singles they are setting the standard for the softer side of gothic rock.
Black Angel: 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.
IAMTHESHADOW: 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. Now on Cold Transmission Music.
Cliff and Ivy: Alaska’s favorite goth couple Cliff and Ivy have brought back the isolated howling wolf tooth and nail of goth. The punk blend of The Damned and Alien Sex Fiend. It’s raw, fierce, and unapologetic. Ivy takes the back of your head with her beautiful prose, then smashes your nose with a headbutt of power. Cliffs thick guitar riffs are a growling beast let off the chain. Iron Gauntlet in a velvet glove.
Crying Vessel: 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.
Mary: 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.
Death Loves Veronica: This lovely lady from Texas brings that same Souxie dripping soul and witchcraft elegance to modern goth. It’s smoky and pours straight from the vein into your ears. Really nice use of guitar to add weight in the right moments. Goth needs to echo through the listener on a personal level. You need to feel what they feel and that is what Veronica captures so elegantly.
Sounds Like Winter: All the way from Australia Art Banister’s popping sharp edge retro feel goth rock has a lot of that true early Joy Division/Warsaw vibe in the drum and tempo. The vocals are forceful and ringing in a hopeless monotone. All that fuzz and emptiness given flesh.
Adoration Destroyed: Also from Texas this band is leather pants sexy in musical form. Masters of blending modern pop and old school shadow shock. It’s animalistic and winding with crackling electric dance destruction. Erik has a voice that calls to you come hither and has a 10/10 on the shake that ass factor.
Orcus Nullify: The doom and shattering gothic rock sound and poetry unafraid to lean into the cheese and imagery of early goth. Thunderous bass driven rock about bog witches and grave dirt. I love the courage and delivery of this South Carolina sensation
Witchhands: Colorado doom metal with raw open wound sounds full of decay and ritual. That place where early goth rock stayed into metal and pain. Spewing forth a filth and blood soaked pageantry with blistering guitars mashed with organs and echos.
Redwing Blackbird: Another Colorado band with blistering speed and The Damned edge punk feel mixed with true goth sensibility. This album picked me up when i am feeling low…and then sends me low again. Great production and electric tempo.
Amaranth: Ken, do you have the strength of character to not engage in shameless self promotion and include yourself with this wave of goth bands? Fuck No! I feel good about the music we have made coming back. It veers from old school to proggoth/ to industrial but fuck it, it’s good. Give it a listen 🙂
I also wanted to call out a few bands that rose from the grave to join the modern scene but have been making music all along 🙂
Caroline Blind: The stunning voice from Sunshine Blind has returned to cut an amazing solo album. Bringing in a who’s who from third wave goth to accompany her on this soulful and rich goth endeavor with a more organic feel. Her voice grabs hold of the heart strings and rides your into the ground. Breathtaking music contributions from Rich W. (The Wake), David Wolfenden (Red Lorry Yellow Lorry), Dave (The Dramedy), Ashe Ruppe (Delphine Coma), George Earth (Switchblade Symphony), Gordon Young (Pretentious Moi, Dream Disciples, Children on Stun), CWHK (Sunshine Blind), William Faith (Bellwether Syndicate, Faith and the Muse) and Geoff Bruce (Sunshine Blind, Faith and the Muse). Everyone who shows up hear really shows the impact of this artist on the scene and how much power this newest release packs.
The Wake: Speaking of The Wake, they have just unleashed a new album in 2020 and it is game changing outstanding. This record is going to get it’s own review but to not mention the power of this release would be an oversight. Such a sky opening laser of guitar beams interlaced with velvet smooth vocals and a canopy of bass to hold it inside. My breath is taken.
The Cassandra Complex: Rodney Orpheus of London’s Cassandra Complex has been keeping the goth sound alive for years. A tantalizing and sinister painting of sound with the history of human experience brought shining and new with each release. Recently on bandcamp he put out some remasters of those lovely goth anthems back into the light. A true crooner of the poetic experience of early goth music who actually toured with the early progenitors.
I didn’t come close to hitting everything, and with facebook now stopping videos, lists like this on our page might be the best bet for a full playlist of new music. So If I missed something you feel meets the requirement of guitar based goth made in the last 4 years. Please add in the comments and I will try and get it included. Much love, Precious Ken.
I posted about who are the new bands leading the charge in new traditional goth. Goth has evolved, splintered, reformed, and become 100 new sub genres. When you talk about the original roots of goth the conversation tends to draw back to the original 80’s bands. In the last two years that is changing drastically. The hunger for dark fast paced gothic guitar rock has given rise to a new generation of that original stream. Matt Vowels and Black Angel from London are releasing a new album that captures that spirit, puts it on a ghost ship, puts that ship in a dusty bottle, and leaves it in a haunted mansion for some unsuspecting baby bat to discover.
Produced by Matt Vowles. Recorded and Mastered at The Manor Copyright Solid Recordings 2020
The new record jumps in with the title track “Kiss of Death” a haunting sly keyboard swell. As the slashing violet lasers of guitar break into the tempo you are transported back to the storied heroes of goth. The Cult, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission rise from their graves with this driving bass beat and snapping snares. I’m loving the expertly blended vocals and chaotic harmonies that give real Vision Thing vibes.
Next up is “Animal” and where Kiss of Death was a builder, this song comes out of the gate with thunder and dancer touch guitar taps. That bass line is feral and stalking. It’s a hungry song that owns a dance floor.
Track 8 “She Said” brings the weight level down and intros with a beautiful ringing acoustic guitar ala The Cure. This song feels like a black convertible car on an open road racing away from a stormy sky.
I love how this album matches everything I love about rock and goth together. It’s sleek, it’s sexy, and it keeps the pace up while flowing through peaks and valleys. The vocals are rich and have a bit of southern soul. I think Matt is using this album to make a strong argument his name in this new wave with Sonsombre, The Kentucky Vampires, and others. Long Live Goth.