From its dark beginnings in the nihilistic grandeur of Bauhaus’ deeply influential In The Flat Field, to its heyday in the early 80s when The Cult set the scene on its head with the startling Dreamtime and Love And Rockets opened up America with Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven, to the goth metal boom of Type O Negative and on through to the noughties, when the twisted vision of Marilyn Manson and Finland’s The 69 Eyes revamped the genre, we take you through three decades of the finest, darkest moments forever set outside the mainstream.
UK Decay — UK Decay (1979)
[* included by Gotik. Source: Wikipedia ]
UK Decay was born out of the ashes of another Luton band called the Resiztors, who had formed in 1978. The Resiztors’ lineup consisted of guitarist Steve “Abbo” Abbott, drummer Steven David Harle, bassist Martin “Segovia” Smith and vocalists Ricky Smith and Paul Wilson. After the vocalists’ departure in the spring of 1979, the remaining band members changed their name to UK Decay, with Abbott as singer (and guitarist). They soon released the Split Single 7″ EP in partnership with fellow local band Pneumania, on their own Plastic Records label. The EP featured two tracks from each band, with UK Decay contributing “UK Decay” and “Car Crash”. Split Single sold extremely well, mainly thanks to a damning review in the NME by Danny Baker and Charles Shaar Murray. At the same time, some UK Decay members produced their own monthly fanzine The Suss and ran their own punk record and clothes shop called Matrix. Guitarist Steve Spon was soon recruited from Pneumania, allowing Abbo to concentrate on frontman duties.
The next release for Plastic Records was UK Decay’s The Black 45 four-song EP, issued in early 1980. It hovered in the UK Indie Chart for 15 months. Alex Howe from Fresh Records offered to license the first two singles, and signed UK Decay to the label. The first official release for Fresh was the single “For My Country”, issued in September 1980. “For My Country” received airplay from John Peel (for whom they would record two sessions) and spent eight months in the indie chart, reaching No. 13. The single was promoted by a major UK tour with hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys. By 1981, two further singles had also been released, “Unexpected Guest” and “Sexual”. The former achieved the band’s highest indie chart placing of No. 4, and paved the way for UK Decay’s debut album, For Madmen Only, released by Fresh in December 1981. The album had taken a year to gestate, due to delays caused by a time-consuming US tour and a frustrating search for a new permanent bass player. When original bassist Smith left, Lorraine “Lol” Turvey from the Statics stood in for some UK dates and an early 1981 European tour. For the US jaunt and subsequent UK tours in spring 1981, Creetin K-OS (of US punks Social Unrest) stood in. Following that stint, K-OS returned home and Eddie “Twiggy” Branch from Northampton joined on bass, just in time to finish the album. During this period, Abbo jokingly referred to the band’s sound as “goth” in a Sounds interview, helping to immortalize the beginning of the gothic rock movement, although UK Decay considered themselves a punk band first and foremost.
A Certain Ratio – All Night Party (1979 single)
Described by Steve Coogan’s Tony Wilson in the movie 24-Hour Party People as having “all the energy of Joy Division but better clothes”, ACR – their name taken from a Brian Eno lyric – evolved into post-punk funk, but their beginnings (this second single followed Shack Up, in 1979) were distinctly Bauhaus-like.
All Night Party, produced by Martin Hannett, barely touches drums but effortlessly etches its heavy groove from ominous bass, scratchy guitar and a vocal which culminates in witnessing a stabbing (‘I work all day, I drink all night, my life is just an angry blur’), making this the least festive, most compelling all-nighter imaginable.
Bauhaus – In The Flat Field (1980 album)
Bauhaus were the band that perhaps first articulated gothic music. On this, their stunning debut, the focus is precise and monochrome, the attack powerful and anarchic, the feel bleak and unforgiving. And yet through all the sense of nihilism there’s something undeniably uplifting about Bauhaus’s unity of purpose, their relentless pursuit of what, oddly enough, feels like glorious nothingness.
With bassist David J and drummer Kevin Haskins rumbling away in the background, all quasi-funk bass runs and far-off tribal rhythms, the floor is left to guitarist Daniel Ash and vocalist Peter Murphy to create the magic, a kind of bastardised version of Ronson and Bowie’s glam duo turned into vampire musicians with a need to confess a multitude of sins.
Listen to Stigmata Martyr and you’ll feel there’s something altogether unholy going on. Ash pulls sounds never heard before from his guitar, while Murphy’s highly stylised vocals demand you pay your fullest attention. This is a dense and demanding listen, but ultimately it’s a hugely rewarding one.
Siouxsie And The Banshees – Juju (1981 album)
The fourth Siouxsie And The Banshees album bewitched and bewildered the post-punk generation, proving the band to be much more than just punk-era chancers and establishing them as serious, transgressive artists with a unique voice and vision and a sound that entranced with style and subversion.
The album is thrilling and tense. From the exhilarating opening salvo of Spellbound through the sweeping-stuttering drama of Monitor to the menacing Voodoo Dolly, it’s a work which fuses ugly unease and startling beauty like the films of Alfred Hitchcock, and also Luis Buñuel
Juju reached number seven in the UK, staying on the album chart for more than four months. Its reputation has stayed strong. In the mid-90s, Melody Maker hailed it as “one of the most influential albums of all time”, while The Times, in 2004, described the band as “full of daring rhythmic and sonic experimentation…
But Siouxsie Sioux herself had no truck with the idea of her band being a template for ‘goth’. “Juju had a strong identity, which the goth bands that came in our wake tried to mimic, but they simply ended up diluting it. They were using horror as the basis for stupid rock’n’roll pantomime.”
The Cure – Pornography (1982)
“I wanted to make the ultimate fuck-off record,” said Robert Smith of his band’s fourth album. “And then The Cure could stop.” He achieved the first aim, if not the second, with Pornography, arguably the bleakest, most depressive record of the 1980s.
Entering the pop landscape in May 1982, the same month that saw Barry Manilow’s Barry Live In Britain give way to Paul McCartney’s saccharine Tug Of War at the top of the album charts, to say it sounded like nothing else was an understatement. Unrelenting and claustrophobic, it was panned panned upon release.
Rolling Stone called it “the aural equivalent of a bad toothache”, but it mattered little. Cure fans, enthralled by the dark lyricism and minimalist sonic landscapes established on previous albums Faith and Seventeen Seconds, lapped it up. It ultimately made Number Eight on the UK chart, and became the foundation stone for a trilogy that would eventually be completed by the similarly crepuscular Distintegration and Bloodflowers.
The Danse Society – Seduction (1982 album)
Experimental beginnings Barnsley’s finest had played Leeds’ Futurama 2 festival alongside Soft Cell and Siouxsie before releasing this debut in 1982. While the press sometimes labelled them with the “goth” tag, their rhythmic, experimental sound was often closer to Northern peers like Comsat Angels.
Here, Ambition lures you in with three minutes of electro pulse before the drums kick in – a dramatic intro technique The Sisters Of Mercy later often employed. My Heart is as prescient in its use of synths as early Simple Minds, while Godsend is a whirl of metallic chimes, drones and screams, with lead singer Steve Rawlings suggesting that this is ‘where the nightmare ends’.
For The Danse Society, the dream was just beginning, albeit to fade with their 1986 split.
This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren (1983, b-side)
Unbelievably, Song To The Siren was originally released as a B-side to the Sixteen Days-Gathering Dust EP. Effectively a Cocteau Twins release (as it featured Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie only), the song took on a life of its own, became the A-side of the single, and gave legs to the goth supergroup concept.
Originally written by Tim Buckley (Fraser would later be involved with his son, Jeff Buckley), the song was first recorded by well-known goth Pat Boone. The song so beguiled director David Lynch that when he was denied usage of it for his movie Blue Velvet he hooked up with singer Julee Cruise and composer Angelo Badalamenti to make music in a similar vein.
Gene Loves Jezebel – Promise (1983 album)
The Aston brothers, Jay and Michael, of Porthcawl, have never been credited as progenitors of the post-punk/goth style in the same way as, say, Siouxsie Sioux, Ian Astbury or Peter Murphy. But the Welsh boys’ debut album, Promise, had as many of the elements that came to define the movement as Dreamtime, Juju or In The Flat Field.
The tribal drums, shimmering riffs, spooky bass lines and slightly hysterical vocals are all present and correct, while the naturally theatrical Astons add both a touch of androgynous sex appeal and arthouse lyrical bent to proceedings. Promise is the sound of glam rock refracted through punk and an almost overwhelming desire to escape a humdrum British existence, to transcend it, actually.
There’s no doubt that the album’s a period piece. It’s utterly impossible to imagine a track like Scheming being written today. But as a snapshot of a moment in time it’s superb, with an impressive sense of self and a commitment to the songs that is absolutely palpable. Despite knowing a thing or two about melody, Promise isn’t an easy listen. But you wouldn’t expect anything less from an album featuring a song called Shower Me With Brittle Punches, would you?
Alien Sex Fiend – Acid Bath (1984 album)
Alien Sex Fiend took the corpse of rock music, strapped it to a table, did unspeakable things to it, then shot it full of electricity and brought it back to life. Well, ‘life’ is perhaps too strong a word: like Frankenstein’s monster, the undead beast they created was damaged, brutal and naive. Their songs weren’t composed, they were decomposing. A weedy Lahndahn voice caterwauling over a frequently atonal racket, ASF were Alice Cooper’s shock rock taken up a punk rock cul de sac – and then taken roughly from behind.
Acid Bath is their high water mark and their biggest seller – coinciding with two John Peel sessions that year that introduced them to the crimped-haired masses of Thatcher’s Britain. You could mistake it all as schlock but between the lunacy and gore was the sense of a band genuinely reflecting their age: the death disco throb of Dead And Re-Buried belied it’s pro-veggie message (‘Never eat anything with a face on it’).
Hee Haw Here Come The Bone People saw the electro-punk replaced with skull-crushing layers of guitars as Nik Fiend turns his gaze to a generation racked by solvent and amphetamine abuse (‘Who is the man? Give us a clue/Living on thinners, you’re choking on glue… Blood runs from my nose’). It’s grimly fiendish.
And Also The Trees – Out Of The Moving Life Of Circles (1984 album track)
The word ‘gothic’was apparently first used in a musical sense by Factory record boss Tony Wilson to describe Joy Division’s Northern grimness. Despite coming from Worcestershire, And Also The Trees followed in Joy Division’s footsteps to an extent: mournful and worldweary with a bass sound that echoed Peter Hook’s (but without the pop, er, hooks).
The band’s first demos were produced by Robert Smith and their 1984 self-titled debut album by The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst. Closing track Out of The Moving Life Of Circles is an overlooked gem: as deliciously dreary and dark as anything by the early Smiths or The Chameleons.
Cocteau Twins – Treasure (1984 album)
I’ve always detested Treasure,” guitarist Robin Guthrie said a decade after its release. “Not because of the record, but because of the vibe at the time, when we were pushed into all that kind of arty-farty pre-Raphaellite bullshit. And so I was just really ashamed of [it].” Bassist Simon Raymonde has commented: “[Treasure] is our worst album by a mile.” Singer Liz Fraser, meanwhile, has described the album’s song titles – and the fans’ search for meaning in them – as “bollocks”.
Don’t listen to them: Treasure is a landmark Cocteaus album, a fan favourite, and one that topped the indie charts in 1984 and even made it into the real Top 40. Such is the contradictory world of the Cocteau Twins – a band that came from the grim industrial Scottish port Grangemouth and made music that sounded like it’d fallen out of the skies.
Beginning life as a sub-Siouxsie goth act, Cocteau Twins soon transcended the genre with follow-up Head Over Heels and this astonishing third album, the first of their ‘classic line-up’ as a trio with Raymonde. Singer Elizabeth Fraser’s cooing, soaring, soothing vocals, which sound permanently on the verge of orgasm, are the perfect match for Robin Guthrie’s inspirational use of textures and effect.
The Cult – Dreamtime (1984 album)
With a series of name changes matched only by Anthony Wedgewood Benn, Southern Death Cult became Death Cult and then finally The Cult in January, 1984 (“we’re more about life than death,” said Ian Astbury in explanation). Shortened, honed and focussed, Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy pulled off a debut to define a movement – that movement being ‘positive punk’, of course.
Dreamtime was too uplifting, too full of beauty and melody, to be truly ‘gothic’. The first track – a re-record of The Death Cult’s ferocious Horse Nation, the lyrics taken from Native American history book Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee – set the template for their success right up until Electric: Duffy’s swirling guitar lines luring you in before exploding into an infectious and delirious riff, tribal drumming, and Astbury’s unique vocals braying like a warlord over the top of it all.
Spiritwalker sent a 1000 indie discos into chicken-dancing frenzies, while A Flower In The Desert – a brooding, graceful reworking of Southern Death Cult’s art-funk Flower In The Forest – showed the depth under the sturm und drang. Arguably they got better, but The Cult were never as original or important as on Dreamtime.
The March Violets – Natural History (1984 album)
Forged in the darkest depths of goth rock Mordor (Leeds), the March Violets’ uniqueness came from the shared male/female vocals of founder Simon Denbigh and Rosie Garland , their aggressive take on ‘drum machine music’ (Denbigh said: “The only other drum machine bands around at the time were things like Blancmange – this grey, dismal nonsense. Even earlier bands like Suicide were quite laid back, whereas what we were trying to do was punk…”), and the warped vision of their leader.
Influenced by The Higsons (fronted by Charlie Higson, later of The Fast Show/Swiss Toni fame), the Violets weren’t afraid of being funky or funny, with bizarre tracks like Bon Bon Babies bubbling away next to the fury of Radiant Boys or the euphoric grandeur of Snake Dance.
The success of the latter song – slicker, more commercial, just plain better – ironically brought about the end of the band. A management deal with Simon Napier-Bell fermented ambitions and created the in-fighting which saw Denbigh leave to create surrealist grebos the Batfish Boys and the band try their hand at “being Kim Wilde” (Denbigh’s words). Natural History, put together from singles and Peel sessions at the time, is a fitting epitaph.
Flesh For Lulu – Subterraneans (1984 single)
Batcave regulars Flesh For Lulu brought a warmer rock sound to goth – more influenced by Alice Cooper and the Rolling Stones than Wagnerian operatics or art noise – and Subterraneans is their overlooked anthem.
Still unavailable on CD, except as a (pretty decent, to be fair) re-record from 2009, it’s a hymn to the new movement: to reinvention (‘I’m set free once again in the city of dreams’), style (‘Subterraneans wear the coolest camouflage’) and the growth of the scene (‘New arrivals, new arrivals, they’re all looking for you/coming in two by two’) as viewed from a bar stool at Goth HQ.
The Damned – Phantasmagoria (1985 album)
Recorded at Eel Pie Studios in London in the spring of 1985, Phantasmagoria amounted to a wholesale reinvention for punk pioneers The Damned and a last-ditch attempt to keep the whole show on the road after the loss of founder member Captain Sensible and years of record label problems.
Their faith was immediately rewarded when pre-emptive single Grimly Fiendish put Dave Vanian and his cohorts back into the UK Top 40 for the first since 1979. Named after cartoonist Leo Baxendale’s Grimly Feendish character that appeared in 60s comics Wham! and Smash! It offered only a vague hint as to Phantasmagoria’s unexpectedly dark detour.
The album’s second single was the clincher. The Shadow Of Love, a reverb-drenched slab of prime gothabilly topped with Vanian’s booming croon, was another chart triumph and led to a memorable Top Of The Pops appearance for Vanian’s now towering duochrome bouffant.
The majority of the music had been written by Sensible’s replacement, guitarist/keyboard player Roman Jugg, but Phatasmagoria was Vanian’s album through and through. Ushered in by some overwrought saxophone, the opening Street Of Dreams was a sustained rush of vampyric bombast, with Vanian moodily intoning about beauties, beasts and the dead beats and the dispossessed, while the six-and-a-half minute of Sanctum Sanctorum was an indulgent sprawl of ghostly pipe organ, concert hall piano and thunderstorm sound effect that brought Vanian’s grimly poetic tale of doomed love to life.
While most of their punk peers had either given up the ghost or succumbed to the law of diminishing returns, Vanian and co were now authentic pop stars. More than 20 years on, Phantasmagoria remains their gothic masterpiece.
Killing Joke – Love Like Blood (1985 single)
As rock music power-dressed its way into the arena of the anodyne, and all that Frankie could say was ‘relax’, Killing Joke set about reclaiming the dancefloor for something a little more primal.
Having snatched defeat from victory’s jaws by making for Iceland in order to ride out an apocalypse that never came, KJ vocalist Jaz Coleman reformed the band, replacing bassist Youth with Paul Raven, and tentatively recalibrating the band’s sound for fourth album Fire Dances.
But it wasn’t until Rolling Stones’ producer Chris Kimsey took the band (completed by guitarist Geordie Walker and drummer Paul Ferguson) into Berlin’s Hansa studios that they finally hit their ultimate stride. Zeitgeist-defining lead single Eighties hinted at magic, before fifth album Night Time delivered it with the titanic Love Like Blood.
Love And Rockets – Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven (1985 album)
It would have been so easy for Love And Rockets to have been nothing more than a weakened re-tread of Bauhaus. After all, guitarist Daniel Ash, bassist David J and drummer Kevin Haskins had provided all of the spooky musical background to vocalist Peter Murphy’s gothic outpourings in that band.
So when they returned in the mid-80s with Love And Rockets it was odds-on for more glorious gloom. That the band’s debut album, Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven, is so incredibly different, yet so incredibly good, is a huge testament to the members’ desire to escape their past and go forward by looking further back.
SDOTH is far more psychedelic than it is goth, referencing Floyd more than anything else and using acoustic guitars, keyboards and even flutes to paint the musical picture. Syd Barrett would have been absolutely thrilled with A Private Future. Roger Waters would surely have loved to sing The Dog-End Of A Day Gone By.
But while the influences are clear, this is far from a pallid copy. Not least when the band stamps their own feel all over an unexpected yet inspired cover of The Temptations’ 1970 hit Ball Of Confusion.
Dead Can Dance – De Profundis (Out Of The Depths Of Sorrow) (1985 album track)
From its haunting, Gregorian chant-like opening, De Profundis (Out of the Depths of Sorrow) marked a telling step forward for Dead Can Dance. Gone were the tentative, more conventional gothic forays of their 1984 self-titled debut album. In their stead was the lush, assured sound of 1985’s follow-up Spleen And Ideal.
This new identity was never better exemplified than with the album’s first track, De Profundis, whose title is steeped in a religious and literary past. Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry’s vocals and vision had now clearly distinguished them from their 4AD label mates and the burgeoning goth scene, and created a unique sound that, with the passing of time, has transcended its origins.
The Rose Of Avalanche – L.A. Rain (1985 single)
The ROA brought out two 12” EPs in 1985 before they’d even played a gig – Goddess and their debut, LA Rain, both of which topped the indie charts.
An apocalyptic epic, L.A. Rain itself is 7.45 minutes of plodding drumbeats drenched in reverbed guitar and soggy lyrics (‘She’s in the rain/The acid rain/The skies are black and the sun don’t shine/The LA Rain’) drawled in a Noo Yawk Lou Reed accent (they came from Leeds).
The band themselves referred to L.A. Rain as “the song that Andrew Eldritch never dared to write”, but that honour should really go to B-side Conceal Me, which pairs a brilliantly simple riff with Eldritch-like howls. Have mercy.
The Mission – God’s Own Medicine (1986 album)
The Sisters Of Mercy may have been the first goth band to truly rock, but The Mission were the genre’s first real rock stars. Formed by ex-Sisters duo Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams after the tribulations of working with Andrew Eldritch became too much, they were content to leave the intellectual grandstanding to their ex-colleague and indulge in the sort of arms-aloft grandstanding that was supposed to have gone out of fashion with quaaludes.
As far as manifestos went, they didn’t come much clearer than God’s Own Medicine. Kicking off with Hussey’s shamelessly OTT intonation of ‘I still believe in God, but God no longer believes in me’, their debut album was goth writ on a mountainous scale, utterly unafraid of pomposity, pretension and its own inherent silliness, and sounding all the better for it.
Their recreational habits – hinted at by the album title, a romantic euphemism for morphine – said as much about their love of the classic rock bands of the 70s as the portentous paisley printed stadium goth of stellar singles Wasteland and Severina.
The Mission’s tongues might have been hovering suspiciously near their cheeks, but their debut album possessed an ambition that went way beyond the confines of their local Batcave. Suddenly, the idea of a being a goth musician and a rock star didn’t seem so silly after all.
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – Walking On Your Hands (1986 single)
This is the shoulda-been-huge alternative disco anthem that never really was. It’s goth meets Motown, the band’s Northern industrial grimness welded to a bassline stolen from The Supremes.
Phil Collins’ You Can’t Hurry Love had been Number One three years before and this was its dark twin: a frenzied 2.38-minuter that swapped the finger-snapping feelgood swing of Motown for growling bass and bondage metaphors (though almost certainly not sexual – there was little room for sex in main man Chris Reed’s oppressive vision of workers enslaved in a capitalist society). It’s as addictive as the tongue-twister they’re named after.
Fields Of The Nephilim – Preacher Man (1987 single)
Contamination, radiation… the scenario didn’t look too bright in the Mad Max world of Preacher Man. From the opening apocalyptic-hoedown churn of guitar and Carl McCoy’s first phlegmy growl, it was clear this Hitchin band were both serious and yet somehow not.
Epic, booming, wreathed in smoke and proudly presenting a video full of zombies and gas masks, this is so loaded with swagger and gusto that it’s hard to resist.
The Sisters Of Mercy – Floodland (1987)
No one trades in the currencies of irony and disinformation quite like Andrew Eldritch. And if the Sisters Of Mercy linchpin is to be believed, his second album was either a work of unmatched genius or an exercise in glorious stupidity. In the end, it turned out to be both.
The acrimonious dissolution of the previous Sisters line-up following 1985’s debut album First And Last And Always meant that Eldritch was effectively starting again from scratch, a task he undertook with relish. This follow-up found him erasing any remaining traces of the band’s post-punk beginnings, repositioning the Sisters as the Wagnerian wing of the snakebite-and-black set.
He was helped in part by the unlikeliest of collaborators: Meat Loaf wingman Jim Steinman, who co-produced three of the songs here, including magnificently batty 11-minute centrepiece This Corrosion. Its baroque tendencies were balanced out by the altogether more crepuscular Driven Like The Snow, Flood I and II and the Zeppelin-referencing Neverland (A Fragment). At the heart of it all was Eldritch, a black-cowled cardinal conducting his own personal Inquisition, right down to the malevolent whisper and smirk on his lips.
Now, as then, Floodland towers above its peers in sound and ambition; a cathedral in the middle of a cemetery. Eldritch never made another album like it. But then neither did anyone else.
All About Eve – All About Eve (1988 album)
Raffled up with the goth movement more on account of Julianne Regan’s backing vocals on The Mission’s God’s Own Medicine album than any stylistic leanings, All About Eve were altogether more poppy, whimsical and hippyish than the black hat, dry ice brigade.
This, their debut album after being signed to major label Phonogram, has something of the pastoral about it and is a lovely ode to naivety. Flowers In Our Hair, Gypsy Dance and Martha’s Harbour set the tone and it’s not hard to get the gist of where the Eves are coming from. If the Sisters Of Mercy were Altamont and speed, then All About Eve were Glastonbury and a spliff.
Guitarist Tim Bricheno’s stylings are from the same school as The Mission’s Simon Hinkler – all space, nippy fills and a whiff of the other-worldly – but Regan’s vocals and lyrics turn Eve’s songs into something much more gentle and pretty.
Regan is dismissive of what she says was the label’s attempt to turn the band into the next Fleetwood Mac, with her cast as the indie Stevie Nicks. Listening to the splendid In The Clouds again, we reckon that was no bad thing.
Paradise Lost – Pity The Sadness (1992 album track)
With their groundbreaking third album Shades Of God, Yorkshire misery masters Paradise Lost transcended their doom/death metal roots to pioneer and perfect the then nascent form that was gothic metal.
Everything that makes a classic Paradise Lost tune is here: the monstrous rhythm guitar chug, vocalist Nick Holmes’ James Hetfield-esque roar, the stately grandeur of the epic mid-section and yet another skeletal, spine-tingling guitar solo from Greg Mackintosh.
Despite the vast scope of its predecessor, Gothic, Shades Of God is where the seeds of Paradise Lost’s future greatness first revealed themselves, and Pity The Sadness cuts straight to its black heart.
Type O Negative – Bloody Kisses (1993 album)
Emerging from the bare-knuckle free-for-all that was New York’s mid-80s hardcore punk scene, Type O Negative were unlikely standard-bearers for the goth-metal boom of the early 90s. But the Brooklyn natives’ third album stands as a towering landmark for this nascent genre, and one that caved in the door for a new generation of doomed souls.
Led by singer/bassist Pete Steele – a 6’8” man-mountain with the mien of an undertaker and the larynx of a depressed bullfrog – they sat at the nexus of a black-hued Venn diagram where Black Sabbath and Swans met The Sisters Of Mercy and Dead Can Dance. Bloody Kisses added a sludgy metallic grind and an all-encompassing layer of despair to the goth template, from blasphemous mini-symphony Christian Woman to the heroically funereal title track.
But there was an obsidian-black sense of humour at work beneath the gloom, evident in the Addams Family-style finger-clicks peppering Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All) and their dismantling of soul classic Summer Breeze, which turned the Isley Brothers honeyed original into a suicidal dirge – a state of mind that the singer had first hand experience of.
The band would mine this same seam over subsequent albums, before Steele died of heart failure in 2010 at the age of 48. You can’t help but wonder if he’d already written his own epitaph here.
My Dying Bride – For You (1996 album track)
Like Gods Of The Sun, the fourth album from Yorkshire’s gothic doom doyens, is their most accessible. They’ve never really been a singles band, but if one track stands out as an obvious contender, it’s For You.
Archetypal mid-period MDB, it’s built around an unusually up-tempo and strangely catchy opening riff, and a series of mournful verses of the bleakest poetry. This was MDB at their commercial peak, riding the ‘new goth’ wave of the nineties From gothic to romantic to doom laden and back, For You has it all.
The 69 Eyes – Gothic Girl (2000 single)
Gothic Girl started off as a pastiche of Type O Negative’s Black No.1, but it turned out to be the breakthrough The 69 Eyes needed. Pandering to every gothic cliché, the five-piece brought the slick dark rock of The Sisters Of Mercy bang up to date with singer Jyrki69’s new ‘undead Elvis’ vocals awarding them the goth’n’roll tag.
With its Nephilim-esque guitars and über-dark Lords of The New Church-style keyboards, it didn’t take long for the album Blessed Be to propel the Helsinki Vampires from underground glam rockers to goth pin-ups.
HIM – The Funeral Of Hearts (2003 single)
The Finnish nu-goth heroes’ breakthrough single ticked all the relevant boxes: Ville Valo’s crushed velvet vocals, wintery atmospherics, the passing reference to Baudelaire’s The Flowers Of Evil. But its cleverest trick was to wrap the whole thing up in ribbons and roses and serve it to an audience virtually crying out to be seduced.
The clue was in the title of parent album Love Metal: this was the musical equivalent of an Anne Rice novel, all doe eyes and doomed romance. Suddenly, goth had a new pin-up.
Marilyn Manson – If I Was Your Vampire (2007 album track)
“If I had to do a record review,” said Manson of his sixth album Eat Me, Drink Me, “I’d say it’s got a cannibal, consumptive, obsessive, violent-sex, romance angle, but with an upbeat swing to it.”
Thrilling six-minute opener If I Was Your Vampire is an industrial-goth thumper where the drums out-muscle the guitars and our man (who owes Bauhaus a large debt) describes, with knowing irony, ‘Blood-stained sheets in the shape of your heart’ and reckons ‘Everything’s black/ no turning back’.
Manson claims he sang those lines lying on the studio floor, thinking of his very public romance with his then-girlfriend, actress Evan Rachel Wood.
Tiamat – Misantropolis (2008 album track)
Lyrically inspired by mainman Johan Edlund’s relocation to Greece, Misantropolis is the ultimate dark ballad. Showcasing the frontman’s guttural vocals, which had apparently been packed away after the band’s 90s breakthrough album Wildhoney, this tune caused some head-scratching among newer fans unaware of Tiamat’s background.
The album it came from, Amanethes, was a return to the Swedish metallers’ doomier days after several years of flirting with sing-a-longs. This melancholic collection was their only studio album with Nuclear Blast, but it put them back on the metal map and again proved that the Scandinavians do darkness exceedingly well.