An album is a multi-faceted piece of art. There’s the lyrics, the music (instruments, vocals, effects, mixing), and then there’s the visual side of things. Today, we’re exploring some great pieces of cover art shared in the Sound & Shadows group.
To start off, this is the cover to Automata by Confusion Inc. “The artwork to my Automata album is special to me, because the original image used was a photograph of my mother’s artwork,” Colin Cameron says. “She’s an abstract expressionist – life long painter. I love the stone-looking background here, as well as the several dimensions of glitchy-ness added over it. This is an elegant cover with a heart-warming backstory.
Next up is the cover to The Fire Within by Vaselyne. This piece is a self portrait by Yvette Winkler. The photography here is excellent. It is still, yet in a day dramatic and dynamic. I love how the picture fades so seamlessly into the black void background. It altogether creates some emotion I can’t quite name.
Here’s the art for Plague Garden’s upcoming album. The piece was done by Albie Mason. I’ve got several aesthetics on the tip of my tongue while looking at it. It’s visually striking. There are many elements at play here, but they all form a wonderful cohesion under the vintage-feeling grain. It reminds me of browsing the sci-fi section at an old bookstore tucked away somewhere.
Inertia by We Are Parasols is coming in hot with this rainbow orb! The art was created by Daniel Kopton . This feels like something I could see in a museum. It would make a great desktop background, too. A poster, even. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I love looking at this. The choice of using a bar code instead of text is bold, but I think it works well.
Changing gears a bit, let’s take a look at Sea Lungs. This art was done by one of the band’s own members. It has a slight comic book cover vibe to it, I think, in how perspective and action are both played with. I’ll admit when I first glanced at it, I thought of astronauts due to the suits, the crater-like ground, and the star-like bubbles. I think this ambiguity adds to it, though. After all, space exploration and deep sea exploration are both equally terrifying intrusions into the harsh unknown.
Here’s a shocker. The album cover to Batavia and Their Friends by Batavia. No, you didn’t suddenly get transported back to the 1970s. “Nobody we showed this to thought we would actually use this and risk losing 200% of our goth credibility,” says band member Ed Cripps. “Risk is the spice of life.” That it is, Ed, that it is. I applaud this bold stylistic choice and devotion to an artistic direction here! I love it.
Another strong artistic direction is shown here in the album Leyendas de las Almas Perdidas by Valentina Maurino. “Endăley (fairy of the souls) is the one I portrayed here, the one who tells the stories of the lost souls behind each song, and these lost souls are represented through objects on the little table (it’s a telephone seat), some of these appear in my music videos too, I love symbolism,” Maurino tells me. I absolutely adore the whimsical handwritten wording. The broom-like hands, the table ornaments, the lighting…it all comes together and, I agree, tells a story.
“I wanted to convey the question that was arising for so many women at the time, myself included – is our sexual objectification and submission hot, or is it violent? Does it depend on who’s doing the choking? How can we be sure of the person’s intentions? Are we getting off, or are we endangering ourselves? As it turns out, in the following four songs on the EP that I would write between 2016-2017, I ended up unearthing and purging all my relationship trauma, and recalling a memory I’d suppressed – one where I was choked in anger by a dominant male partner I’d been financially supporting as his submissive. Through the course of the album writing and recording process, I answered the question “who can you trust” and I learned discernment. When the EP was released in early 2018, we were four months in to the crest of the #MeToo movement, and it was right on time.”
More information about Arden and the #MeToo movement can be read here.
Lastly for today, here’s the cover of Nervous Prayers by Sweat Boys featuring the logo work of Jim Marcus. This piece is serene yet dangerous. The imagery is drowning and, yet, reaching for help all at once. I am reminded of the hand of Adam reaching towards God as the Sistine Chapel.
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.
Extremely excited for our 10th podcast featuring Sonsombre on Cleopatra records. I really feel like Brandon represents the future of traditional goth music. Here we have a wonderful discussion about the past and future of goth music, his hat, and festivals he is excited for in the coming year. Below are links to Sonsombre and all the bands we discuss.
As the scene of Goth/Industrial/Darkwave/Post Punk/Shoegaze music continues to experience an amazing renaissance, live shows are becoming a haven for the masses of fans to connect. This year boasts a boatload of amazing festivals where bands and fans can meet and share their love of this scene, so I will try and put together a guide of some of the great ones so you can plot a trip full of memories to last a lifetime.
Dark Spring Festival– (Boston) I am super excited for and will be at this one. This a brand new festival is anticipating its first year and they are already starting out strong with an amazing lineup including some of my favorite up-and-coming bands, mixed with long-term favorites. Great town with a cool scene. *Best New Festival
Dark Spring Festival Berlin – This brilliant festival inspired the aforementioned Boston one. It was started by Christian of Golden Apes and features Swiss darkwave act Hapax, Finnish Goth Rock elders Two Witches, Russian New Wave quintet Brandenburg, and French No Wave duo Dear Deer. Lots of Representation from Switzerland’s ‘Dark Nights’ label.
Absolution Fest– (Tampa Bay, FL) Located in Tampa’s legendary club The Castle, this festival started last year and works closely with our friends at Obscura Undead. Tampa Bay has an outstanding scene, and this lineup is off the chain. I mean, fucking Drab Majesty! This one was spectacular last year and every band who played it told me how inspiring it was. Plus, you’re in Florida heat at one of the most renown goth clubs in the US. *Best Value
Cold Waves– (Chicago) – So we went to this show last year and it was a life changing experience. The scene, the venue, the cause, the history, this is everything you hope for from a top-notch music fest. This one has been doing it right for a long time, and the lineup is absolutely stacked. Phenomenal mix of goth and industrial, old and new, plus the fact that Chicago, as a city, is so deeply entrenched in music history. Finally, Jim Marcus is doing a DJ set and I am here for that content! *Best Lineup
Convergence – (Louisville KY) Interesting new venue for this long running festival. Amaranth applied for this one but sadly didn’t make it this time. Maybe next year. However when I look at this boss lineup I can’t feel mad. They packed this show with top talent in lots of genres. *Great lineup Fresh New Scene
Cold Transmission Fest – (Cologne Germany) – Our dear friends at Cold Transmission records started their first festival last year and we had the opportunity to cover it. It was amazing. The way people traveled from all over the world to come together and share a passion for great music. After the success of last year Suzy, Andy and team have expanded and have another wonderful lineup and more to be announced. My heart will be with them again. *Great Lineup, Intimate show
ASH CODE BEDLESS BONES IAMTHESHADOW MARK E MOON DILK
Dark Side of the Con – (Parsippany NJ) – Another long running festival I hear everyone rave about year after year but I’ve never attended. I need to get this on my list. This year it is a who’s who of 3rd wave goth and industrial. Big line up with lots of established acts. If this time period in goth was your jam you can’t beat this. Plus it has a convention feel with a lot of things beyond the music (panels, art, DIY, access to bands)
Out From the Shadows Fest – (Portland) – Another festival I have heard wonderful things about from a great music city. This lineup is stellar and really runs the entire frequency of music styles. Great focus on fresh bands doing 3 stacked nights of music. Huge lineup with a lot of bigger named acts blending well with fresh faces. Plus Portland is just a great place to have a vacation if you are goth.
SYZYGYX (Wash. DC) FEARING (LA) KOMRADS (Rochester NY) LOVE HATE AFFAIR (Austin) THE ELECTRIC WEST (LA) PHYSICAL WASH (PDX) RITUAL VEIL (PDX) – TBD –
BODY OF LIGHT (Arizona) AUTOMELODI (Montreal) SSLEEPING DESIRESS (SF) MAYFLOWER MADAME (Oslo) PUSH BUTTON PRESS (Tampa) V.E.X. (members of MOIRA SCAR) (Oakland) VERSARI (Paris) WE ARE PARASOLS (PDX)
RITUAL HOWLS (Detroit) TEARFUL MOON (Austin) KORINE (Philadelphia) ASTARI NITE (Miami) SICK WISH (Boise) SEVENTEEN AT THIS TIME (Paris) MR WRONG (PDX) LIES WE WERE TOLD (PDX)
San La Muerta Festival – (Austin Tx) Austin is probably one of the best cities for goth industrial in the US. The list of bands currently out of this town is staggering. Great DJ support. I imagine this party is off the chain. They boast a monster lineup from all over the globe. The Vanishing doing a reunion and Shes Past Away.
San La Muerte Fest 2020 Sept. 17th – 19th Austin Texas
-This year SLM proudly presents: from Spain ANA CURRA (formerly of Paralisis Permanente, Alaska y Los Pegamoides, Los Seres Vacios) Ana Curra will perform Friday Sept. 18th, 2020 in Austin Texas Venue: TBA Tickets available now on SLM website
-SHE PAST AWAY One of the best current Darkwave Post Punk bands. Only Texas Show! All the way from Turkey! Sept. 19th with The Vanishing Elysium Austin Texas
-THE VANISHING (San Francisco) 20 YEAR REUNION! Only Texas Date! The Vanishing will be playing Saturday Sept. 19th alongside She Past Away! Venue:Elysium Tickets available now on SLM website
Dark Malta Festival – (Malta) Great mixture of Euro darkness. Some big names in goth/Industrial/ and metal here. Plus it is in Malta in April which i imagine is gorgeous. If you have the means, I highly recommend checking it out, so choice 😉
This is a really exciting new traditional goth release from Louisville KY band Scary Black. I love the return to early roots I am seeing in the scene as of late. Rich and flowing with that Sisters of Mercy fender jazz tube amp guitar sound. Filled in with delicate and impact heavy synth lines. The album is diverse and places a huge emphasis on lyrics and poetry. Singer Albie Mason has a powerful and deep bass voice that really holds in place all the high end moving parts. It has the quality of a large moving glacier full of ice and magnitude crawling towards you with cold beauty.
I found myself in love with the ability of the songs to be modern and direct. Then switch hard to a campy Anne Rice Vampiric romanticism. I’m a huge fan of bands that can go over the top without losing meaning and credibility and Scary Black really drives that stake through the heart. A lot of bands these days can create a beautiful sound that pays homage to the past. It seems the harder task is to have poetic lyrics that capture that same level of meaning as The Cure and Sisters. That to me was the true magic of this record.
This is a complete album (One that made me upset I had already completed albums of the year when it released). Here were some stand out tracks.
Stay in Your Lane – Those beautiful muted guitar lines with sinister delay. Albie’s voice sinks to the lowest register and bellows out a powerful whisper full of menace and beauty at the same time. The synth lines are gorgeous with a very New Order feel to add a New Wave feel.
A Few Things I Hate – Holy creeping through the cemetery drinking a bottle of Merlot and smoking clove cigarettes. This song really transported me back in time. A horror movie soundtrack feel full of foreboding atmosphere. The vocals whisper a secret you have to reach for and it creates a powerful effect.
Are you Afraid of The Dark – The title track is such a beautiful break from form. Those creeping pan pipes sound build a lead in with a melody that sticks with you. Then the trademark delay sliding guitars. This one has so much of that overt vampire novel feel. It tells a story and one I am here for.
Overall I was immediately drawn in and in love with this record. It’s lovely, layered, and will require many more listens in the coming months to unpack. I questioned bringing this up but I think it is important to acknowledge. The Goth rock genre can feel fairly underrepresented by people of color and I love when an album of this quality also brings a perspective to this scene which hasn’t been heard enough. I really look forward to hearing many future releases from Scary Black.