Punk Icon, Music Journalist, Scene Historian, in so many ways John Robb has made a career of lifting up great music and art in equal measure to creating it. Starting in Blackpool in 1978 The Membranes walked the razor line between introspective darkness and fiery blue-collar aggression. In 2010 he started “Louder Than War” an independent website of reviews, interviews, and live shows to shine a light on the fringes of music which might never get attention from mainstream pop coverage. This aspect was personally relevant to me, by proving one person could champion a movement to share and humanize the artist of the underground. When John released his new book “The Art Of Darkness” about the history of my chosen genre “Goth” and I had the opportunity to interview him my cold dead heart fluttered with joy. A giant who paved the way for me like few others.
Things that struck me about the first read through of this book. The historical research is first rate. How could it not be, John lived this time. Loved these bands. When I hear someone talking about something close to my heart, I need to hear that same reverence in their voice. This is the voice of a true believer. The facts aren’t enough. I need a bit of novel to set the backdrop. I was born in 1977 and never had a chance to go to the Batcave, to see Joy Division live. In this book we are taken through those damp streets, smell the clubs, see the fashion. A great history paints a picture in your mind that makes you a part of what happened years later. That was the ultimate magic of this book. Finally, my beloved goth scene always wants to put itself in a box. It’s a scene obsessed with the past, the idea that what came before will always be better than what comes after. This is a book about history, but one that flexes and expands the definition and connects those bands to the future. I’ve read several books and articles about goth history. None of them sparked something in me like this. If you are a lover of dark macabre music, this book is a must have.
This interview was my longest to date. Sometimes as an interviewer you need to navigate the flow of conversation to help the person you are interviewing tell their story. John is a lot better at this than me. So my goal was just to set him up and let him move from story to story. I am proud that although I could have listened to him discuss all the amazing things he has done and people he has known, I did get him talking about how the history of this scene impacts it’s future. The interview clocked in at 1.5 hours but in the end there was so little I wanted to cut. So we have broken it into 3 parts. I really hope you find something to learn and love from this conversation with one of the foremost experts in the modern darkscene.
Learn about the past. This book is a great way to do it. Start a review page. Tell bands you appreciate them. Go to shows. Stand in front. Wear crushed velvet. Smoke cloves. Drink the blood of your enemies from a skull. There is no wrong way to appreciate and be moved by music. Just do it with all your heart and leave space for everyone.
In the past four years the “Darkscene” goth adjacent movement has continued to expand at a glorious rate. Here at Sounds and Shadows I have seen a similar growth of our Music Review/ Webcast/ Facebook Group/ grow at an equally surprising rate. Trying to choose top albums of the year when the rate of interesting worthwhile music is firing out of a fire hose of content at an unprecedented rate is an increasing challenge. As always, I will do my best to draw attention to glorious new music that has moved me in some way. Thank you to all our supporters and please keep this scene alive. You are the lifeblood that makes it happen.
This is always so hard, I love so much new music. I started with about 136 bands I reviewed. With hard choices got down to about 60. I really want to make the bands I picked feel really special. Have you all know, I felt pain with every cut. So I am going to break this into genre categories a little.
Gothic Rock/Post Punk/Shoegaze
Kill Shelter – Asylum – Kill Shelter releases their third album Asylum, and the world has started to catch on to the soft-spoken genius setting the standard for this new wave. Featuring a slew of the biggest names of the scene: Stephan Netschio ( Beborn Beton) , Valentina Veil (VV & the Void), Karl Morten Dahl (Antipole) , Emanuel Åström (Agent Side Grinder) Alessandro Belluccio (Ash Code), William Faith (The Bellwether Syndicate), Ronny Moorings (Clan of Xymox). An impressive list of talent and experience which speaks to the respect Pete has catered as a producer and song writer. This album tackles an even darker theme of trauma and the most shocking pain of the human experience. Casting a light through a wide range of vocal prisms. The completion of a journey started just after Damage in 2019 and meticulously refined over four years.
Kill Shelter has done it again. Creating a personal emotional journey through post-traumatic stress with expert production and collaborative vocal performances that shine a light on some of the top singers in the scene. I can’t wait to release and rare upcoming interview on the Sounds and Shadows youtube page. We dig deeply into the process and feelings of one of the most important artists the modern era. When we speak to future musicians who are in the know about what influenced them in our time. Kill Shelter will be the Joy Division like name that trend setters were appreciating in the present.
Has it really been 13 studio albums for Aurelio Voltaire? This review is special to me. As someone who writes “Goth music with a heavy dose of humor” it is hard not to give credit to the OG that inspired me all those years ago. Here he taps into his own inspiration from an artist and film that burned a codpiece shaped scar into every 90’s goths soul. It appears we also share a passion for collecting every talented guest star he could cram into this shadow glass menagerie. Let’s have a look at this list.
15 members of David Bowie’s band spanning nearly every era of the Starman’s career from the pianist on 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars to the saxophone player on Black Star, Bowie’s last album. The Black Labyrinth was co-produced by Mark Plati who produced the 1997 Bowie album, Earthling as well as the post humus release, Toy.
Other guest musicians included members of My Chemical Romance, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Vision Video, The Cog is Dead, Frenchy and the Punk, violinist extraordinaire Mia Asano, Ally the Piper, D and D songstress Ginny D and an international cadre of musicians making up the orchestra and choir.
The 20 song release is clean like twilight in a fantasy world briming with the mystery of a firefly forest and the pageantry of a catholic funeral. Voltaire’s iconic is the ringleader that ties together the spectacle. If you don’t know Voltaire, you have missed one of the most gloriously self-aware experiences in the dark scene. If you do you are in for a journey with one of the great bards of our time. Let goth music be fun. Let it be the giant melting black candle musical theater it was always meant to be. I both teared up and laughed out loud listening to it. You need this album.
3) Secret Shame – Autonomy – I am constantly amazed by the slippery edges and bursting intensity of the NC band. I’m just blown away by how many sonic emotions are crammed into this firefly jar. The haunting lilt of the vocals, the gnashing wolf jaw guitars, the shifty darting baselines. The production here is razor sharp. Anyone who says modern music lacks complexity is not listening to this. This is songwriting that is emotive, that transports you out of your own mind. Blending the best aspects of four genres to create something fresh and provoking. 10/10
4) IAMTHESHADOW – The Wide Starlight – Things you can always count on from a new IAMTHESHADOW release: 1) Pedro delivering the richest baritone in modern darkwave. 2) Soul baring poetry 3) Perfect precision of mix and master. Everything else about the sound is completely in the air. “The Wide Starlight” is an expansive new sounds full of twinkling stars over violet plains. The album came out on 10/14 and marks a turn towards hope which my soul has hungered for. Cold Transmission Music has been a fertile creative ground for Portugal’s premier darkscene act. This is a band that has continued to set the standard in European darkscene music that is constantly pushing their own boundaries and core sound. The truly greats make powerful songs while always redefining who they are
5) The Cassandra Complex – The Plague – Rodney Orpheus and The Cassandra Complex have been entrenched in the concept of what we would later call “goth” music since before we had a word to describe it. They have toured with and played festivals with the biggest names in the scene. Starting in 1985 releasing 7 full albums and 3 live albums the last of which “Wetware” on Metropolis Records in 2000. 22 years we waited for a return with “The Plague” to burst forth with a ferocious new energy. Early releases like “Grenade” were thick with an aggressive political message. I fell instantly for this return of piss and vinegar spirit blended with fine blade refinement. A razor edge between emotional concept and ability. Although these are new songs tackling modern concepts of a post capitalism world, the album serves as a greatest hit record. Drawing on individual styles that run the range of their history. It doesn’t forget the tongue firmly in cheek humor, using wit to mock the face of power.
6) Golden Apes – From The Sky – Berlin Germany based band which remains one of the most underrated post punk bands in the world. With Peer Lebrecht unmistakable and encompassing voice crooning poetic romantism that seeps under your skin. I loved the brighter expansive hope Christian, Gerrit, and Frank infused the guitar lines with. The change in concept from “Kasbek” displays another prism of range and proves Golden Apes story is far from over. I’m excited we will get an interview with them in 2023.
7) Christian Death – Evil Becomes Rule – The most recognized name of the American Proto goth scene from Los Angeles “Evil Becomes Rule” marks the 20th studio album in a legendary career. In our recent interview Valor told me about EBR being a continuation of 2015 The Root of All Evilution. It would be easy to appeal to longtime fans, putting out similar albums in a fan friendly style. Some artists have wonderful careers doing just that. This has never been the Christian Death way. Always slicing the edge in every incarnation. Evil Becomes Rule took me to a new place I never expected. A shadow psychedelic blasphemy of triumph blending world beat Dead Can Dance and roaring power of Judas Priest. Maitri’s vocals are highlighted like never before and cast a sinister ritual of power.
8) Pilgrims Of Yearning – Hadal – Long awaited release from Boston transplants POY which hits the mark perfectly. I love hearing a band grow from album to album by keeping the mystical wanderlust that made their sound stand out, yet graduating their production and layering to make the energy sharper. Juls voice captures a haunting Siouxsie “Superstition” 90s vibe while the guitar rhythms fold and dart like a weaver on a loom. This is a band that really exposes their story with brazen courage and beautiful delivery. A contagious spooky tendril of psychedelic darkness winding around your vision. This is a band I have watched grow and refine. It fills my heart to watch the maturity and ascension of their sound and wisdom. I can’t wait to see the next path of their journey.
9) The Burying Kind – Tragic Airwaves – I may be too close to this record. Enraptured by the story surrounding it. I can’t help but be struck by the staggering beauty and truth of it. It was this thing I got to watch grow and refine from infancy into something that mattered. Something that transcended genre and the music business. An abstract feeling that wells within you in solitary moments, a place of memory and blurry edges. This 12-track full length is a solitary lighthouse on a grey shore with Scott-David‘s romantic tragic poetry delivered with piercing emotional impact. The music is layered and complex for decerning listeners to unravel. I love nothing more in this high-speed age than hearing the time and intent that went into an artistic concept. It’s a presence and weight that gives every listen a reverence.
This is an album for connoisseurs. For fans of My Bloody Valentine and The Cure a like. It is a place for diving into mystery and unraveling the depths of something that doesn’t come simple in a world where everything is designed not to make you think harder. We used to rejoice in music that made us swim beneath the surface. It’s time to rejoice in it once again.
10) Mark E Moon – Lux Vindictae – New lineup, new sound, and explosive delivery from Isle of Man shadow croon gothic rock Mark E Moon on Cold Transmission Music. A blazing light of vindication as the title states. The first single Blacklight bursts through a wall with shaking intensity. The drums pound relentlessly as Mark delivers confident sadness tinged with raw fury. Phil is spinning barb wire distortion in precision loops. The black mirror reflection of Shelly Rourke on vocals as contrast Mark’s cavern shaking Eldrichesque power. As the engine roars down an unlit highway this album swerves in tone and style without warning leaving you always on your heels. Mark really throws his soul into the vocal delivery. The tracks are all pure heat and poignant, each under 5 minutes.
I think two main changes stand out in contrast to 2021 release “Old Blood ” 1) the extreme nature of the peaks and valleys in tempo and style. This album runs the spectrum where Old Blood worked to perfect a singular idea. 2) Rourke’s vocals have really found a sharp and resilient force to break the power of Mark’s tide. In particular track 4 Drowning is a gorgeous ballad of imagery that highlights the new sound with strongly defined lines. It shows a passion and maturity of song writing that portrays subtle differences in depth as you sink below ever darker waters. I love the panning synth lines. The background to those glimmering delayed guitars flickering through the pressurizing water.
11) Black Angel – The Black Rose – I know, I did an 11th album. I just couldn’t bring myself to leave this record off the list. It is so haunting and rock heavy in a time goth music wants to be anything but. Matt has this amazing ability to capture the sleazy opaque waterfall of endless motion regardless of tempo. The vocals by Corey Landis and Maneesha Jones are the perfect seasoning on the dish. I have a confession that will probably have me cancelled by the true metal folks, my favorite Ozzy is “No More Tears” and that includes Sabbath. This album hit with that same timeless power. As long as Matt Vowels is cranking out records, this guy is buying them. Someone really needs to sign him.
(Special Mention) Cleopatra Records – The Unquiet Grave – Growing up in the Velveeta Valley suburbs of Detroit in a time before the Google search, Spotify playlists, Youtube suggestions, and Sounds and Shadows I had a sacred ritual. Once a month I would coat myself in black from head to toe and pedal my bike to a mini mall which contained a record store. Here in the new CD releases I would take my caddie/busboy money and purchase the latest Cleopatra Records sampler. Now these compilations took many themes, tribute cover albums, up and coming goth bands. This was how you found the next band that connected you to the wider world. I would race back home, tear apart the packaging and dream of one day seeing my own name in the liner notes. This ritual mattered, it made me feel connected to other kids like me that I didn’t know. Somehow, I knew they were out there. When I saw Procession Magazine bring back this series of goth compilations, my faith was confirmed. To see one of our songs, appear here, that dream has finally come true. So, I welcome you all to join me in my room, as I light a candle, press play, and journey into the macabre world of “The Unquiet Grave” searching for dark diamonds in a cruel sea.
Curse Mackey – Immoral Emporium – Instant Exorcism moves beyond the prophesy of a post capitalism hellscape and dives into a meat and bone reality. A bizarre of debauchery and barter where every sin in imagination is on display and the price of souls are always plummeting. In a time of surface shimmer and digital commodity the Immoral Emporium casts a sharp reflection that burns to the core of the decay of empathy in the modern age. Instant Exorcism was raw and biting, a mad profit’s fervor. Immoral Emporium is a cleaner enticing beacon. Drawing the listener to their own corruption with shining golden salesmanship.
There is something about the level of narrative imagery and production expertise that stuck me about this album. It haunted me like a re-occurring nightmare, a prophesy of danger that hangs above our future. Curse has been such an impressive part of shaping Industrial music while a part of someone else’s project. It is incredible to see the darkness he is able to articulate when left at the helm of his own vision.
2) ESA – Designer Carnage – if you are talking about the modern evolution of EBM (Electronic Body Music) British act ESA and Jamie Blacker have to be part of the opening discussion. This is an artist who has truly defined a genre by meticulous craftsmanship of the musical and visual idea of bass beats so shattering, you feel them in your bones. This album had multiple singles in our Darkscene Singles Chart. Jamie continues to be an innovator in the field of expanding the definition of Electronic music for another generation.
3) <PIG> – The Merciless Light – Raymond Watts has continued to evolve at an exponential rate. Rather you are speaking of music, personal growth, or human interaction. The industrial progenitor has bounced around the boundaries of what this genre entails for decades, to keep the punk rock ethos of the original concept alive. I love the crushing jagged grind of this record, while hushing the edges, letting the menace whisper and hang in the air. Bringing in an all-star line up of contributors Abbie Aisleen, Jim Davies, En Esch, Mark Heal, Jimmy Livingstone, Mona Mur, Mike Watts. This album brings so many emotive hooks that really highlight how good Raymod has always been at conveying emotions in a compressed infectious package.
4) Silver Walks – Various Positions – I met Daniel McCullough near a dumpster behind Cold Waves in 2019 and heard “Lantern” in 2020. Immediately I knew this album was going to be something special. Dan is one of the most underrated song writers in modern electronica. The people in the know, they understand this. I hope this album is what makes that clear to the scene at large. I think one of the first points to strike me, all but one song are over 5 minutes. In a world of short singles, Various Positions is stretching your dance floor endurance. While making EVERY song a banger. Infectious dance beats that ebb and flow in texture, with razor blade twists. You can really hear the patient precision that went into each song’s construction. There is a thematic post apocalypse spiritual journey that makes me close my eyes and get lost in the story, while stomping in time to infectious hooks. This whole album rides a highspeed tightrope between progressive and ear candy.
This album also has a spicy list of A + contributors to bring Dan’s vision to light. Stella Soleil , Coral Scere, Tim Heireth, Marc Heal, James Francis, Eva X, and many more mixed lovingly by living legend John Fryer. Part of the testament to this albums power are the names that agreed to be a part of it. Album art & layout // Joshua Mccallister silver walks logo by Jim Marcus. Eric Oehler wizard shimmers the mastering. Photo of Dan // Kirsten Miccoli I just saw Dan thanked me in the liner notes, so now I am crying.
5) Dread Risks – Automated Disappointment – GiddyYip this DeathRock Electro Cowboy shit!” A wise man once said about Texas IndustroDoom band Dread Risks. That wise man was me. Releasing 3/25/22 on Re-Mission this album is a return to the meaner barb wire aggression of industrial music. As an evolution from the past this aggression is no longer aimed outward but directed at addressing and concurring personal trauma. I love the molten glass cutting attack and melodic beauty of the vocals. The overhand bastard sword swing of the drumbeats. Berserker rage in clean focus. This is the next great wave in electronic musical concept. I am enthralled with the idea that Industrial music still has fertile land to create new artistic ideas. I even got a thank you in the liner notes, my heart cries.
6) KMFDM – Hyena – This album brings you much of what you love if you are a fan of KMFDM. Bonfire bright drum beats overlayed with trash compactor crushing guitars. I think the biggest change from the KMFDM of my youth is the maturity of Sasha’s voice. It is a more mellow growl without losing the glistening sharp metal. This record is a culmination of injected circulation right into the dance gland. I really keep expecting for a lot of these old school Industrial bands to lose the modern pulse, I keep being surprised. I feel like this is a ban that grew up with me. Their sound evolved at the same rate I needed it to.
7) AUTHOR & PUNISHER – KRÜLLER – San Diego, California artists put out this album that is a bit absurd in it’s scope. On paper doing captivating emotive singles in the 5-8 minute range should not work in 2022. Yet, anyone who hits play on this 8 song album is immediately captivated and washed over by the unnerving perfection of these hooks. This truly is something else no one is doing. It is so mysterious and fresh I don’t know how to process it. Which is a rare feeling in 2022.
8) Spike Hellis – Spike Hellis – After seeing them at the Skull Festival in Detroit this year, I haven’t been able to put this away. LA based electronic flamethrowers who answered the question if Alec Empire hadn’t pulled a 180 and became a cryptobro what would a cleaner crisper refinement of the magma fury become? Hearing Spike Hellis really helps me understand what is meant by “Electronic Body Music”. It is felt in the tissue as much as heard in the ears. The range of feeling on this chaotic labyrinth darts through every hidden crack of the human experience. It really must be heard live to fully comprehend ,but having a map of the recorded experience can go a long way towards grasping the subtilty of what is happening. I really need to line up an interview with this band in 2023.
9) Dogtablet – Ashes – New 5 song EP from Industrial legends Martin King and Jared Louche. I had the pleasure of attending a listening party at the Post Punk Industrial museum where Martin provided some background for these songs. I love the grinding and deliberate nature of these tracks. Track 3 “Careless” Feat: Coral Scere is a haunting and memorable collaboration that shows how Martin continues to get the best out of everyone he works with. Another amazing EP from a legend let off the chain to work with whoever he wants in a style completely their own.
10) Deathline International – Pax Americana – Basically a COP International all-star collaboration which includes living legends like John Fryer, GW Childs IV, Angela Goodman, Steve Watkins, Licia Johnson, sinister guitar lords James Perry & SLam, and vocals by Th3Count. Transporting us to a smashing old school Industrial runaway train with modern clarity and aerodynamic tempo. I think the biggest challenge when bringing together this much talent and trying to give everyone a voice, is the director aspect. Giving everyone a chance to shine in the spotlight. This album really feels like a collaboration. Mutual respect placed in the atom smasher and obliterated into something fresh.
Special Mention: Gasoline Invertebrate – Cracked Wax Battery – Brian Gaupner (The Gothscicles, Space Couch, TigerSquak Records) holds a special place in my heart. I feel a bit of twin spirit in how he approaches music. That feeling that music is an experience better shared. The visual of a Cracked Wax Battery is such a striking image. That bleeding yellow goop pouring out of an old battery carcass. Bringing in great artistic names that are also friends of a mutual vision like: Gopal Metro , Ed Cripps, Zoog Von Rock, and MORIS BLAK. A plasma whip of electronic dance beats cracking the air with aerobic intensity. Brian takes some of the jovial madness of Gothscicles off his voice and replaces it with hissing menace. The NES throwback energy of these synth lines are a nerdcore street cred of belonging. Gasoline Invertebrate always makes you feel inside the curtain.
Brian Graupner is inspiring to me in particular for proving to the goth community that our scene can be silly as hell and that is ok. I equally love that he has a project so serious and old school industrial crunch that it leaves no choice but to acknowledge his talent and craft. So, when he makes a Gothsicles album you know it was because he chose to be goofy as hell, which adds a layer of punk rock power.
Panic Priest – PSYCHOGORIA – Speaking of world class baritone voices Jack never disappoints. New album released10/21/22 on Negative Gain featuring the crooning beauty and slashing guitar mastery of Jack Armond. The Chicago based songsmith always layers the club friendly dance beats with a healthy dose of guitar accents to make a truly distinctive blend. The tempo here is a fast-paced bop, but the bottom of a chasm on the vocals gives every track a sense of soul and foreboding. Every album gets tighter and smoother. Jack’s voice is one of those definitive sounds and elevates everything it touches, and his blend of organic guitar licks and prism explosion synths makes every album memorable. Psychogoria is the most impressive evolution yet. It’s time for everyone to recognize one of the great talents out our modern scene. I just interviewed jack and it will release soon.
2) Vision Video – Haunted Hours – Athens, Georgia pop goth stars have grown more in the last few years than anyone in my memory. The music is nostalgic, expertly crafted with the newest techniques, and delivered with a romantic stirring beauty too often lost in the modern scene. Dusty has an infectious glowing moonbeam of a personality which has made him a public figure outside of music. This band has truly achieved a fresh interpretation of everything you loved in 80’s goth spun in a centrifuge and launched back at you with electron energy.
3) Rohn-Lederman – Rage – We love music because it has the power to change the energy inside us. To enhance, diminish, alter, the sounds and stories built by artists change our emotional chemistry. Emileigh Rohn (US/ Chiasm) and Jean-Marc Lederman (Belgium/ The Weathermen, Ghost & Writer) have found a balance in their own artistic chemistry beginning in 2021 Venus Chariot on COP International which has continued to refine in a centrifuge into a potent emotional catalyst. With this newest release “RAGE!” they have bottled a frantic and aerodynamic monorail careening over changing landscapes.
I would consider myself a coinsurer of the duo’s collaboration. How is RAGE! different from the previous releases? By being the culmination of a series of experiments to produce a sleeker, faster, more agile vehicle. To refine the fuel of Emileigh‘s lyrics into something that burns hotter with honesty and volatility. The songs all contain a defiance and anger. Not a heavyweight clumsy, smashing anger. A precise, defined glowing fury of purpose. The details and subtilty of the music are built like a virus in their elegance and destructive nature. The vocals hold a sharp edge without bubbling over. It adds a tension that forms the shading of the grand design.
4) The Birthday Massacre – Fascination – Chibi and company has done more to expand the cone of what is goth music than anyone in the last decade. This new album infused an intensity of emotion due to the band facing some serious real-life trauma. It is explosive like a foam cannon of feeling sprayed on a receptive crowd. There are certain records that ride the line between fantasy and precision execution so perfectly it is hard to see the lines. That is how this album feels. I keep waiting for TBM to run out of gas, and they keep lighting bon fires.
5) Null Device – The Emerald Age – Wisconsin based dark synth band with a new driving political statement full of spiraling hooks and razor edge tapestry. The perfect mix of this album is so economical it makes the motion and pace feel like a UFO that darts and accelerates in a way modern technology has not produced. The vocal duties bouncing between Eric and Jill feels like a conversation of perfect syncopation. This album came out in Nov 2022 and every time I hear it holds a familiarity and nostalgia that defies logic.
6) Minuit Machine – 24 – This release combining the amazing talents of Hélène de Thoury and Amandine Stioui is staggering for its quality as well as tragic because it might be the last pairing the two. Helene has suffered some health issues which have caused her to step back from the project for the time being. This EP is nothing short of breathtaking in it’s seamless pulsing sophistication. Every track harnesses an effortless magnetic vouge you can’t help but want to be close to. Amandine’s vocal’s ring through the air with every phrase like a struck chime. A haunting electronic overture that paints a perfect moment while promising what could have been.
7) Hexheart – Funeral Flowers – Seatle WA SynthBard Jasyn Bangert has a June release of cybernetic serotonin pumped straight into your brain. I love the “Upstairs At Erics” bopping light synth and nostalgic warms. These tracks wrap around you like a favorite sweater. The AI captivating vocal effects are a fresh note contrasting the synthpop throwback. Every track feels like a cult 80’s film you are the only one who remembers. I really want to hear a cleaner vocal for the next album, because it is the final step towards perfection.
8) Sapphiria Vee – Aerial Human – Sapphiria Vee has sprouted wings and taken to stormy skies with the newest release “Ariel Human“. A bracing new pace and sinister promise. Featuring a rouges gallery of impressive collaboration from Jean Marc- Lederman, Roger Ebner, then Mixed and mastered by sonic wizard Jules Seifert. Send your mind a flight. Sapphira’s ability to draw talent towards her with both her powerful voice and magnetic personality gives her access to a wide brigade of masterwork tools. As a producer she knows just when and where to implement each sound like a conductor in a symphony.
9) Eva X – I Dream Of Reality – The progression of shadow pop artist Eva X has been a magnificent sight to behold. After a series of singles and videos this full albums with impressive remixes really shows the elevation Gaby can achieve. A poetic blend of vulnerable beating heart, and higher concept science fiction that paints a wonderful journey while keeping the hooks high and tight.
10) Junksista – OA – This German based band on COP International is one I haven’t given nearly enough press to. Every time I hear them I am absolutely floored by the razor wire combination of owning a space in your head pop melodies and the way too cool to hang out with me punk rock attitude. It just drips with effortless expression and after party in the know. It is hard to hear this and not feel inside the most exclusive salon where everyone is invited. Speaking of invited the album features a who’s who of guest talent. This album deserves a special award for band I put off the longest to deep dive into that left me regretting every moment I wasted not knowing them.
Sidewalks and Skeletons – Exorcism – I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sidewalks and Skeletons for the webcast and was really excited to expand my knowledge of the “WitchHaus” genre. When I first decided to dive in I reached out to a few friends: Kenzi Burke (FIRES) and Hunter Hunter (W/O) for suggestions. Sidewalks and Skeletons of England was one of the first suggested. I suppose going in I had some pre conceived notions of what “WitchHaus” meant, but I have to say I was presently surprised by the texture and diversity of sound on this album. From track one “Exorcism” a glitchy sliding bass beat slither of technomancer energy tendrils, to “Shadow” feat: Goo Monday with it’s throbbing electronic club pulse, this album rings with a clarity and precision that tells a winding story of internal energy. I kept being struck by influences I never expected to encounter like shoegaze and ethereal which gave the entire journey a slick and winding synthesis. I am always impressed when in 2022 I hear something new. A fresh blend of ideas from a chemist taking previous concepts and making new science. It doesn’t happen enough. It is happening here.
2) Mona Mur – Snake Island – German Electro punk Icon released this guitar heavy banger of an album featuring Goldkind. I love the Avant guard crunchy slam poetry punk ethos feel. The individual tracks capture such a range of furious emotions but in the end always return to being a hard rock album. In a time where music is so plentiful and genres are so fractured, it feels refreshing to hear hard rock. The cover of Motorhead classic “Ace of Spades” the dripping with venom and intensity. The single Schieldwall is sun gleaming on a silver hammer smashing the quarry with reckless abandon. This record encapsulates what previous generations artists have to teach the next about how music can be the spearhead of a movement.
3) Josie Pace – IV0X10V5 – 2022 was such a big year for Josie and Ken, Detroit’s Industrial Pop darlings. Fresh off a tour with Aesthetic Perfection they are winning over every crowd they are in front of. Josie is drenched in “It” factor from her voice, attitude, and look. This record is brimming with infectious singles, slamming beats, and a voice that laser cuts the darkness. Now on Negative Gain they are strapped to a rocket ship speeding towards superstar. IVOX10V5 is the perfect refinement album that will finally show the world what Detroit audiences have seen for a while.
4) Kali Dreamer – October Requiem: 1988 – Derek Christopher turned me on to this Columbus OH artist who is doing a truly unique blend of old school goth and hip hop cadence with a macabre edge. I was immediately hooked, the poetry of the lyrics with the truthful confidence of cadence. You can’t mistake the terror rap elements of Esham in the dark lyric style but the talent and beauty of Kali’s vocals add a modern and gorgeous element. I was truly floored by the quality of this. I just don’t hear enough to surprise me with it’s uniqueness anymore. This album achieved that.
5) Katy Needs A Life – With Friends Like Bees – This is another special release. I feel like I watched it grow up. Born here right in Kalamazoo MI, in Collin Schipper‘s (Amaranth) studio, done by Katy May (Sounds and Shadows). This record is everything I love about ultra sad dreamgaze pop, with none of the pretention I often associate with the genre. Every song is a flailing arms, heart flinging, explosion of narrative intensity. The music of Reggie, David, and Jake is a furious and frantic cohesion of chaos and pastel dreams. Katy has a voice full of purity and unapologetic raw truth that blasts through a sea of cold ultra-produced crystal. This is such wonderous walking around with your own thought’s music.
This record is the first full length with the entire band and spells a glorious future for Katy and company. On top of that it is expertly mastered by none other than Jason Corbett (Jackknife Sound Studios) (Actors). I think sometimes those of us that do musical support of others get lost when it comes to our own projects. This is an unforgettable must have record.
6) Lorelei Dreaming – Retold Fables – Long have I awaited this 6 track EP complete with wonderful remixes by Chicago dystopian pop princess Laura. It’s so clear and textured from their previous release. Laura’s voice breaks through the wall and takes it’s rightful place on center stage. The album opens with an absolute banger in Of Stars. I’m loving the rippling synth sounds to add a fantasy feel. Each song is a striding step forward for an armor clad paladin facing down the demons surrounding her. This album was so worth the wait and every song is an adventure. The remixes are a brilliant contribution with the likes of Kanga, Sawtooth, Eva X, Angel Metro, and more. I love seeing so many top tier ladies involved.
7) SINE – Mantis Complete – Texas nightmare whisper artist Rona Rogueheart dropped this culmination of the Mantis journey in November. A thrumming David Lynch fever dream impossible to place in a category box. The album cover is so appropriate as an angler fish draws you through the underwater darkness with a glittering light, only to open it’s jaws and bite down on you. It’s sinister subterfuge with the electric tension of a great thriller. This record also includes some unreal remixes by the likes of Clan Of Xymox and Leatherstrip. A couple different singles here which placed on the S & S darkscene singles chart like my favorite track “Je Suis”. Another album that charts its own course into mystery.
8) The Picassos – Exhumed – I love nothing more than the chance to shout to the sky about a gifted and haunting band in my own backyard of Michigan. We even have the honor of playing with them at Skull Festival 11/20/22 at Noir Leather in Royal Oak Michigan. This album which dropped August 2022 is a darting ebony fencing match of furious clashing metal that strikes and counters with such speed you lose sight of the precision in the illusion of chaos. Charles is a master chef of sound, taking ingredients with familiar tastes and adding a pinch here and a skosh there. Some Pixies, Nick Cave, Violent Femms, flamenco guitars, stirred in a pot, raising the heat. The result is a powerful and heady stew served with pageantry and soul. This is truly one of Detroit’s great talents of the decade.
9) The Waning Moon – The Waning Moon – Wonderous new collaboration project from Zac Campbell(The Kentucky Vampires) , and Ariel Maniki (The Black Halos). Two powerhouse talents of the modern traditional goth scene forging an alloy of blackened metal which echos with loss and remorse. Unlike their more organic percussion based projects TWM features aa blistering tempo freight train which unshackles Campbell to terrorize the fretboard and Ariel to use a haunting cadence full of ice cold foundation and strength. Only 4 tracks on this EP, but each sets the tone for a future force that fills a need in fans who hunger for traditional goth.
10) Sever The Servants – Sever The Servants – Brand new collaboration that sprung from the Sounds and Shadows group. A world grinding doom tank apparatus rolling through a nightmare hellscape of Hide Tepes and Mike Nolen imagination. Stone walls on all sides as Hide starts filling the room with dank modular synth water. Mike who doesn’t usually do vocals hisses out a poisonous danger that left me floored and impressed. I hungrily await the future offerings of this project. A perfect synthesis of styles to form a stronger bond.
11) Assasun – Sunset Skull – German song architect Alexander Donat of Vlimmer has changed gears once again with such a massive swerve proving once again there is nothing he cannot do. This new project is a psychedelic electro punk disco with shades of Tuxedomoon, Legendary Pink Dots, and Coil. It never solidifies into something familiar, it never quite strays into madness. A tightrope walk underwater. This record is almost disturbing in it’s creative Germaness. I can’t wait to hear what is next.
12) Vaselyne – The Sea Says – The Dutch duo Yvette Winkler and Frank Weyzig with the eclectic blend of rolling foam over a dark sea. This world beat blend of orchestral synth and organically woven vocals which hold a history in their entrancing delivery. Contrasted by sharp and vibrant guitar lines to add modern rock to the ancient mysteries. The PJ Harvey cover hits hard on my nostalgia bone but crafts a fresh and unique lens to the alt rock classic. If I ever go into a cave overlooking the sea and light a fire to dance shadows into the morning, this is the record I’ll bring.
I continue to see the importance of putting out this monthly chart. One that is unique in our scene. I hope other people appreciate the songs chosen here for their quality. Every track here is voted on by Dj’s, Bands, Reviewers, and Superfans that represent the pulse of modern dark music.
Leathers – Runaway
Black Angel – Look Me In the Eye
The Cassandra Complex – Old Boys Network
HexHeart – Erase Yesterday
Moris Blak/Daddybear/GrabYourFace – Crimes Of Passion
Vaselyne – Shame
Iamnoone – The Need
Sever The Servants – Get In The Grave
Iamtheshadow – Remind Me
Kill Shelter (Feat: Agent Side Grinder) – The Necklace
LEATHERS – Runaway – Another gorgeous smash hit from Shannon Hemmett of Vancouver. As part of the darkscene darlings Actors this synthy dreamwave project continues to grow and impress with every release. Masterful execution with a personal delivery.
Black Angel – Look Me In The Eye – We have an upcoming interview with LA transplant Matt Vowles about the band putting the rock back into gothic rock. I love this slow grooving The Cult style flavored single with some sinister smokey backup vocals from Manheesha Jones. Absolute banger.
The Cassandra Complex – Old Boys Network -After 20 years the pre goth legends The Cassandra Complex dropped a new album and a scathing punk rock rebuke of modern post capitalism. This song has been sitting the top of the DAC chart as well all month long.
Hexheart – Erase Yesterday – Seattle WA sleek voodoo synth had this single to set the road for their 6/17/22 release “Funeral Flowers“. I love the smooth electronic soft serve retro feel. The lyrics have a wonderful Ducky in the rain poetry. This album will be a day one buy for me.
MORIS BLAK x DADDYBEAR x GRABYOURFACE – Crimes of Passion – Three heavy hitters of modern EDM/EBM who have teamed again to take our singles chart by storm. Each time they have gotten together it is an absolute banger offset by Marie’s crime croon vocals. This belongs on dancefloors everywhere.
Vaselyne – Shame (PJ Harvey Cover) – Early single release for the 6/3/22 EP “The Sea Says” is a cover of the mistress of raw alternative PJ Harvey. I love the percussive twang present throughout. The Dutch duo on COP International do a lovely vocal volley. I love the dusty humidity of the tone in this homage. Leaves me excited to review the album.
Sever The Servants – Get In The Grave – Another song on this chart from the partnership of Hide Tepes and Mike Nolan on their horror hue nightmare fuel project on Produkt 42. Normally I don’t answer orders to jump into the grave soil, but this charismatic call gets under your skin.
IAMTHESHADOW – Remind Me – Another gorgeous underground bop from the best baritone in modern goth Pedro Code. The Portuguese darkwave act continues to be the flagship of Cold Transmission. A darkwood ship rising and falling on synthetic waves.
Kill Shelter – The Necklace ft Agent Side Grinder – Finally the eagerly awaited master producer and composer Pete Burns returns to form with a single from the upcoming July album “Asylum” using guest vocals from the Swedish Synth star Johan Lange of Agent Side Grinder. This is an emotional tidal wave and leaves me ravenous for the full release. Pete is a wizard of drawing the best out of already talented people.
Goth music has always been a scene obsessed with the past. By nature it came from a literary concept of macabre themes. Many of the bands that started this movement have actively pushed back, famously Sisters of Mercy for example. This month two bands that were there in that early pre-goth era paving the road for the decades, creating a new wave of splintered darkscene sounds. I love in both cases, these are not fan service records standing on the name of their past. They are fresh new ideas, forged in the skill and intensity that decades of releasing albums provide. So let us discuss the latest offerings from The Cassandra Complex and Christian Death.
The Cassandra Complex – The Plague – Rodney Orpheus and The Cassandra Complex have been entrenched in the concept of what we would later call “goth” music since before we had a word to describe it. They have toured with and played festivals with the biggest names in the scene. Starting in 1985 releasing 7 full albums and 3 live albums the last of which “Wetware” on Metropolis Records in 2000. 22 years we waited for a return with “The Plague” to burst forth with a ferocious new energy. Early releases like “Grenade” were thick with an aggressive political message. I fell instantly for this return of piss and vinegar spirit blended with fine blade refinement. A razor edge between emotional concept and ability. Although these are new songs tackling modern concepts of a post capitalism world, the album serves as a greatest hit record. Drawing on individual styles that run the range of their history. It doesn’t forget the tongue firmly in cheek humor, using wit to mock the face of power.
Rodney Orpheus: vocals, vocoder, synthesizers, drum machines Andy Booth: guitar, keyboards Volker Zacharias: guitar, bass, keyboards Axel Ermes: synthesizers
Produced by Rodney Orpheus @ Magic Library Studio, London Cover Art by Antony Johnston
Standout Tracks: This is not an album of singles. No fractured thoughts of refracted light touching unrelated ideas. This is a record of intent meant to be played in succession. I must stress the importance of reading these chapters in order to understand the story. To say particular songs didn’t grab hold of my lapels and shake me with staggering force would be unjust as well. I will call out three.
Hotline To Elvis – Opening the album with this blistering gallop of southern twang guitar and hooved pounding bassline. Living in Kalamazoo MI I remember the Elvis hotline. It is often forgotten that bizarre conspiracy theories were not new ideas. When people want to believe something, no matter how absurd, they found a way. I love how Rodney takes on just enough southern lilt to summon the shaking spirit of the King. I blast of fire to set the scene.
Speed Of Sound – Ok, this is that track. A swelling ballad that captures a relatable experience that just hits different. The heart grasping hook of this bassline, Rodney’s genuine and tragic delivery with a Lou Reed poetry in blue collar hues. I must have played this track 20 times. I feel myself well up for every single one. A modern classic.
Old Boys Network – This song is about a collision of sounds and fierce satirical rebuke of the men in power which permeate and destroy every aspect of life. This synth line is a bouncing frenzy and Andy Booths guitar lines crackle with LA punk chaos. Rodney keeps the effect of clarity and grey pastel while spewing forth a Dead Kennedy’s rant.
Overall this is a triumphant return, an band that has earned the freedom and skill to treat their fans to a fearless and personal glimpse into the human experience in a failing system. It is my sincere hope that this is a path back for younger new fans to one of the bands that paved the way for the modern darkscene.
Christian Death – Evil Becomes Rule – The most recognized name of the American Proto goth scene from Los Angeles “Evil Becomes Rule” marks the 20th studio album in a legendary career. In our recent interview Valor told me about EBR being a continuation of 2015 The Root of All Evilution. It would be easy to appeal to longtime fans, putting out similar albums in a fan friendly style. Some artists have wonderful careers doing just that. This has never been the Christian Death way. Always slicing the edge in every incarnation. Evil Becomes Rule took me to a new place I never expected. A shadow psychedelic blasphemy of triumph blending world beat Dead Can Dance and roaring power of Judas Priest. Maitri’s vocals are highlighted like never before and cast a sinister ritual of power.
Recording lineup: Valor – Lead vocals, guitars, violin, cello, piano (inside and out), keyboards, percussion Maitri – Lead vocals, bass guitar Pao – Drums
Stand Out Tracks: It is so hard use objective judgement for a song writer I have this much respect for. I will try my best to pick a few favorite tracks that struck me hard and made me revaluate the idea of what Christian Death is.
Elegant Sleeping – This track is a stalking wolf in a swirling forest mist. Maitri delivers such a delicious snarl to split the space between the dervish guitar rhythm. The break down sails right off the rails in a savage cacophony of chaos. A blistering and explosive avant garde.
Beautiful – There are other singles on this record. This one just rings out with such beauty and clarity. The chorus hooked me in hard, I kept hearing it in my mind wherever I went. Cobra strike guitar lead, dancing beside a merciless chant of longing. The organic crashing drum sounds really find their form. This single is such a penetrating reminder of how complex and emotive Christian Death are. Shout out to this gorgeous video as well to bring the concept into stark relief.
Who Am I part I – Another aspect of CD has always been a clear understanding of the power of pageantry. Drawn bow strings and the call and answer dialog vocals of Valors Bowiesque glam dueling with Maitri’s storm winds challenge. Crashing contrasting voices meeting in the middle to erect a swirling tower. A final crescendo on this journey through past and future.
Overall: I am left astounded at Christian Deaths ability to always be growing, always raising a challenge. I saw the first night of the tour in Chicago and was overwhelmed by the presence they create. Valor and company are excited for this record. That enthusiasm bleeds into every word and note. Seek out a chance to witness this live, there just aren’t as many true rock stars in the world anymore. You still have a chance to see one in an intimate setting.
Our podcasts have been really improving. Having interviews that are a real conversation with some of the artists I love and give all their fans a feeling of knowing them on a personal level. I wanted to compile them all in one place that give you the opportunity to find and enjoy them.
2/25/21 Grabyourface – Talented French artists Marie Dragontown on Negative Gain. Talking about their breakthrough album Sea, France, and their favorite pizza.
2/19/21Tear Down The Wall discussion with Russ Robinson (Infectious Groves Podcast) and Dan Milligan (The Joy Thieves). Here we discuss the charity compilation of Industrial artists put out by Riveting Records in Colorado that has a cover version of every song on Pink Floyd‘s iconic album “The Wall”
12/22/2020 Rodney Orpheus from The Cassandra Complex – Amazing interview with one of the godfathers of goth. Telling stories of meeting Andrew Eldrich, their new album, predicting the attack on our Capital, and the past and present of Goth.
6/25/20 Interview with Dogtablet Martin King (Test Dept) and Jared Louche (Chemlab) – Where they discuss history on the road, their song writing, snowball fights with Trent Reznor, Jared’s Shoes, and rescuing dogs.