It has been a tough few months. A Lot of stress, but also a lot of exciting news. Sounds and Shadows keeps finding new ways to grow like last months S & S Darkscene Chart. I did Bandcamp Friday reviews last week, but I wanted to write a few tonight and just spend some time with new music. As always reach out to me or one of our other reviewers if you have something you want to hear us write about.
Machines With Human Skin – Transience – Brand new album from Chicago Industrial artist Adrian Halo. I’ve been spinning a bootleg CD copy of this Adrian handed me at Coldwaves festival. I’ve really loved watching his growth and progression. As a songwriter and producer I hear continual learning with every release. Such an underrated aspect or organic growth. I love how this album uses the power of a whisper. The power and anger comes forth, but not with exploding bass, ear splitting guitars, and screams. When you deliver lyrics with a breathy and melodic intensity it makes you lean in to listen. Makes you want to be inside the circle and absorb the emotion. The bounce of these basslines really create movement and give the wispy chant a vehicle. This is my favorite work MWHS have put out to date, it is effortless, soulful, and the mix really sits in the pocket without forcing the intent.
Favorite Track: Invisible – This song really struck me in part for the clean and focused tone. In part for the raw and exposed aspect of the lyrics. It’s glitchy with a high energy pace and curled lip defiance. A firehose of pressure and political discourse fired with crystal cool water and builds.
Recorded at Maynott Studios, Chicago, IL Mastered by Jules Seifert at Epic Audio Media, London, UK Artwork: Jim Marcus
Sequential Zero – Second Sequence – Some of the great Australian goth talent teams up with Orcus Nullify axe master Bruce Nullify. Ant Banister of Sounds Like Winter provides a haunted, emotive delivery on vocals. The dark disco style Lenn drums create an abstract Cabaret Voltaire openness. The tracks are gripping hands of tension, holding the mind and forcing introspection. This release really excites me for the future of the project. So many talented voices finding a space together and lifting each other up.
Helix – Bad Dream – It surprises me I don’t think I have reviewed the powerhouse team up that is Mari Kattman and Tom Shear (Helix). I will rectify that now. Bright, bold, and teaming with energy. Mari has an elegance to her voice that feels like a bird of prey gliding on an air current. This is music that makes my legs pump with a desire to concur the world. I’m genuinely mad at myself I haven’t listened to them more before now. Track 2 Slip has a gorgeous triphop backbeat that captures the idea of movement on ice. I love the subtle changes in the vocals cadence, everything happening in the same volume and range, yet creating movement with tiny variations. Masterful songwriting and execution.
Favorite Track: Run (Hallowed Hearts Remix) – These tracks have all really impressed me. This one though managed to take that same beaming energy and fire it through a violet lens of darkness. The shadowy tones open up even more space for Mari’s vocals to shine. I put this track up for the S & S Darkscene charts. These layered guitar leads add a whole other level.
daddybear – Hypnotic (feat grabyourface) – It seems whenever Matt Fanale (Caustic/Klack) and Marie Dragontown (Grabyourface) team up glory ensues. This beat is grinding dance floor magic. Marie’s vocals are sensual and terrifying. The whole song is a promise of ill intent which remains tantalizing while communicating destruction. After a few collaborations anytime I see this team put out a new song, it is an automatic buy. I have been requesting it in every Twitch Dj stream I jump into.
Goth Professor – Swamp Gothic (Halloween Single) – Unnerving atmospheric horror trance from Florida’s Goth Professor . I really didn’t know what to expect wadding into these swampy waters. If you want to invite 9 guests to a mansion, feed them delicacies, then commit a murder everyone remaining is left to solve. This is the soundtrack you need.
After the tidal wave of new releases from the last few weeks I get to settle down and deep dive some of the amazing things that I didn’t get to. Powerhouse albums from around the globe that are making my heart pitter patter for the exciting future of modern Darkscene. As always comment on the page who you think I need to review next and share these reviews so others can find them.
Sounds Like Winter – Fight The Stairs – I have been a fan of the Australia based traditional goth band for a while now. With their third album they have struck an amazing new chord that is the most impressive to date. One of the flavors I have always loved in SLW was the rough edges and old school feel. I never needed crystal clear production work to feel the passion driven low fi power of the songs. In an unexpected turn they have somehow unearthed the unorthodox blending genius of Martin Hannett to create the lost progression of Joy Division and A Certain Ratio. The drums are a crisp sizzle, the guitars a stabbing fencer in constant assault. Sian Williams walks up the down staircase with synergists motion and lead guitar bass. Finally Ant Banister has captured the soulful baritone resonance of Ian Curtis that so many in the current scene have tried to grasp. The entire effect is lightning in a bottle which is holding place between two times. I’m on my third playthrough and still find myself searching for details in a seamless delivery.
I would be remiss to not address the lyrics. This album has a crystal clear delivery with poetic flare for dark themes that keep bringing me back to Unknown Pleasures and Still. The wonderful lighting/Thunder offset of Andi Lennon‘s vocals add just the right amount of spice to this complex stew. My arms sway with reckless abandon and my mind swirls with the bleak and heady themes. People often talk about how much this scene leans on the past, but not enough on the ground left to go. This feels new.
Favorite Track: Fight The Stairs – The title track is the perfect blend of both tempo and Andi/Ant’s vocal style. A guitar riff is everywhere at once like a live wire catch the dragon by the tail. It’s a story you can follow and a sound to get lost in.
Overall: This is the new standard for a band hitting on all cylinders
Dogtablet – Pearldrop Blue – A lot to unpack here. So many amazing elements in one place that connect all the tiny synapses in my mind and unleash a flood of dopamine right in the brainstem. Scene legends Martin King, Roberto Soave, and Jared Louche, have teamed up once again to bring out all the best in each other and we are reaping the sonic benefits. I’ve had a hole in my heart as Jared has been quiet lately. Hearing his mad prophet poet spinning spiderweb dreams again takes me on a fantastical journey. The album features a plethora of amazing guest vocals from S & S favorites Cat Hall, Coral Scene, Sapphiria Vee/MelodyWhore, and Groovie Mann. Another amazing addition was mastering by sonic wizard Pete Burn. How they take all these elements and make the chaotic fever dream sound so clean and cohesive is beyond me, but I suppose that is why they are legends. The entire album builds like a cinematic human drama touching gentle notes like taste buds on the tongue.
Favorite Track: Impossible to choose from this ensemble cast of talent. Every Little Lie – Featuring frequent collaborators Sapphiria and Melodywhore is crystal cocktail party of balance and trip hop fantasy. Star – Is a deep and introspective prayer to the connection of spirit. Silver strands winding through the universe while light bounces off at a million sparkling moments. Heavy Gravity has a more traditional Dogtablet feel, with Louche in full moonbeam madness and William Borough’s cosmic streams of conciseness.
Overall: Another smash hit with the complexity of craft you would expect from veteran masters, and the dangerous psychedelia artistic courage of people beyond the game. You will be changed by this.
Aesthetic Perfection – Gravity – Houston we have lift off. The newest single from Daniel Graves featuring Swedish death metal axe master Sebastian Svalland holds the speed and power to break the atmosphere. I almost had a dance related injury the first time I spun it. Graves touches on an emo punk lilt to the vocals that gives an original modern bite to the Pop-Industrial equation. Get strapped in, and peer out the window as the pinpricks of light race by at blazing speed. I know I was late to the game for Aesthetic Perfection, the more I hear, the more I love.
Sega Lugosi – Un-Undead EP – Wow, the ultimate goth diss album from the hidden part of The Gothsicles. If you ever wanted in on the inside joke of modern EDM, now is your chance. Epic in scope chocked full of nerd culture reference. Everything you love about Klack/Caustic/The Gothsicles put in a blender on frape and poured on a Genesis consul until it sparks and burns. Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick Taco Tuesday is a jam. It really isn’t the humor, because the songs are funny. It’s how good the songs are in spite of the humor. “Sunday ain’t my day to pray, It’s Tuesday that makes me sashay.”
Curse Mackey – Submerge Remix – How do you find new space in my favorite track of 2019 breakout album Instant Exorcism? Have sound engineer extraordinaire and close friend Chase Dobson do a remix, and give him a new guitar line from Ronny Moorings of Clan of Xymox. Where the original track was a slow and crushing descent. Here you are in open water, looking at the expanse of nothing but dark blue for miles. Gorgeous lapping waves of delayed guitar the only sensation tying you to life and you sing down in ice waters. I love feeling something I am already in love with deeper. Discover it again.
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, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Fields of the Nephilim, The Mission, Christian Death, Alien Sex Fiend.
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.
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 🙂
BRIDES – Newest project from Adrian Borgia of Norway usually known for his lovely crafting with analog synths which really finds it’s stride by blending old school death rock with bleak emotion and infectious pacing.
NIGHT NAIL – American transplants in Berlin Germany newly signed to Metropolis Records. Night Nail is a complex abstract take on modern goth with experimental instrumentation and wonderful vocal harmonies between partners Brandon and Valentina. Hues of Japan under a cloud of extreme darkness, Night Nail is never afraid to take chances in the pursuit of new sounds.
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.