Sounds and Shadows Top 20 Goth/Darkwave Albums of 2020

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 SaidBeyond 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.

https://ravensaid.bandcamp.com/album/beyond-the-darkest-hour

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.

https://thewakeus.bandcamp.com/album/perfumes-and-fripperies

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.

https://rosettastoneuk.bandcamp.com/

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.

https://witchhandsdxr.bandcamp.com/album/unto-death

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.

https://thekentuckyvampires.bandcamp.com/album/crimson-curse

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.

https://astarinitengp.bandcamp.com/album/here-lies

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.

https://thecultsounds.bandcamp.com/album/the-cult-sounds-remixed-remastered

13) Pilgrims of Yearning – Forsaken Lands

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.

https://pilgrimsofyearning.bandcamp.com/

12) Shadow Assembly – Arcane Fusion 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.

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.

https://shadowassembly.bandcamp.com/album/arcane-fusion

11) The Birthday Party MassacreDiamonds – 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.

https://thebirthdaymassacre.bandcamp.com/album/diamonds

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 DeclineFear of Feeling NothingJustification.

https://rosegardenfuneralparty.bandcamp.com/album/at-the-stake

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.

https://carolineblind.bandcamp.com/album/the-spell-between

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!

https://soporaeternus.bandcamp.com/album/island-of-the-dead-2020

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.

https://maryofficial.bandcamp.com/album/die-before-death

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.

https://acot.bandcamp.com/album/black

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.

https://blackangelmusic.bandcamp.com/album/kiss-of-death

4) Crying VesselPleasures 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.

https://cryingvessel.bandcamp.com/album/pleasures-for-the-wicked

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.

https://music.nightnail.com/

2) IamtheshadowPitchblack – 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.

https://iamtheshadow.bandcamp.com/album/pitchblack-2

  1. Sonsombre1000 Graves – This album really shows a band finding themselves. I feel like the success of TVOE really gave a confidence to embrace more of what they are. The guitars are a giant black furred wolf growling with hair standing on end. The bass is a thundering storm bellowing out a foreboding prophesy of an uncertain future. The keyboard is rushing wind stirring the leaves on a damp autumn morning. Brandon’s voice is a dangerous and sinister whisper full of echo’s making a spectral challenge. These lyrics are a forgotten poetry of Byron and Poe singing to that darkest part of our nature. I know this review is starting to get pretty metaphorical but poetry demands poetry and Sonsombre makes me want to embrace the dark poet in my own heart. In my opinion no one is doing more to forward the rebirth of goth music in the modern era than Brandon and crew. They are leading the charge and wearing giant brimmed hats while doing it.

https://sonsombre.bandcamp.com/album/one-thousand-graves-2

Review of Shadow Assembly: Arcane Fusion

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.

Available here on bandcamp:

https://shadowassembly.bandcamp.com/album/arcane-fusion

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.

Michael Louis

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.