In the past 4 years German based label Cold Transmission has been responsible for amassing and growing some of the greatest talent in the modern darkscene. Andreas and Suzy Herrmann have created a music label experience that feels like family. With a hawk’s eye for talent and a focus on growing creative expression. They have built up an amazing roster of talent around the world. Here in their second compilation to celebrate their releases you can experience some of the best and brightest for one low price. Mastered by the talented Pete Burns of Kill Shelter and featuring artwork of Yvonne Kiel this CD is a who’s who of the modern darkscene. In addition to the amazing music compiled, a portion of the proceeds is donated for humanitarian purposes in Ukraine. I wish I could review every track on this stellar offering, but I will shine a light on a few highlights.
IAMTHESHADOW – On Winter Leaves Embrace – Pedro Code has a once in a lifetime voice. The Portuguese darkwave artist is the flagship of Cold Transmission. An emotive passion sailing a turbulent sea of beauty and melancholy that moves the heart of everyone who hears it.
NIGHT NAIL – Co-Morbid – Our dear friends in Berlin the abstract shadow rock of Night Nail. I love the complex and unique beauty with a focus on emotional impact over hook. Dynamic and courageous changes with interesting instrumentation. Night Nail treads fresh ground like protogoths Bauhaus while creating a style solely their own.
Camlann – I’m Nobody – The ridiculously talented young folk from Indonesia. How I wish that I sounded this way when I was their age. It is sleek, passionate, and overflows with a unique darkness. This band has such a bright future set out before them.
The Ending Nights – A Landscape To Die – Another project of Pedro Code. This a apocalypse death disco offering to sum up the last few years. Precision , Execution, Beauty, Passion, swirling in a violet fog. A transcendent art piece to speak to turbulent times.
PALAIS IDEAL – Age Of Intransigence – Netherlands post prog rockers John Edwards and Richard van Kruysdijk continue to create some of the most dynamic and intelligent science fiction thought rock in the scene. This is music that displays technique and ability while challenging you to higher thought.
MARY – Devouring Me – I genuinely feel this 2020 release from Toronto is one of the most underrated records in recent time. Driving and intense basslines that cast rippling waves is a crystal pool. I love the cadence and timber of the vocals. This feels like 4 clashing brilliant minds carried out by one train of thought. I really hope we get another album from Mary soon.
Mark E Moon – Hearts Keep Bleeding – From the Isle of Man this track is a demo version of the crooning old school goth style of Mark Sayle. Their album Old Blood in 2021 was a true opus for one of the strongest examples of trad goth in the modern age.
DEAD LIGHTS – Plastic Girl – London based sinister synths that recently had a top single on the S & S darkscene charts. It is dance and deadly with captivating vocals that lift your feet off the ground. The type of glamourous dance floor beats that cannot be ignored.
Dead Astronauts – She Haunts Me – Seattle dark synth stars continue to sound years ahead of their time. 2021 album Silhouettes is a memorizing conversation of internal dialog and duet relationship that sends the listener on a journey. I highly recommend that journey.
Death Loves Veronica – Burn – The Texas demon lounge smoky vocal tendrils paint sinister pictures with visceral imagery and stained glass synth walls. The German label supports many American talents and Veronica continues to grow and impress.
I could have easily talked about several more bands here I love. The point is this compilation and this label are offering a gate way into some of the best darkscene music the world has to offer. 38 tracks for 15 dollars is an absolute steal.
Another Wed in mid November and I have the Oscura Festival fast approaching. This may be my last chance until December to write some reviews of the glorious new music that is being released. As always these are darkscene bands that have caught my attention and need to be shared. If you have a release we need to hear hit us up on Sounds and Shadows.
Modal Citizan – Idolatry – The lads from Virginia beach have released a new 4 song EP. Have you ever wondered what if NIN “The Downward Spiral” and Clutch engaged in unholy union to spew forth a jagged baseball bat rolled in broken glass and started taking wild swings at an unsuspecting populous sounded like? Now you need not wonder. Horror film builds and chaotic drum beats, thunderous funk metal bass from Sean Waff, and screeching heart string vocals from Ryan Jones. I love the tight turn into electronic dance beats from their November 2020 album “Control Alter Deplete“. They really comprehend the power of dynamic contrast to tell a story. Adam Fueston unleashes slashing electro whip guitars that pick just the right moment to sear their impact. It’s mean, it’s jaded, it’s rowdy.
Favorite Track: Expanse – A true emotional firehose that encapsulates the anger and aggression while baring the quiet emotional turmoil of keyboards and poetry. Jones goes deep into character thrashing and jerking like a person processed by a demon riding a bull.
Sapphira Vee – Breath of You – I always love a new single from Sapphira, I especially love it when it goes to such an important cause. Cat Hall, a cervical cancer survivor, agreed to collaborate on this single, as well as our good friend Jim Marcus of Go Fight contributing a remix, having lost his mother to cervical cancer. This single is being released in the month of October, in observance of Women’s Cancer Awareness Month. The track also has remixes from frequent contributor Melodywhore, Ratio Strain, and Federico Balducci. Sapphira shows a Cheshire cat grin to her voice. The deep buzzing pad synths move like columns of stone while the chanting words preach a resilience and vulnerability. Each version creates a vastly different tone to the core concept. Another spot on powerful offering blending dancefloor accessibility and personal trauma.
Favorite Track:Breath of You ft. Cat Hall/Dissonance – The blending of two powerful woman producers/vocalists will leave me floored every time. Add onto that the warrior princess delivery and subject matter and you have a cocktail which is smoky, burning, and filled with introspection.
Rohn – Lederman – Venus Chariot – My love for Belgian composer extraordinaire Jean-Marc Lederman is deeply known on this page. His previous work includes ( Fad Gadget, The The, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Weathermen) as well as some of the most thought provoking higher tier concepts in electronica music of the past 5 years. Teaming here with COP International and exceptional producer/Vocalist Emiliegh Rohn of Michigan they blend into a poetic electrified katana of grace and fury. I have spoken of this record in the Sounds and Shadows group but was shocked I had yet to write a formal review. When I hear someone of Jean-Marc’s pedigree say “This might be one of the most important albums I have ever released” it tends to make your ears perk up. This album is full of endless fusion energy both in the intricate hair splitting craft of the music, and Emileigh’s power whisper beauty. it’s the record I reach for whenever I need to force my body into action. A well of strength at your fingertips for these draining times. Greg Rolfes provides cover art to set the tone of this runaway stampede of electronic elegance.
Destruction and More – This is a faster paced defiant and layered builder. The music keeps stepping forward a heavy foot at a time through gale winds. Ending in a fist raised chant of war. A true tribute to Athena in it’s brazen energy and feminine power.
The Ending Nights – A Landscape To Die – Pre-Order available for the newest offering of Pedro Code (IAMTHESHADOW) of Portugal on Cold Transmission Music. A definingly dark apocalyptic disco drive produced and mastered by Pedro for a soul wrenching personal explosion. Jagged glass drenched in rainbow oil and water. How do you take one of the most distinctive voices in modern goth/darkwave when you find a way to make the steaming disco beats the star of the show you have really broken ground. This is a record that creates a world. Grime and desolation, the remaining survivors of a broken world follow the electric pulse of a melody from within. A perfect anthem for these fractured times.
Favorite Track: No Light – Hearing something so melodic and pure as Pedro’s voice swimming through a channel of filth and grit that is beautiful and terrifying. This macbre nightmare of insomnia and slow grinding destruction. Another layer of depth and complexity for a proven talent.
Curse Mackey – Lacerations – Brand new single and remixes from legendary Texas Industrial artist Curse Mackey (Pigface, My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult, Evil Mothers). Featuring remixes by Twin Tribes, Steven Olaf, and Chase Dobson. I love the concept shift from gothic electro ritual on “Instant Exorcism” into nihilism Tokyo drift shadow synthwave. A effortless cool grinding prayer as the world crashes down and leaves you nothing to lose.
El Clan – Somos Nuestro Peor Miedo – New album from legendary Mexico City dark rockers El Clan. There is something distinctive and powerful with true shadow swirl ritual rock delivered in Spanish. The fluttering trill of the guitar. The heavy strikes on backbeat snares. Gustavo Perez Ramirez has such a unique and dynamic range to his vocals. Rumbling growls, silver shining melodies, and sand swirling blasts of power. El Clan continues to encapsulate a burning flavor and haunting sound that puts them on a pinnacle of Mexican darkscene .
Favorite Track: Dios Universo – The opening light touch driving guitar riff set a tone of danger and action. Gustavo growls out a opening salvo of edge and anger. Then quickly changes lanes to a sorrowful melody. It’s a perfect homage to historical hard rock feel and modern dark progressive.
Black Rose Burning – The Wheel – George Grant of New York has taken an already amazing sound to a completely different level. This new album is progressive, complex, expertly executed emotional darkscene that permeates the skin and resonates in the chest. These vocals harken to a previous time of dripping Peter Gabriel emotion that spiral in crystal facets on top of shifting translucent hooks. It ebbs and flows through a stylistic spectrum and delivers with every memorizing tale. I continue to be blown away by one of the most criminally overlooked master songsmiths of our scene. This is a record that needs mainstream attention.
Favorite Track: An Anthem For The Strange– When the title says anthem, they are not exaggerating. These drums are rolling and trance building. George’s vocals ring through with a clarity and power that convey emotion. A warm and glowing starlight that wraps all of us freaks and outliers together in a sparkling blanket of togetherness.
It was a long hard week for me. Time to lose myself in someone else’s head. Who are the songs transporting me to another place?
FIRES – Changeling – New single from Aedrea. The title here really tells the story. Such a bold metamorphic shift in sound. In particular the vocals have this wispy Chelsea Wolfe quality full of fairy fire flickering promise. The music is a shifting fantasia, almost an entire film score journey in five minutes. Tender raindrop keys, crushing storm front guitars, and bisecting buzzsaw percussion. A cacophony of sound and beauty. As an added bonus it contains a Bside called “exit/Void” with a spoken word poem surrounded by sinister overtones. Another glorious example of the captivating burning mind.
hallowed hearts – Ruins – NYC’s Hallowed Heart have a new 5 track EP. I love the opening concept of ruins. The things we left behind. The memory of who we were for future strangers to find and wonder at. These are not songs for the dance club. An energetic medium tempo darkwave for walking the dark streets. Pulling the collar of your coat up to stave off a bracing wind. A grey and bleak musical tone offset by the courage of Alex Virlios vocals that cover a wide range and spew forth challenge to cast light on the sullen path.
Supernova – A lovely beckoning open with locomotive punching guitar sounds. Virkios vocals start by painting a rich baritone at home in the post punk style, but then crackle with energy for the chorus. I loved the punch and diversity of sound here. Real feelings of introspection and self discovery.
Circle – Beautiful firefly rising ballad to break the pace of the EP. I love the way the guitar lines push forward and guide the voice here. It’s a beautiful and maudlin song of spiritual longing. Two minutes in the ballad takes on real power and teeth.
Overall: This is an album that takes you to very specific moments and paints a picture in the mind. It’s a journey worth taking and a moment worth looking for.
IAMTHESHADOW – Everything in this Nothingness [Still] – I have waiting long for this release on Cold Transmission Music. A re-release of the Portuguese darkwave darlings debut 2016 album. Pedro and company have been tantalizing fans with rich passionate heart bursting serenades. Getting to return to the opening stanza of their journey and combining it with the years of experience and musical wisdom is an experience to waken the ears and minds of their fans. The music is a crystal pool of water on an autumn night. Beautiful, bracing, and teeming with life. I’m going to now repeat a sentence I have uttered in every Iamtheshadow review I have written. “Pedro Code has the best baritone voice in modern goth/darkwave.” It is a force of nature that moves the heart like a poem by one of the great masters.
Wait, thats not all. In addition to the album, they released a companion remix album and it is such a brilliant homage by some of the top artists in the scene….and me 🙂 It Includes Kill Shelter, Thewalkingicon, Antipole, Crying Vessel, The Frozen Autumn, and yes Amaranth.
I think what was so impressive with this was the extreme level of talent, as well as a deep personal admiration everyone involved had for Iamtheshadow. There is nothing more engaging for a remix album than when you can really hear a reimagining full of love for the source material. I’ll be selfish for a moment and say getting to sing a duet with Pedro was a dream come true and a terrifying challenge. Collin did a masterful job remixing the song as well. Again hard to choose a standout track, because every song was a passionate love letter to an artist we deeply respect.
White Cauldron – Nine Hells – Wicked release from last year that somehow fell through the cracks on me. The nearby Colombus Ohio band is really hard to place in a box. Sharp spinning blades of Industrial, clashing with jittering witchouse, textural keyboards, and a coven choir of misty swirling vocals. Throwing so many elements together could cause you to be lost in the miasma, but the mix is precise and razor blended to let every element find a voice. I’m not sure how many members the band has beyond Bess but the ultimate power of the release is that feeling of 20 clashing minds swirling around and finding focus like a spectral eruption in a cemetery.
Empty Tomb: This song is the cacophony at it’s best. The overlapping harmonies ranging from Nu Metal spitting to banshee haunt wails are a powerful and unnerving effect I found myself captivated by.
Die This Death: This opening bassline has such a filthy stank on it. It rises and grooves like a buzzing swamp consuming a corpse. The rapped out vocals almost put me in mind of Cypress Hill. Just such a unique and conjured ritual of darkness and decay.
Overall: This is a complex listen for all it’s parts. It often rides the line between background chill and chaos dance mix. With everything going on I found myself constantly surprised how easy it was to get lost in the flow of it. I want to take this ride again.
Astari Nite – Pocket Full of Posies – Look if Astari Nite has a new single, I am here for it. That said, holy crap this is a jam. An enchanting garden of mythic colors and romantic poetry. It bounces between complex layers and stripped down emotional delivery. The vocals are that beautiful teardrop smooth Robert Smith croon which makes my heart well. This band continues to impress with every release.
Our podcasts have been really improving. Having interviews that are a real conversation with some of the artists I love and give all their fans a feeling of knowing them on a personal level. I wanted to compile them all in one place that give you the opportunity to find and enjoy them.
2/25/21 Grabyourface – Talented French artists Marie Dragontown on Negative Gain. Talking about their breakthrough album Sea, France, and their favorite pizza.
2/19/21Tear Down The Wall discussion with Russ Robinson (Infectious Groves Podcast) and Dan Milligan (The Joy Thieves). Here we discuss the charity compilation of Industrial artists put out by Riveting Records in Colorado that has a cover version of every song on Pink Floyd‘s iconic album “The Wall”
12/22/2020 Rodney Orpheus from The Cassandra Complex – Amazing interview with one of the godfathers of goth. Telling stories of meeting Andrew Eldrich, their new album, predicting the attack on our Capital, and the past and present of Goth.
6/25/20 Interview with Dogtablet Martin King (Test Dept) and Jared Louche (Chemlab) – Where they discuss history on the road, their song writing, snowball fights with Trent Reznor, Jared’s Shoes, and rescuing dogs.
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 Said – Beyond 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
12) Shadow Assembly – Arcane Fusion –The sophomore offering after their debut “Ghostcrawl” a twisted and brooding rock driven concoction. 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.
11) The Birthday Party Massacre – Diamonds – 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.
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 Decline, Fear of Feeling Nothing, Justification.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
4) Crying Vessel – Pleasures 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.
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.
2) Iamtheshadow – Pitchblack – 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.