Posts Tagged ‘goth’

20th of November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Grunge is dead, so the slogan ran on a T-shirt worn by Kurt Cobain back in 93 or thereabouts. And yet, he we are in 2020 and listening to the third single by Leeds power trio Kath & The Kicks, and the evidence says otherwise.

Like punk, post-punk, goth, shoegaze, and so many genres that are intrinsically tied to a specific period in time, the legacy of grunge reverberates and returns in waves, and one of the joy of being alive now as that cross-genre hybrids of all of these are possible and emerge all the time.

‘Underground’ is all about the thick, overdriven grungy guitar. The sound is dense and dirty, and benefits from an unpolished, no-messing production that accentuates the abrasive edges. It’s the vehicle which carries Kath’s bold, powerful vocal, which, stylistically, sits between vintage hard rock and goth – there’s a dash of Siouxsie in there, while at the same time hinting at being the natural successors to sadly departed Leeds favourites Black Moth.

The dark, ever-so-slightly twisted lyrics dig into a subterranean psyche that’s part goth, part agoraphobe, part obsessive psychopath. It’s a pretty potent cocktail.

Kath _ The Kicks Single Cover

16 November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest six-tracker from GHXT goes for the slow-building intro with the low, slow ‘Shimmer’, where the murky, distorted guitar drone and twang cascading out over a retro drum machine stutter that’s backed off in the mix but cuts through sharp as a whip. It’s the Sisters of Mercy’s Reptile House EP slithering into a stranglehold of The Black Angels on ketamine with a dash of Barbed Wire Kisses era Jesus and Mary Chain.

Two years on from the appropriately-titled Gloom EP, the New York duo return with another batch of weighty, dark material which demonstrates their continued evolution, and the fact the EP format is one which suits them particularly well.

While operating from a comparatively limited sonic palette – dense, overdriven guitar that’s got a big, thick valve sound, minimally-programmed drum machine, and reverb-swamped female vocal they manage to do a lot with it: ‘Come Home’ is Curve-y shoegaze, while ‘It Falls Apart,’ released as a single in October, is a big, bollock-swinging swagger of messy blues, boasting a monster lead solo that sprawls over the entire track. Gloom and blues and murk dominate, casting heavy shadows and a hint of goth over the mood, but there’s so much more besides: the rich timbre of the guitar as it spins a slow-unfurling picked riff on closer ‘Die High’ calls to mind recent works by Earth and Dylan Carlson.

As the nights draw in on the approach to winter and the world feels like an increasingly apocalyptic hellhole, there’s something comforting about GHXST’s brand of immersive darkness.

Blaylox Records – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My ignorance of The Wake clearly blows every last one of my goth / post-punk credentials: where have I been all my life? Pitched as for being for fans of all of my favourite bands from my teen goth period – which I never really left – namely The Sisters of Mercy, Peter Murphy, The Mission UK, Tones on Tail, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, the band emerged in the so-called ‘second wave’ of goth appearing on myriad compilations and extensive touring with peers including Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails, The Wake secured their place in goth and roll history.

‘Everything’, the second single lifted from the new album – their first in a quarter of a century – features Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Wolfie providing additional guitar, which further bolsters the release’s heritage credentials.

Not that it needs it: it’s a solid album in its own right. ‘Daisy’ is a daringly bleak, low-tempo opener that may not be quite Reptile House EP barren, but is nevertheless a spectacularly dark, atmospheric trudge through oppressively dark terrain, and at nearly six minutes long, it’s hardly an easy entrance.

Things go very Sisters circa ’85 with ‘Marry Me’, and the guitar work is clearly heavily influenced by Wayne Hussey, as are the vocals: this is their reimagining of the Sisters’ ‘Garden of Delight’ demo and it’s taut and murky, and they’ve got that heavily-chorused / valve sound nailed, and it’s that circa ’85 / ’86 vibe that drifts like a creeping smog of dry ice from every corner of Perfumes and Fripperies, aided by a dense production. While the swirling guitars are most obviously the defining aspect of the sound, the bass is thick and boomy, to the extent that you don’t so much hear the basslines as feel them, and they fill out the sound without being able to specifically separate the bass. Said shuddering bass is welded in a tight 4/4 to the mechanised drum tracks, which are pitched relatively low but are relentless – precisely as they should be.

There’s inevitably an element of comparing the motifs with precursive signatures: the tunnel-like vocal reverb is a Sisters signature that’s become a trope that so many bands have tried to emulate, with varying degrees of success.

The aforementioned ‘Everything’ is a hypnotic mesh of shoegaze that draws together early Lorries and All About Eve’s ‘Phased’, and Troy Payne’s vocals are treated with a steely metallic edge that replicates Chris Reed’s sound. Elsewhere, if the drum sound and overall structure of ‘Emily Closer’ is a Sisters / Rosetta Stone / Suspiria lift, the atmosphere is more Curesque, which the title kind of implies is the aim, and ‘Big Empty’ is hollow, brittle, a blanks pace of flanged bass and claustrophobically intense reverb.

‘Figurine’ marks a lurch into Fields of the Nephilim, and with the bombastic layers of female backing vocals wafting over some icy synths and a bassline that’s pure Simon Gallup on the last track, ‘Rusted’, it seems like The Wake have got all the goth bases covered. On the one hand, I should be irritated, as these things perpetuate the sameness of goth bands that’s been a bugbear of mine for years, largely because it feels self-limiting, like a genre trapped in time. But when it’s this well executed and the songs and production are this strong… you just can’t knock it.

Perfumes and Fripperies isn’t a great title, but it is a great album.

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30th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas return to follow up on August’s ‘Black’ with ‘You’re The Crash I Needed’, and of this release Ben says, “We wanted the lyrics to reflect an awakening, a coming-to after a period of being insular and unaware of one’s own actions but for that to be entirely forced upon you by someone else. Musically ‘You’re The Crash I Needed’ was composed to mirror that sensation of when you fall asleep in front of the TV and then it seems explosively loud and totally overwhelms the senses when you wake up.”

That jolt… to nab the line penned by Editors, it kicks like a sleep twitch. We’re all guilty of sleepwalking through life at some point or another, oblivious of ourselves and the potential repercussions of our actions, and such somnambulance has become the characteristic behaviour in 2020 as we drift from one day to the next. The kick will happen, and no doubt the jolt will provide a real shock to many.

‘You’re The Crash I Needed’ is an indie-goth gut-punch of a song, with hell-for-leather drumming and interweaving guitars reminiscent of Rosetta Stone and early Mission and it’s got a vibrant energy and a kind of sweeping openness that’s simply not commonplace in contemporary music. Then again, nor is that kind of chorused guitar sound.

Balancing breeziness and shade, this is a tight and tense rack and a clear single choice, and while it’s retro it’s anything but cheesy. I for one am excited.

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Single artwork

31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Matt Vowles is the first to admit that he’s a little out of step with musical trends and ‘late to the party’ in forming a goth band in 2018.

Unlike some of us, he was around the music in clubs in the mis 80s, but spent over 30 ears doing other things, before, as he explains, ‘in 2017 I rediscovered my passion for this genre. I started listening again to those goth bands from the eighties. I was totally reinvigorated. So I put down all of my keyboards, picked up my guitars and started MY goth band, BLACK ANGEL. Now here we are: two albums later. People say BLACK ANGEL captures that sound and feeling from 1985. I love the process which is what is most important. This is what I do now. And as they say, the rest is history…..I guess I was just a little late to the party.’

Kiss of Death does very much capture the essence of the school of goth from the mid-to-late 80s, and the album’s pitch as being for fans of The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, and Bauhaus is pretty much on the money, although to my ear Kiss of Death is more Mission than Bauhaus, favouring as it does that grand arena-filling reverb and a layered but polished sound defined by a sturdy rhythm section and chorus-heavy guitars that spindle and twist their way. Then again, the album’s last song, ‘Black Angel’ lifts its bassline from ‘Bella Lugosi’s Dead’ and features a classic stony-voiced horror narrative segment, so maybe it’s a fair summary after all.

After a grand intro that echoes and swirls, the title track is in with a hard four-square thud of a drum machine, and welded it is a Craig Adams-style bass groove: nothing fancy, just that classic, metronomic strike-on-every-beat low-end. The lead vocals are menacing and low in the mix, and in the choruses it’s the female backing vocals that dominate and carry the melody. Incorporating the Sisters’ rhythm section circa ‘85, the Sisters’ bombast circa ‘87 and the melodical leanings of The Mission, it equally calls to mind contemporaries like Mayflower Madame. It’s quite telling that much of the album’s sound bypasses the 90s ‘second wave’ sound and instead hones in more on the chuggier, rockier side of the first wave – think The Cult’s Sonic Temple and The Sisters’ Vision Thing: and while there are synths present, they’re more augmentation to the guitars than to the fore.

‘Animal’ is Black Angel’s ‘More’, with a megalithic chorus propelled again by a relentless mechanised beat and a rush of layered backing vocals that border on the choral, but the synth elements hint at Depeche Mode, while ‘Alchemy’ comes on like The Sisters’ cover of ‘Ghostrider’ with its nagging bassline and blistering guitars, but laced with chilly synths.

‘Hurricane’ is more a cross between The Cult and Rose of Avalanche, while ‘Put Your Lips…’ is conspicuously ungoth, more a glam-goth rock ‘n’ roll stomp – again, more 90s Mission with a nod to James Ray’s cover of ‘My Coo-Ca-Choo’.

Lyrically, much as it’s an album about love, it’s a goth album about love, and as such all the familiar tropes about demons, goddesses and all the rest are present in abundance: it would be unduly harsh to criticise on this score, and Kiss Of Death is a truly solid contemporary trad-goth album.

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12th June 2020

James Wells

According to their bio, Milton Keynes based British metal outfit Chasing Ghosts were ‘born of a passion to create dark and melodic music’ and their latest offering ‘is no doubt their biggest and most ambitious record yet, a union of haunting female harmonies and natural sombre strings, resulting in an evolution of all the darker elements in their already present sound since the release of their critically acclaimed debut album in 2018’.

Cynic that I am, was prepared for this to bring me some suffering, with a load of overblown bombastic rock – and make no mistake, there are elements that creep towards being OTT, but they manage to balance it with enough drive and majesty and emotional resonance as to render it an engaging and powerful release.

Opener ‘Until the End’ is a bold, gothic sweep of a song with intricate guitar lines that interweave across choral vocals that evoke the spirit of The Sisters of Mercy, and, moreover, the myriad bands who followed in their wake. The rhythm guitar chugs hard while the lead picks a serpentine thread and the baritone vocals (which aren’t short on a hint of Carl McCoy) cast a mix of gloom and drama over the whole thing.

Brooding violins sway through the intro to ‘A Darker Place’ that pitches somewhere between All About Eve and Evancessence, while the title track, ‘Bring Me Suffering’, which draws the curtain, is what one would justifiably describe as an ‘epic’, a seven-minute, string-soaked rendition of emotional anguish that rides post-rock crescendos while surging to a slow-burning climax that makes you ache as you listen.

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Former New Creatures / Johnathan Christian co-founder Johnathan Mooney and Machinery of Desire’s Adrian Auchrome have teamed up to form the new project THE FUNHOUSE COLLECTIVE.  The duo has announced the release of their cover of Golden Earring’s classic song, ‘Twilight Zone’.  The original song was written by Golden Earring guitarist George Kooymans who got inspiration from Robert Ludlum’s book, The Bourne Identity.

Produced by Johnathan Mooney and Michael Bann, this new darker, post-punk version aptly arrives at a very poignant time in the world.

“Growing up during the Cold War and coming of age when the original came out left me with indelible memories of that era. Add the events past few months to the mix and it seemed this could have new relevance.” Says Adrian Auchrome.

Pitched as being for fans of The Sisters of Mercy and The Mission, to our ears, it’s more reminiscent of technoindustrial gods PIG, and that’s no bad thing. Get your lugs and peepers round it here:

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Christopher Nosnibor

Having declared Evi Vine’s last album ‘a masterpiece’ and vowed to watch her and her band live whenever the opportunity presented, this live stream seemed like the best opportunity I’d get for a while. Lockdown may be loosening, but the prospect of proper gigs seems a way off yet.

While a lot of live streams have simply been solo bedroom shows, or bands playing from separate Zoom screens, have had a certain novelty, I’ve simply found them uninteresting and not even a remove substitute for an actual concert. It begins with a stream of something ambient and an empty space: yes, actual build-up and anticipation.

What’s more, Evi performs with bandmember Steven Hill providing additional guitar, heavily layered in spectral shoegaze effects as a backdrop to her hypnotic Dylan Carlson-esque picking, creating a much fuller sound that’s a closer approximation to an actual show.

Playing in a bay window facing out onto a luscious garden, the sun descending behind and casting the duo in silhouette, and with white fairy lights drapes thick on her amp head, the appearance is somewhere between a conventional stage and a garden party.

The nature of the songs – here, often rearranged – means they’re well suited to this more minimal kind of performances, sans percussion, and Evi’s voice is always the focal point anyway and it drifts in washes of reverb-soaked guitar as if in a dream. Sound and volume to matter, and they’ve turned things up. Consequently, I actually find myself feeling something, something other than simply watching music on telly.

If the accompaniment of Loki the dog’s barking and my buffering broadband (which means I miss out on minutes at a time, even causing me to miss ‘Sabbath’ in its entirety…. ) are impendences of varying levels to the experience, then the slightly blurry camera and the fact Evi’s dialogue between songs is difficult to make out really aren’t, and remind of common real-life gig issues.

It’s a captivating set, and ‘In this Moment’ is truly magnificent as sculpted contrails quaver and taper like smoke. They even manage some lighting action for a solo instrumental from Steve, which is immense, and after a haunting, elegiac close, there’s an abstract ambient track playing while they retrieve the dogs from the garden and pack up. It’s an alternative version of stage-clearing while the audience thins and people mill about finishing their pints, but it’s somehow a fitting end to the show.

Vine

Only Lovers Records – 27th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This is an album I’ve been on the edge of my seat for for quite some time: their debit, Observed in a Dream was fully four years ago, which feels like an eternity. The two preceding singles set the bar for expectations for Prepared For A Nightmare – preparing us not so much for a nightmare, but a haunting set of songs that built on the foundations of its predecessor, flexing new muscles, pushing new boundaries.

The title track raises the curtain in grand style, brooding drama filtered through a misty haze of reverb. The guitars wander in and out of key along doric scales that spin a gothy twist to the echoey psychedelic surf vibe.

After a mid-tempo opening salvo, ‘Ludwig Meidner’ steps it up with full-tilt rolling drums reminiscent of The Danse Society circa Seduction, blended with The Cure on Pornography. There are cold, needling synths in the mix undulating across the thunderous barrage of percussion and the sound’s filled out by a low-slung bass groove while Trond sings about ‘dancing on your grave’: the lyrical themes and musical style remains unchanged, but what is different is that there’s more space, which conjures a different darkness.

‘The Night Before’ is a doomy, gloomy trudge, sparsely set and more about layers than rive – which is perhaps true of the album as a whole this is more focused on detail, on nuance, on atmosphere. Closer ‘Endless Shimmer’ hints at all the shoegaze, even op, and it’s in the mix, but it’s taut, dense, and dark and there’s a tension that simmers beneath that’s hard to pull apart. The fadeout on ‘Goldmine’ seems a little odd, but perhaps that’s as much about fashion as anything. The 80s… This is so reminiscent as to be a repro in some way. But it’s ok: there’s no sense that any of this s forced or artificial. Prepared For A Nightmare oozes song quality and a richness of performance and appropriate production. It’s seriously hard to fault any of it.

Prepared For A Nightmare is definitely darker and deeper and less immediate than its predecessor, but it’s all the better for it.

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Only Lovers Records – 4th February 2020

James Wells

Mayflower Madame step up the promo for Prepared for a Nightmare, the follow-up to 2016’s Observed in a Dream with a second single in the shape of ‘Swallow’. It reveals a mellower side in relation to its predecessor, the bruising ‘Vultures’, and while it’s still very much an example of their trademark sultry psychedelic surf, ‘Swallow’ reveals a previously unheard melodic leaning.

Described as ‘a love song… about the dependence and fragility one might feel in a relationship – involving both a fear of and a desire for submission’, according to front man Trond Fagernes, it’s still not quite pop, and not exactly a ballad, either, and it’s draped in gothy shadows and doomed romanticism.

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Mayflower - Swallow