Fire Cleans Everything EP originally released on Election Day (11/04/2020) immediately grabs you with a sense of the tension across the U.S. in 2020.
The opener and title track Fire Cleans Everything the sophomore release from Redwing Blackbird (Denver Based Band, by way of Phoenix, AZ) picks up almost as soon as the song starts with the steady rumble of the drums and driving bass line that, just as easily could have been released in 1984 as today to be answered in turn by the slow whining drone of the guitar.
Paul Bakers vocals on this release reminds me of the first time experienced Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Nothing Wrong.
This screams post punk protest music with the restraint of a stalking jaguar as Paul Chants, “FIRE CLEANS EVERYTHING”
This momentum continues on in the liquidity psychedelia of Space Bridge. Something in this track pulls in thoughts of cult band Slint’s Album Spiderland.
Powerful yet just understated enough to become a cult classic.
RW/BB bring things down a notch with Rake, a down tempo neon ballad laced with the echo of western guitar. This track exposes so much aurally that the story becomes visual, as Paul crones Well I use to wake/ Run with the moon/Live like a Rake in such a way that could have just as easily come from the mouth of Nick Cave or Michael Gira, and take you on a journey down the highway heading away from the chaos of the city, even if it is just for a moment in a seedy hotel
Closing this brilliantly composed EP is the chillingly upbeat yet apropos Guillotine, bring me right back to that Red Lorry Yellow Lorry experience. The smell of decaying card board of the Used Trax, and the head phone encapsulating me in some dark embrace that will last for years.
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.
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.
So I am locked in my bedroom on kitten nurse duty. Bottle of whiskey and cup of tea. Obviously 2020 has been a tough year to find time to write with the my kitties surgery. So lets fire through all the new stuff I am listening to right now and get a few thoughts 🙂
Band: Redwing Blackbird
Written by : Paul Baker
Lets start out with Colorado band Redwing Blackbird and their album “Too Klaus For Comfort”. So I’m not sure what is happening in Colorado but everything I hear from that state is blowing me away. Paul Baker has put together this self aware album full of camp, and spiraling darkness. Almost a batcave goth meets 90’s britpop. The guitars are thick and lofi in the best possible way. The vocals and lyrics are diverse in scope and never settle into a rut. It has a lot of progish complexity to the song writing with a lot of piss and vinegar to keep it real. I think the biggest compliment I can give this record is I can’t quite seem to put my finger on it no matter how many times i listen. Everytime I think the words to describe it are on my tongue it turns into a thousand spiders and slips through my fingers. It’s not clean or overproduced but in this case that works to advantage not defeat.
Favorite Tracks: The Spectacular Death of Margaret Fuller ; Too Klaus for Comfort; Devils Horns.
Band: Bring Her
Next up is an album I should have already written about by now but have been in love with a while Pittsburgh’s Bring Her. Self titled album is out on digital and LP. The record has a very dark-electro disco feel. Nadine J has this lovely waterfall chant voice. It cuts through the synth waves like a knife and strikes and parries like a fencer. Puts me in mind of Kim Gordan from Sonic Youth. They really succeed in finding the place between obscure pretension and ear catching dance beats. I think it is a record that adds to every party and takes nothing away. It knows just how to fit in it’s own pocket. I love this is another self release underground gem.
Favorite Tracks : Curses Not Promises; Choose Me Move Me; Unholy Awake
Next up is The Quiet Machines from Maine. This one is personal, a dear friend Adrian Auchrome who I learned of as a Dj but was blown away by their original offerings. I love when a vocalist really finds their own path among the standard definition of what is suppose to be goth/industrial. Adrian has this wonderful over the top cabaret feel to the sinister dance vibe and old school goth. Their slushy meandering phrasing lines really carry you through ideas with a lot of emotion and grab hold of your heart strings like a horses reins. This was another 2018 release which I am just writing about now but I have had the chance to hear some of the new releases and they are a amazing progression from this already great concept. I love an artist that leaves everything on the floor and crawls towards you with reckless abandon and that is what Adrian has achieved.
Favorite Tracks: Chemistry (All I need); The Quiet Machines; The Formula
Cliff and Ivy from Alaska have been such an essential part of the Goth scene this decade. We have review two of their albums and come to appreciate the way they lift everyone in the scene around them. This latest offering is a compilation of their albums in one steam lined offering of horror punk, goth, poetic glory. I really can’t think of an example of anyone who keeps in as real. They are authentic, brash, fierce, and always 100% in sync. This album really touches on all of their diverse styles and emotional intensity. Ivy is a poet of abstract imagery with her lyrics. This is a great way to experience all of their many masks and hardcore glory.
Favorite tracks: Superclass; Fossil Fuel; In Your Hands
Well this is awkward. My friend Victor Montes from Arizona sent me the EP from JH-X9 called “Crime of Science” and they are from my home state MI. This is some first rate dark digital snake slither darkwave. I love the confident spoken word chant vocals and static progression keyboards. Lots of sinister trip hop flow here. Only two songs on the EP but this is full of potential and all over my radar now.
Favorite Track : Crime of Science
In 2020 the music game is changing. We are lucky to have many great labels embracing and supporting bands. Lots of bands choose to go their own way and often it is these that push the boundaries and find new ground. Give a spin to these records and discover some today.