Those little slices of death.
How I loathe them.”
~ Edgar Allen Poe
Ah, it’s that time of year again, when everything begins to die and the stench of decay fills the air, when the witches roam the skies and the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. ‘Tis the season of the female, the black cat and of the shadows that breath. So don your cape, your heaviest lipstick, grab your best headphones and come with me for an audio experience of night time sounds.
Fucking Goth I hear you mutter. Well, isn’t it most appropriate that this month’s playlist covers quite simply, that black diamond of all genres.
The word Goth can encompass many meanings, but before I continue, let me gently warn you, elitism is not welcome here. “Gother than thou” is a putrid attitude. Just because what one person considers Goth might not be considered “Goth enough” to another, doesn’t mean anyone should be undermined for it. For example I personally find Chopin very Gothic. If it nurtures that part of your self where the light doesn’t touch, or fills the hole of nihilism and emptiness, even for a moment, then so be it. Do what makes you (un)happy!
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.
I think it goes without saying that the classics such as Sisters of Mercy, with a vocalist reminiscent of a moody David Bowie, have undoubtedly had a huge influence on the bands in this list, combined with The fields of The Nephilim and The 69 Eyes.
The aforementioned bands paved a way for Finland’s prettiest star Ville Valo and HIM.
HIM were catapulted onto the scene after the song “Join me in death” exploded all over Europe. Teenagers in particular swallowed their music whole and screamed for more, but the music industry and hard core touring schedule took a toll on Valo, who in later years talked openly about the importance of seeking help when his alcoholism reached a level that threatened his life.
Valo has had a troubled career, with toxic relationships providing inspiration for the music he writes, and onstage intoxication inhibiting decent performances. But one cannot deny the material he produces is impeccably written and gorgeously textured, frequently flirting with the darker side of love and sexual attraction, making it plain to see why this creates a good mixture for Gothic romance music. And my god can he sing.
Another classic to add to this list has to be Type O Negative, featuring a song from their purest pagan album October Rust . Play it all throughout these winter months to keep you warm.
Halloween is a time to remember loved ones who are gone, but to remind ourselves that we must go on living. And such an attitude is displayed in the aesthetic of Killing Jokes “In Cytheria”, a dreamy song soaked in synth and gentle vocals.
Perseverance of another kind is summed up in the music of Sweden’s unique Nicole Sabouné. I was introduced to Nicole when a friend of mine posted a picture on instagram of her live performance. I was instantly drawn to her dark complexion and immediately checked out her latest release and for about a week I had it on repeat. Not a single song on that album was flawed, each came with its own vigor. Such moody and atmospheric music with suggestive undertones within the lyrics are perfectly complemented by Nicoles deep and powerful voice. Her first album “Must Exist” is just as enjoyable, if a little more danceable than its follow up. Select tracks from her debut are “Haters Don’t Dance” and “Unseen Footage From A Forthcoming Funeral”, which embody the sounds of a very confident woman finding her feet. It is quite clear that her inspirations filter through a musical diet of Patti Smith, Siouxsie Sioux and Pj Harvey, to mention but a few. But with her own modern twist added in, shaking the melodies from their core, ripping them up at the roots to discover a sound that I feel is completely unto herself. The songs selected for this list are a perfect example of strength within sorrow, but my personal favourite is the album’s haunting opening track.
“The body” sets the tone for the entire album, with a melancholic heartbeat running through its entirety.
Taken from @nicolesaboune
There is a coldness to Nicoles music, and I feel that’s something inherently Scandinavian. I was having this conversation with a housemate, about how Scandinavian electronica is just that little bit better than electronica from other countries; it’s got that ethereal feel, and Nicole successfully brings the otherworldly into her sound. “Miman” is Out now.
This is Halloween on Spotify
This is Halloween on YouTube
In Isolation, Nottinghams homegrown goth-tastic synth trio who contributed a song to the soundtrack of independent horror flick “Zombiehood” in which I had the pleasure of playing a small role, ‘openly wear their influences on their sleeve’. Their music is a throwback to the 80s new wave and stirs in me a longing for that very same decade when Goth rock thrived, and massive hairspray soaked locks backcombed to fuck a la Dave Vanian was the norm, and dancing as if changing the lightbulb was the trendiest thing ever, when London and Manchester pulsed with Goth clubs, and when adorned with Adam Ant facepaint you were encouraged not scoffed at. I’m currently located in Tokyo, one of the most vibrant, liveliest and sleepless cities in the world, yet even here I am struggling to find any decent goth/metal bars. Vinyl is incredibly popular but I have yet to find any records which sate my thirst.
So why is it nowadays that music of this nature is so hard to come by, and so difficult to gain a decent following? The UK and Europe proudly boasts the origin of several great Goth bands, with niche festivals like Mera Luna and Whitby Goth Weekend. We are home to some of the most excellent clubs such as The Slimelight, The Corporation and Rock City, with radio stations such as Nightbreed, so why does so much of this wonderful music go underappreciated in the UK? Another who echoes my sentiments is friend and vocalist Martin Gronert of The Dead and Living. Hailing from the sleepy town of Karlstad in the middle of Sweden, The Dead and Living who toured with Deathstars in 2014, write music of a punk tinged horror Goth style.
“ The internet and social media rewards things that are easy to absorb. Which means music needs to be super simple and kind of stupid, in order to get the most attention. It’s in many ways an opposite to what the gothic and dark music scene is about. So bands that explore darker places and approach the world with a lot less enthusiasm, are not really rewarded in the modern way of marketing”
Sadly, I couldn’t agree with him more. Though I find myself constantly yearning for new music, as Martin says “I don’t think a band like Paradise Lost would show up these days. It’s
just too smart and too restrained for a broad audience of restless internet clickers”
Martin on stage with The Dead and Living
But on the flipside, programs like Spotify and YouTube have been priceless tools in allowing me to find new music, and to create lists like this to share with those of you who are perhaps at a loss on how to find something a bit left field. And The Dead and Living’s music certainly fit that bill. Though they have been compared to Deathstars by default, I disagree. When I saw them live for the first time, crawling onto the stage like overgrown spiders donned in corpsepaint, I felt that the drums were very Marilyn Manson-esque, with a strange folk vibe, a sort of carpathian tale being told, all the while being punctuated by charcoal vocals akin to a young Leonard Cohen. Welcome to the carnival of The Dead and Living, it’s a nightmare!
“For us it’s perfect though.”he continues. “We’ve tried really hard for many years to avoid attention and publicity. But in the end they always find you, don’t they?”
Yes, yes we do Martin. Check out TDAL now, and eagerly await their new album due for release next year.
Chelsea Wolfe is another of those mysterious female powers I have recently had the pleasure of discovering. Her eerie music will drag you inside her sleep paralysis and the tracks included should give you an idea of just how deep she is willing to go. Music to induce night terrors for sure.
Nick Cave. This article would be meaningless if it did not include Nick Cave. I was introduced to his music at the tender age of 19, and I have been addicted ever since. As my own personal struggles within furthered, the need for complex, intelligent and poetic music increased also, and I found myself returning again and again to the album “let love in” which is one of my favourites. Soon, my trigger happy fingers were scrying the internet for every scrap of information, every music video, every live performance, and every collaboration and band associated with him. A whole other world unravelled before my eyes and solidified in me a comfort, a sort of unsteady peace, that everything is alright, as long as I have this music. From Einstürzende Neubauten, to Anita Lane, to Pj Harvey and their one take love-at-first-sight music video, Lydia Lunch, Die Haut, Roland S Howard, Mick Harvey’s impressive reworking and translation of an entire Serge Gainsbourg catalogue, The Birthday Party, and even pop princess Kylie Minogue, I devoured everything. Works he cited also entered my sphere, films mentioned and books to be read, this granddaddy of Goth was an endless fountain of knowledge. He has influenced and continues to influence a great many musicians, even Sweden’s Thåström and Rome, a lifetime isn’t enough to understand this brilliant mind.
A final word on Nick. I don’t feel it is my place to speculate on recent events. I simply have too much love and respect for the Cave family. All I can say is the film was a triumph and is being re-released on December 1st. in conjunction with the latest Bad Seeds album “Skeleton Key”.
Gothic music stretches its tendrils into the Dark/Cold Wave/Witch House genre of electronica, and without straying too far afield, and trust me the industrial aspect of Goth is one HELL of a rabbit hole to go down, but I shall save it for a later list! This scorchingly fun aspect of Goth crossover is accurately portrayed with the likes of Skinny Puppy, NIN, Trust and Ministry. Bring your greatest “little fish big fish cardboard box” moves to the dance floor and get pumped up into a trance.
One to watch: Ireland’s finest Goth metal band The Mourning of the Heretic, with vocals and an aesthetic not too dissimilar to early Cradle of Filth.
Music and film often go hand in hand, with many music videos being inspired by classic horror films, and so I achingly want to recommend to you all my top films for this year’s All Hallows Eve. Curl up with a cup of tea/coffee/red wine/blood and watch these beauties.
Only Lovers left Alive (impeccable)
Interview with the Vampire (the only time Tom Cruise was ever hot)
Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.( Underrated as fuck.)
The Craft (me in high school basically)
The Crow (immortalized performance from Brandon Lee akin to Heath Ledger’s Joker)
The VVitch (Satanic as fuck)
Finally, I want to dedicate this article to the memory of Sophie Lancaster, who died protecting her boyfriend from a vicious attack simply for how they dressed; Goth. If you are a young person reading this then I want you to know you are not alone, and you should never be afraid to speak out against injustice of any kind. For you are powerful, you are beautiful and you are brave. And I hope that this music brings comfort of some kind, just as it did to me in my teenage years, when all I had was the lyrics and the music to fill another endless night.
Peace and love,
Dave Vaian of The Damned