Gothic rock (alternately called goth-rock or goth) is a style of rock music that emerged from post-punk in the late 1970s. The first post-punk bands which shifted towards dark music with gothic overtones include Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus, and the Cure.
The genre itself was defined as a separate movement from post-punk due to its darker music accompanied by introspective and romantic lyrics. Gothic rock then gave rise to a broader subculture that included clubs, fashion and publications in the 1980s.
|Cultural origins||Late 1970s, United Kingdom|
According to music journalist Simon Reynolds, standard musical fixtures of gothic rock include "scything guitar patterns, high-pitched basslines that often usurped the melodic role [and] beats that were either hypnotically dirgelike or tom-tom heavy and 'tribal'". Reynolds described the vocal style as consisting of "deep, droning alloys of Jim Morrison and Leonard Cohen". Several acts used drum machines downplaying the rhythm's backbeat.
Gothic rock typically deals with dark themes addressed through lyrics and the music's atmosphere. The poetic sensibilities of the genre led gothic rock lyrics to exhibit literary romanticism, morbidity, existentialism, religious symbolism or supernatural mysticism. Musicians who initially shaped the aesthetics and musical conventions of gothic rock include Marc Bolan, the Velvet Underground, the Doors, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop and the Sex Pistols. Journalist Kurt Loder would write that the song "All Tomorrow's Parties" by the Velvet Underground is a "mesmerizing gothic-rock masterpiece". However, Reynolds considers Alice Cooper as "the true ungodly godfather of goth" due to his "theatrics and black humor".
Nico's 1968 album The Marble Index is sometimes described as "the first Goth album". With its stark sound, somber lyrics, and Nico's deliberate change in her look, the album became a crucial music and visual prototype for the gothic rock movement. Gothic rock creates a dark atmosphere by drawing influence from the drones used by protopunk group the Velvet Underground, and many goth singers are influenced by the "deep and dramatic" vocal timbre of David Bowie, albeit singing at even lower pitches. J.G. Ballard was a strong lyrical influence for many of the early gothic rock groups; the Birthday Party drew on Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire.
In 1976, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice was published. The main character, although dark, wanted companionship and love. The book, according to music journalist Dave Thompson, slowly created an audience for gothic rock by word of mouth. The same year saw the punk rock band the Damned debut. The group's vocalist, Dave Vanian, was a former gravedigger who dressed like a vampire. Brian James, a guitarist for the group, noted, "Other groups had safety pins and the spitting and bondage trousers, but you went to a Damned show, and half the local cemetery would be propped up against the stage".
Critic John Stickney used the term "gothic rock" to describe the music of the Doors in October 1967, in a review published in The Williams Record. Stickney wrote that the band met the journalists "in the gloomy vaulted wine cellar of the Delmonico hotel, the perfect room to honor the gothic rock of the Doors". The author noted that contrary to the "pleasant, amusing hippies", there was "violence" in their music and a dark atmosphere on stage during their concerts.
In the late 1970s, the word "gothic" was used to describe the atmosphere of post-punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine and Joy Division. In a live review about a Siouxsie and the Banshees' concert in July 1978, critic Nick Kent wrote that concerning their performance, "parallels and comparisons can now be drawn with gothic rock architects like the Doors and, certainly, early Velvet Underground". In March 1979, Kent used the gothic adjective in his review of Magazine's second album, Secondhand Daylight. Kent noted that there was "a new austere sense of authority" to their music, with a "dank neo-Gothic sound". In September, Joy Division's manager Tony Wilson described their music as "gothic" on the television show Something Else, and their producer Martin Hannett described their style as "dancing music with gothic overtones" In 1980, Melody Maker wrote that "Joy Division are masters of this gothic gloom". When their final album Closer came out a couple of months after the death of their singer, Sounds noted in its review that there were "dark strokes of gothic rock".
Not long after, this appellation "became a critical term of abuse" for a band like Bauhaus, who had arrived on the music scene in 1979. At the time, NME considered that "Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants and even by Joy Division" opened up "a potentially massive market" for newcomers like Bauhaus and Killing Joke: however, critic Andy Gill separated these two groups of bands, pointing out that there was a difference "between art and artifice".
The second Siouxsie and the Banshees album, released in 1979, was a precursor in several aspects. For journalist Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, "A lot of musical signifiers [...] – scything, effects-laden guitar, pounding tribal drums – are audible, on [...] Join Hands". However, Bauhaus's debut single, "Bela Lugosi's Dead", released in late 1979, was retrospectively considered to be the beginning of the gothic rock genre. According to Peter Murphy, the song was written to be tongue-in-cheek, but since the group performed it with "naive seriousness", that is how the audience understood it. In the early 1980s, post-punk bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Cure included more gothic characteristics in their music. According to Reynolds, with their fourth album, 1981's Juju, the Banshees introduced several gothic qualities, lyrically and sonically, whereas according to The Guardian, Juju was art rock on certain album tracks and pop on the singles. Their bassist, Steven Severin, attributed the aesthetic used by the Banshees around that time to the influence of the Cramps. The Cure's "oppressively dispirited" trio of albums, Seventeen Seconds (1980), Faith (1981) and Pornography (1982), cemented that group's stature in the genre. The line "It doesn't matter if we all die" began the Pornography album, which is considered as "the Cure's gothic piece de resistance". They would later become the most commercially successful of these groups. The Cure's style was "withdrawn", contrasting with their contemporaries like Nick Cave's first band, the Birthday Party, who drew on blues and spastic, violent turmoil. With the Birthday Party's Junkyard album, Nick Cave combined "sacred and profane" things, using old testament imagery with stories about sin, curses and damnation. Their 1981 single "Release the Bats" was particularly influential in the scene.
Killing Joke were originally inspired by Public Image Ltd., borrowing from funk, disco, dub and, later, heavy metal. Calling their style "tension music", Killing Joke distorted these elements to provocative effect, as well as producing a morbid, politically charged visual style. The Damned moved beyond their original punk sound, inflecting 1980's The Black Album with dramatic surges and crooned vocals. Reynolds identified the Birthday Party and Killing Joke as essential proto-goth groups. Despite their legacy as progenitors of gothic rock, those groups disliked the label. Adam Ant's early work was also a major impetus for the gothic rock scene, and much of the fanbase came from his milieu. Other early contributors to the scene included UK Decay and Ireland's the Virgin Prunes.
Gothic rock would not be adopted as "positive identity, a tribal rallying cry" until a shift in the scene in 1982. In London, the Batcave club opened 21 July 1982 to provide a venue for the goth scene. That same year, Ian Astbury of the band Southern Death Cult used the term "gothic goblins" to describe Sex Gang Children's fans. Southern Death Cult became icons of the scene, drawing aesthetic inspiration from Native American culture and appearing on the cover of NME in October.
In February 1983, the emerging scene was described as "positive punk" on the front cover of NME: in his article, journalist Richard North described Bauhaus, Theatre of Hate and UK Decay as "the immediate forerunners of today's flood", and declared, "So here it is: the new positive punk, with no empty promises of revolution, either in the rock'n'roll sense or the wider political sphere. Here is only a chance of self awareness, of personal revolution, of colourful perception and galvanisation of the imagination that startles the slumbering mind and body from their sloth". That year, myriad goth groups emerged, including Flesh for Lulu, Play Dead, Rubella Ballet, Gene Loves Jezebel, Blood and Roses, and Ausgang. The 4AD label released music in a more ethereal style, by groups such as Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, and Xmal Deutschland. The Icelandic group Kukl also appeared in this period, which included Björk and other musicians who later participated in the Sugarcubes.
Reynolds has spoken of a shift from early goth to gothic rock proper, advanced by the Sisters of Mercy. As journalist Jennifer Park put it, "The original blueprint for gothic rock had mutated significantly. Doom and gloom was no longer confined to its characteristic atmospherics, but as the Sisters demonstrated, it could really rock". The Sisters of Mercy, who cited influences such as Leonard Cohen, Gary Glitter, Motörhead, the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, the Birthday Party, Suicide, and the Fall, created a new, harder form of gothic rock. In addition, they incorporated a drum machine. Reynolds identified their 1983 single "Temple of Love" as the quintessential goth anthem of the year, along with Southern Death Cult's "Fatman". The group created their own record label, Merciful Release, which also signed the March Violets, who performed in a similar style. According to Reynolds, the March Violets "imitated Joy Division sonically". Another band, the Danse Society was particularly inspired by the Cure's Pornography period.
American gothic rock began with 45 Grave and Christian Death. This harder, more punk-influenced style became known as deathrock. European groups inspired by gothic rock also proliferated, including Clan of Xymox.
Southern Death Cult reformed as the Cult, a more conventional hard rock group. In their wake, the Mission, which included two former members of the Sisters of Mercy, achieved commercial success in the mid-1980s, as did Fields of the Nephilim and All About Eve. Other bands associated with gothic rock include Alien Sex Fiend, All Living Fear, And Also the Trees, Balaam and the Angel, Claytown Troupe, Dream Disciples, Feeding Fingers, Inkubus Sukkubus, Libitina, Miranda Sex Garden, Nosferatu, Rosetta Stone, and Suspiria. The 1990s saw a resurgence of the goth subculture, fueled largely by crossover from the industrial, electronic and metal scenes; and goth culture and aesthetic again worked itself into the mainstream consciousness, inspiring thriving goth music scenes in most cities and notoriety throughout popular culture. Beginning in the late 1990s, gothic metal fused "the bleak, icy atmospherics of goth rock with the loud guitars and aggression of heavy metal". 
In the 2000s, critics regularly noticed the influence of goth on new bands. English band the Horrors mixed 1960s garage rock with 1980s goth. When referencing female singer Zola Jesus, writers questioned if she announced the second coming of the genre as her music was described with this term.
In terms of fashion, gothic bands incorporated influences from 19th-century Gothic literature along with horror films and, to a lesser extent, the BDSM culture. Gothic fashions within the subculture range from deathrock, punk, androgynous, Victorian, to Renaissance and medieval-style attire, or combinations of the above, most often with black clothing, makeup and hair. Crimped hair was popular among gothic fans in the 1980s.
In the 1990s, several acts including PJ Harvey, Marilyn Manson, Manic Street Preachers, and Nine Inch Nails included gothic characteristics in their music without being assimilated into the genre. According to Rolling Stone, PJ Harvey's music in 1993 "careens from blues to goth to grunge, often in the space of a single song" whereas American artists such as Marilyn Manson combined "atmosphere from goth and disco" with "industrial sound". In 1997, Spin qualified Portishead's second album as "gothic", "deadly" and "trippy". Critic Barry Walters observed that the group got "darker, deeper and more disturbing" in comparison to their debut album Dummy.
Curtis' death wrapped an already mysterious group in legend. From the press eulogies, you would think Curtis had gone to join Chatterton, Rimbaud and Morrison in the hallowed hall of premature harvests. To a group with several strong gothic characteristics was added a further piece of romance. The rock press had lost its great white hope, but they had lost a friend. It must have made bitter reading.
Because it is unsettling, it is like sinister and gothic, it won't be played. [interview of Joy Division's manager Tony Wilson next to Joy Division's drummer Stephen Morris from 3:31]
Young men in dark silhouettes, some darker than others, looking inwards, looking out, discovering the same horror and describing it with the same dark strokes of gothic rock.
sixties garage meets eighties goth.
In mood as much as message, The Holy Bible was an intensely sombre record, overcast by the same stormy skies which darkened Van Gogh's last works. It was gothic and, quite often, literally goth: more than one song could easily have been early Cure, Sisters of Mercy or Bauhaus.
Nine Inch Nails auteur dropped the Downward Spiral, crunching punk and goth and Depeche Mode
Andrew Eldritch (born Andrew William Harvey Taylor, 15 May 1959) is an English singer, songwriter and musician. He is the frontman and only remaining original member of the Sisters of Mercy, a band that emerged from the British post-punk scene, transformed into a gothic rock band, and, in later years, flirted with hard rock.
Formerly a drummer, Eldritch also programs the tracks for the Sisters of Mercy's drum machine (known as "Doktor Avalanche") and plays guitars and keyboards in its studio recordings but uses live shows to focus solely on his vocal performance. Eldritch is well known for his deep and melancholic bass-baritone singing voice as well as his poetic (and sometimes politically charged) lyrics.
The Sisters of Mercy is regarded as a major influence on gothic rock, and Eldritch, with his (former) shock of black hair, bass-baritone vocal style and pale and thin look (with prominent cheekbones), was described in the media as a poster boy for the genre, earning him the label the "Godfather of Goth", which he frequently denies.
He also established the record label Merciful Release. In addition to the Sisters of Mercy, in 1986 Andrew Eldritch established a side-project the Sisterhood (to keep former band members from using the name) which was quickly abandoned in favour of continuing working under the Sisters of Mercy.Christian Death
Christian Death is an American gothic rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1979 by Rozz Williams. With major line-up changes over the years, Christian Death has retained "a relentlessly confrontational stand against organized religion and conventional morality".Williams was eventually joined by guitarist Rikk Agnew of the band Adolescents, James McGearty on bass guitar and George Belanger on drums. This line-up was responsible for producing the band's best known work, their 1982 debut album Only Theatre of Pain, which was highly influential in the development of the style of music known as deathrock, as well as on the American gothic scene which also produced bands such as 45 Grave.Following the release of Only Theatre of Pain, Christian Death's line-up had fallen apart, and by the time of the band's second album, Catastrophe Ballet (1984), Rozz was now joined by Valor Kand of tour mates Pompeii 99 on vocals and guitar. Following the release of the band's third album, Ashes, in 1985, Williams left the band and was controversially replaced by Valor as frontperson of the band, with no original members of the band remaining, causing a divide in the band's fanbase that has continued to this day.Cocteau Twins
Cocteau Twins were a Scottish rock band active from 1979 to 1997. They were formed in Grangemouth by Elizabeth Fraser (vocals), Robin Guthrie (guitars, drum machine), and Will Heggie (bass), with Heggie replaced by multi-instrumentalist Simon Raymonde in 1983.
The group has earned critical praise for their distinctive ethereal sound and the soprano vocals of Fraser, whose lyrics often abandon recognizable language. They have been recognized as pioneering the 1980s subgenre dream pop, and were associated with the British record label 4AD for much of their career.Dark wave
Dark wave is a music genre that emerged from the new wave and post-punk movement of the late 1970s. Dark wave compositions are largely based on minor key tonality and introspective lyrics, and have been perceived as being dark, romantic, and bleak, with an undertone of sorrow. Common features include the use of chordophones such as electric and acoustic guitar, violin, and piano, as well as electronic instruments such as synthesizer, sampler, and drum machine. The genre embraces a range of styles including cold wave, ethereal wave, gothic rock, neoclassical dark wave, and neofolk.In the 1980s, a subculture developed primarily in Europe alongside dark wave music, whose followers were called wavers or dark wavers. In some countries such as Germany, the movement also included fans of gothic rock (so-called trad-goths).Deathrock
Deathrock is a rock music subgenre incorporating horror elements and gothic theatrics. It emerged from punk rock on the West Coast of the United States in the early 1980s and overlaps with the gothic rock and horror punk genres. Notable deathrock acts include Christian Death, Kommunity FK, 45 Grave, and Super Heroines.Fields of the Nephilim
Fields of the Nephilim are an English gothic rock band formed in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England in 1984.
The band's name refers to a Biblical race of giants or angel-human hybrids, known as the Nephilim. Although the band have not received substantial mainstream success, their seminal sound has proved highly influential, especially in the genre of gothic rock.Godhead (band)
Godhead, occasionally typeset as gODHEAD, is an American rock band from Washington, D.C. They are most often credited with being the only band signed to musician Marilyn Manson's short-lived vanity label, Posthuman Records.Horror punk
Horror punk (sometimes called horror rock) is a music genre that mixes proto-gothic and punk rock sounds with morbid and violent imagery and lyrics, which are often influenced by horror films or science fiction B-movies. The genre is similar to and sometimes overlaps with deathrock, although deathrock leans more towards an atmospheric gothic rock sound while horror punk leans towards a 1950s-influenced doo-wop and rockabilly sound. Horror punk music is typically more aggressive and melodic than deathrock.
The Misfits and their first lead vocalist Glenn Danzig are recognized as the progenitors of horror punk. Bands like The Undead (founded by ex-Misfits guitarist, Bobby Steele), Screaming Dead, The Damned, The Cramps, T.S.O.L, 45 Grave and Rosemary's Babies are also considered old school horror punk bands.
Horror punk is generally apolitical in comparison to other punk rock subgenres, although some songs do refer to political events (e.g. the Misfits' "Bullet", which discusses the assassination of John F. Kennedy), and some artists like Jack Grisham (on the left) and Michale Graves (on the right) have espoused their own political views.
Horror hardcore, refers to a hybrid of horror punk and hardcore punk. The Misfits' 1983 album Earth A.D. inaugurated this style and the bands Septic Death, The Banner, and Integrity have also been categorized into this subgenre.List of gothic festivals
The following is an incomplete list of gothic festivals, which encapsulates music festivals focused on gothic music. Goth festivals may feature genres such as gothic rock and gothic metal, as well as industrial music. The festivals also tend to feature aspects of the Goth subculture, such as fans and bands in goth fashion. Goth is a musical subgenre of post-punk and alternative rock that formed during the late-1970s. Gothic rock bands grew from the strong ties they had to the English punk rock and emerging post-punk scenes. The genre itself was defined as a separate movement from post-punk due to its darker music accompanied by introspective and romantic lyrics. Gothic rock then gave rise to a broader subculture that included clubs, fashion and publications in the 1980s.List of gothic rock artists
The following is a list of notable artists that have been described as gothic rock by reliable sources. "Gothic rock" is a term typically used to describe a musical subgenre of post-punk and alternative rock that formed during the late 1970s. Gothic rock bands grew from the strong ties they had to the English punk rock and emerging post-punk scenes. According to both Pitchfork and NME, proto-goth bands included Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and the Cure. The term was first used by critic John Stickney in 1967 to describe the music and accompanying performances by the Doors. The Doors' lyrics and their "audience-antagonizing performances" have even been seen as the beginning of gothic rock.Love and Rockets (band)
Love and Rockets were an English alternative rock band formed in 1985 by former Bauhaus members Daniel Ash (vocals, guitar and saxophone), David J (bass guitar and vocals) and Kevin Haskins (drums and synthesisers) after that group split in 1983. Ash and Haskins had recorded and performed in another band, Tones on Tail, between 1982 and 1984. Love and Rockets' fusion of underground rock music with elements of pop music provided an early catalyst for alternative rock. They released seven studio albums before breaking up in 1999 and reformed briefly in 2007 for a few live shows, before splitting again in 2009.
They are perhaps best known for their 1989 single "So Alive", which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.Patricia Morrison
Patricia Morrison (born January 14, 1962) is an American retired bass guitarist, singer and songwriter. She worked with Bags, The Gun Club, Fur Bible, The Sisters of Mercy and The Damned.Southern Death Cult
Southern Death Cult were a British post-punk/gothic rock band in the early 1980s. They are now primarily known for having given their lead singer and parts of the name to the multi-platinum hard rock band the Cult. Despite the similarities in the names, "Southern Death Cult" were distinct from "Death Cult"/"the Cult".The 69 Eyes
The 69 Eyes are a multi-platinum-selling Finnish gothic rock band. They are currently signed to EMI Finland. The band's albums are now distributed worldwide. The End Records acts as the band's official North American distributor, as Nuclear Blast Records provides distribution in Europe. Australia will be handled by AmpHead Music. All Asian and Latin American releases are handled by EMI affiliates.The Birthday Party (band)
The Birthday Party (originally known as The Boys Next Door) were an Australian post-punk band, active from 1978 to 1983. Despite limited commercial success, The Birthday Party's influence has been far-reaching, and they have been called "one of the darkest and most challenging post-punk groups to emerge in the early '80s." The group's "bleak and noisy soundscapes," which drew irreverently on blues, free jazz, and rockabilly, provided the setting for vocalist Nick Cave's disturbing tales of violence and perversion. Their music has been described by critic Simon Reynolds as gothic, and their single "Release the Bats" was particularly influential on the emerging gothic scene.In 1980, The Birthday Party moved from Melbourne to London, where they were championed by broadcaster John Peel. Disillusioned by their stay in London, the band's sound and live shows became increasingly violent. They broke up soon after relocating to West Berlin in 1983. The creative core of The Birthday Party – singer and songwriter Nick Cave, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Mick Harvey, and singer, songwriter and guitarist Rowland S. Howard – later went on to acclaimed careers.The Damned (band)
The Damned are an English rock band formed in London, England in 1976 by lead vocalist Dave Vanian, guitarist Brian James, bassist (and later guitarist) Captain Sensible, and drummer Rat Scabies. They were the first punk rock band from the United Kingdom to release a single, "New Rose" (1976), release an album, Damned Damned Damned (1977), and tour the United States. They have nine singles that charted on the UK Singles Chart Top 40.The band briefly broke up after Music for Pleasure (1977), the follow-up to their debut album, was critically dismissed. They quickly reformed without Brian James, and released Machine Gun Etiquette (1979). In the 1980s they released four studio albums, The Black Album (1980), Strawberries (1982), Phantasmagoria (1985), and Anything (1986), which saw the band moving towards a gothic rock style. The latter two albums did not feature Captain Sensible, who had left the band in 1984. In 1988, James and Sensible rejoined to play what was said to be the Damned's final live show. This was released the next year as the live album Final Damnation.The Damned again reformed for a tour in 1991. In 1995, they released a new album, Not of This Earth, which was Scabies's last with the band. This was followed by Grave Disorder (2001), So, Who's Paranoid? (2008), and their most recent album, and the first to crack the United Kingdom's Official Charts' top 10 list, landing at #7, Evil Spirits (2018). Despite going through numerous lineup changes, the formation of Vanian, Sensible, keyboardist Monty Oxymoron, drummer Pinch and bassist Stu West had been together from 2004 until 2017, when West left the band and former bassist Paul Gray rejoined.As one of the first gothic rock bands, The Damned were a major influence on the goth subculture with lead singer Vanian's vampire themed costume, baritone singing voice and dark lyrics being major influences. They influenced future hardcore punk bands with their fast-paced, energetic playing style and attitude. Along with the Sex Pistols and the Clash, they helped to spearhead the punk movement in the UK. The Damned are sometimes referred to as British punk's "band of firsts," having made accomplishments mentioned previously, as well as other "firsts" like the first punk band to break up and come back.The Horrors
The Horrors are an English rock band formed in Southend-on-Sea in 2005, consisting of lead vocalist Faris Badwan, guitarist Joshua Hayward, keyboardist and synthesiser player Tom Cowan (also known as Tom Furse), bassist Rhys Webb, and drummer and percussionist Joe Spurgeon. Their music has been classified as garage rock, garage punk, gothic rock, shoegazing and post-punk revival.The band have released five studio albums: Strange House (2007), Primary Colours (2009), Skying (2011), Luminous (2014) and V (2017) all of which charted within the UK Top 40.The Lords of the New Church
The Lords of the New Church were an English/American gothic rock supergroup with a line-up consisting of four musicians from 1970s punk bands. Launched in 1982, the band had moderate chart success prior to their dissolution in 1989.Tones on Tail
Tones on Tail was a British post-punk band formed in 1982, originally as a musical side project of Daniel Ash of the gothic rock group Bauhaus. Their music was described by one critic as "doom-and-dance-pop."
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