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.
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.
So this last two weeks has been hard. I’ve had some personal tragedy that has made it hard to write. The work we do is important, and great music is being made. So I will try to fight through that and give some impressions of what i am currently listening to.
Night Nail – (FTL) – American transplants in Germany Night Nail have released another shadowsynth single. This time, their first foray with Cold Transmission and producer Pete Burn (Kill Shelter). It’s delicate, dark, and Brandon’s yearning vocals add depth and emotion. The video features Justin in more saxophone in darkwave music. I want all of this I can take. I feel this spells big things to come with their creative freedom on Cold Transmission.
My Velvet Cage (A tribute to Venus in Furs) – I often expound the idea that being focused on the past doesn’t help our way forward in this scene. However paying homage to the past is important. In this case a band of the past Venus in Furs who paid homage to The Velvet Underground now having homage paid to them in this tribute is a beautiful thing. This release off Wave Noir is a spellbinding bent knee compilation of talent showing love to a band important in this scene. It includes frequent friends of the page: Paris Alexander and Erine, The Stave Church, Human, Pilgrims of Yearning, Shad Shadows, UIU, and Ash Code, offering gorgeous renditions of these post punk classics. A must have for fans of old school post Punk.
The Cult Sounds: – What Gets Done At Night – New single from Saint Louis traditional goth rockers The Cult Sounds. I love the bracing chopping finger pressing guitar. “The Devil he knows what gets done in the night”. Forcefully delivered lyrics with a midwest post punk seasoning. Bennett Huntley has a clear and ringing vocal style that pulls you in the laser beam. Everything I hear from this band makes me more excited.
Crying Vessel – Pleasures For the Wicked – The newest release from darkwave masters Crying Vessel. Newly signed to Cleopatra Records. They have a deep horror movie creeping terror style. With dark pop sensibility and an emotionally narrative journey. Slade has one of those voices that adds pizzaz and theatrics in vocal inflection that keep you engaged and comfortable to let down the defenses and follow this emotional rollercoaster where it takes you. I feel so many retro Stranger Things feels with this record.
Stoneburner – Soundsystem – Another new Steven Archer release, another completely new direction. Yes here you get the percussion body quivers I have come to associate with Stoneburner. It’s a cover album that really goes around the horn of his genre influence. Tracks like Frozen Sky from cEvin Key and Ohgr with a brash rising wave. KMFDM covers like Godlike are an explosive artillery assault. Then switching gears to goth rock cowboys Fields of the Nephilum with a measured ballad. The whole record is a prayer to the music that has moved him, and a vision of the future to come.
Hate Dept: New Ghost – Ok this isn’t technically something new. However Hate Dept and Steven Seinbold have been an important fixture of the Industrial scene for a decades. Recently he released a few of their early albums on bandcamp and holy shit. This was the intense sleazy industrial I didn’t realize my heart was yearning for. It’s broken glass and sassafras, full of dance drive and venom. If you are backfilling your collection with the past, I highly recommend. Also if you don’t have his solo project synth Stand Alone, you need to grab that as well. This was a golden ago and done at the top of the curve.
Vazum (Vampyre Villa) – The newest record from our friends in Detroit Vazum. I feel like this band is on the cusp of 90s retro. Everyone is currently on 80’s homage and they are leaning into grundge/Shoegaze. It’s a fresh and familiar addition with a very dark tone. I think this album could be a real breakout for them. In particular the goth anthem “Schema” is a true emotional show stopper.
Back with another edition of our podcast. I have really been excited with the way this format has been working and the guests we have gotten. This week we have Night Nail from Berlin Germany. I got a chance to meet and interview them while I was there and I had tech issues with the footage, which is a shame because it was a great interview. Luckily they made time to talk with with Collin and I again. Please check out their new single below as well as the three bands they chose to discuss. VV and the Void, Xibling, and Brass Box. As well as some great discussion on the scenes in Berlin, Portland, LA.
So I had the extreme pleasure of meeting and interviewing this band while I was in Berlin. I am really excited for the footage we got and can’t wait to include it in this review. I feel like it gave a great background to these songs. As I am still working on editing, I didn’t want to put off this review any longer. So be prepared for it to expand.
This album is a narrative. A journey both emotionally and physically. To travel from LA to Berlin, two cities of such different flavor. It’s not a record to throw on in the background and do something else. It pulls you in, and demands your attention. Right away I am struck by the effective use of so many guitar tones. Some have a percussive almost bell like quality. The attention to detail in how they blend together give the texture integrity. A strength from the core of the sound.
Brandon has a deep rich voice that adds resonance to every song. It’s warm and dripping with anguish. The clarity of it really lets every word drift to you across the misty streets of the music. The way it sits so well on top brings the full range of feelings from the poetic lyrics. Sometimes with a gentle whisper, sometimes from the bottom of a well each word finds it’s way to you.
Now we speak of the saxophone. I miss the use of a muted, sexy sax in rock music so much. Night Nail uses the perfect amount to add texture and movement and complete that feeling of wet cold streets in an empty city. The bass guitar is thick and swelling. Not driving as is popular in post punk but a constant wide buzz that holds each song up. The lovely synth pads add the final piece of the puzzle. Varied, emotional, and never detracting. I keep getting drawn back to the idea of perfect construction. The time, thought, and stability of this lovely obelisk standing against a bleak landscape.
Some favorite tracks
Never Dream – Starting off strong with one of the more upbeat pacing songs. That gentle sawing guitar lead is the perfect smooth progression to set up Brandon’s deep echoing croon. The weight of the verse, given a beautiful uplift shift in the chorus. Wonderful effect.
LA Demons- The title track is an absolute simmering scorcher. This slow slinking bass riff with 90s flare right out of The Crow soundtrack. The sax in this song has this cool Pulp “This is Hardcore” sex appeal. This song has so much to unpack. Each time I listen it’s something new.
Shadow Song – This track has such a foreboding build with snapping snares that feel like they are in another room but snap like whips. The vocals are a gentle ghostly whisper with a harmony that makes everything sound ethereal and dangerous. Then that saxophone comes back to build. The drums start crashing like a funeral march and everything charges at you at once. This is song writing done right.
Overall Night Nail has me so excited. I feel like they have a beautiful and unique sound, but also the attention to detail and commitment that really takes a band to the next level. I’m extremely excited to complete the interview I had with them which gives even more background and insight into an already stand out album. Make your night better with this record.