I made the mistake of asking “What is Goth to you” on Facebook recently (after being asked the same question by French journalists at Whitby, in my role as (co-)captain of Real Gothic FC). Over 700 comments later, we were still no closer to the answer.
The thing is, no-one else is either. Goths around the world vary hugely, and then there is the question of whether Goth is still going to be here in the future to argue about. thebelfry.rip (excellent domain, folks) had an intriguing article recently about the state of Goth music in the US, and it made some salient, uncomfortable points, particularly around the insular nature of the scene and it’s unerring ability to tear itself apart from the inside (something that happens all-too-often in the UK, too).
The other thing to consider is the age of the scene. It is very much getting older, and as a friend put it, “The Goth Scene, as it stands in 2017, is in the very dire situation of almost being a retro-revival scene“. He has a point, and it stands to a point for the industrial scene, too, although maybe it’s not quite as bad there – but it depends on which strand you are part of.
But saying that, there is new music, there are great new bands, they however aren’t always to be found where you might expect.
So this week, I’m handing the reins over to some people who really do have their fingers on the pulse. Martin Oldgoth, The Blogging Goth, and Joel Heyes, all of whom have offered up their opinions on new(ish, in some cases) music within the scene, and I’ve added my own comments to each of the entries, as it ended up that I discovered some great new music out of this.
First up, then, here’s Martin Oldgoth, who has been a DJ in the Goth scene for a long time, having DJed just about everywhere that I can think of, and is a genuinely lovely chap. Over to you, Martin…
Better Than Death
Martin: Where to begin? Always a tricky one that, but Adam suggested I write a few words as a pointer to the kind of stuff I’m currently enjoying, so here goes. The last few years have seen an explosion in the numbers of small ‘indie’ bands with that darker edge, that ‘post punk’ vibe if you like and so below I’ve listed a few bands and a track from each to check out.
First up, New Today and a track called ‘Skirts’, a track that conjures up darkness, spotlights and fog machines without even trying. it’s a timeless sound, and a band I’d like to hear more of in clubs.
amodelofcontrol.com: Martin is not wrong. This is classic Goth through and through, and while the production is perhaps rather better than I might have expected from a release back then, I wouldn’t have been surprised in the slightest if I was told that this actually dated from 1983. That said, I do like this.
My Time Is Falling Out
Martin: There has been a lot of great stuff coming out of Italy over the past few years and Branches are for me one the best, with nine years between their only two releases I guess we shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry for the next album, but the two you can get from bandcamp should keep you going.
amodelofcontrol.com: This track, from what I can tell, comes from the first of their releases, and it’s…ok? I’m curious enough to want to go and see what else they can do with this sound, though, as I love that bassline in particular.
Martin: Every now and then as a DJ you stumble across a band, or in this case, just one track, where you just eagerly await the chance to play it to a crowd of people and hope they find it as interesting as you do. Lately, this is that track, Little Creatures.
amodelofcontrol.com: Oh, I like this a lot. There’s something of old rockabilly – and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, particularly in his vocal histrionics, this is really not what I was expecting whatsoever. It’s clever, it has one foot in the past, with the obvious references, but also it is clearly a band who have tons of technical ability and are not afraid at showing it off while making their own niche. The video on the YouTube playlist – from an online show they appeared on, by the looks of things – has hilariously retro, eye-popping background visuals, too.
The Little Death
The Little Death
Martin: Back to Italy again for the next band, Nomotion, and a little touch of that Gun Club twang about this lot, which when you think about it, makes a hell of a change from the endless Sisters of the Nephilim we seemed plagued by. Of the bunch this is the most ‘poppy’, but hey, we all like a singalong in the car right? This is ‘The Little Death’
amodelofcontrol.com: Fucking hell, that really does give a nod to Gun Club (that chorus sounds like a later NMA melody, too, unless it’s just me). It’s groovy as hell, though, and I was dancing in my seat just listening to that. Striking video, too.
Martin: My final selecion comes from Canada, and TRAITRS. I love this band, and if things go the right way for them I see them as being another name that we’ll see more of over the coming months.
amodelofcontrol.com: Blimey, this is dark. There is a fantastic atmosphere to this, the synths swirling like wisps of fog at the fringes. This one had me immediately looking out other songs, and the title track of this EP is in my opinion even better, with a dramatic rolling drum rhythm that had me hooked from the off.
Martin: And there we have it, five bands that hopefully showcase some new bands or sounds for you and thanks to amodelofcontrol.com for giving me this chance.
We now move onto The Blogging Goth, who has selected four songs. That blog is often more about other elements of the Goth subculture than music – as it is about more than the music, as many will tell you, it’s more of a lifestyle. That said, he is of course massively into the music, and as I understand it is involved with the new nights from Noircastle in the North-East. So, what’s he got for us?
The Blogging Goth: Hold on, that can’t be right! It’s twenty-five years exactly since the last official release from the Arch-Denier himself, hasn’t it? It is, but a band without a record label, a band described as “The most bootlegged of the Eighties” clearly doesn’t trouble itself with anything official. So, I turn to a song performed first in 2000, this side of the Millennium and therefore quite recent for the Sisters. Crash and Burn typifies for me the phantom fourth album – the drums are techno-fast, giving the old Doktor a hell of a workout. The guitars are jagged, a great reflection of Ben and Chris’ talents as guitarists, and a wonderful sneering sound that has permeated the Sisters since the smoke, brooding and leather days of the early eighties.
Eldritch himself snarls his way through symbolism that strikes me as a continuation of his magnificent-bastard ‘rapping’ of Under The Gun – but it’s his writing at the best, all love, sex, war and death. This is the Sisters for the new century (finally) and it kicks.
amodelofcontrol.com: Wouldn’t it be lovely if Eldritch finally released something new? He does play a handful of new songs (this one was played when I saw them, covered on Into the Pit: 188), and they often sound pretty great. But live, for me, The Sisters are all too frequently a mess, and the best way to enjoy their songs is on CD. So come on, get it on record, Andrew…
This House Is Not Haunted
Not Your Typical Victorians
The Blogging Goth: The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing are clever, funny, have awesome stage presence and incredibly catchy songs. I’ve always enjoyed them, but never been drawn into dedicated fandom. That all changed with their track “This House Is Not Haunted” from just last year. It starts so gently, with a gentle and foreboding tale from the usually gravel-gargling Andy Heintz that sets the stage for a truly spooky and unsettling tune. The chorus is inescapably catchy, “No Gods – No Ghosts – No Afterlife” and the lyrics are a brilliant struggle between atheism and what truly goes bump in the middle of the night.
I saw them perform it at the Spring WGW, and it went over a storm with an audience much more familiar with foot-stompers like their anthem, Brunel. The whole song is a beautifully crafted masterpiece that is coupled with a truly hair-raising video. Hypnotic, disturbing, and entrancing.
amodelofcontrol.com: I’ve long been a fully-paid up fan of TMTWNBBFN, particularly their hugely entertaining live shows, and for me this one works better live than on record (mainly as the crowd interaction is kinda needed), but the brilliant thing about this band is how they have found a way to make sly commentary about the present by singing about 150 year old struggles. Plus ça change…
The Comfort of Loss & Dust
The Blogging Goth: Female-fronted alternative music has long been a weakness of mine. I recall Cold In Berlin’s first visit to Leeds whilst I still lived there, and I feel immediately in love with their hanging-by-fingernails madness and Maya’s swirling dervish stage presence. I routinely refer to them as being in the vanguard of a brand new type of dark indie that the capital is assembling, that I find so exhilarating. Actually picking one song to represent them is damn difficult – I often flit between tracks depending on my mood – but Dopamine is their most recent offering, from 2015’s “The Comfort of Loss and Dust”.
It’s textbook Cold In Berlin, Maya’s vocals low and languid when they aren’t howling up the walls. The guitars are gloriously distorted and the drums heavy, combining to create a definitive ‘doom-stoner-goth-rock’ that bespeaks chemical excess, night terrors and inadvisable life choices. Essential listening.
amodelofcontrol.com: Cold in Berlin are a band whose change in styles has been marked over just three albums. Nowadays signed to one of the top extreme metal labels (Candlelight), their move from squalling, furious post-punk to fully fledged gothic doom has been startling, and I must confess that they’ve lost me a bit along the way – particularly as they appear keen to shed as much of their old sound as possible live, too. Bands change, of course, and that’s their perogative. But by doing so, they are I’m sure well aware that not everyone will make the change with them.
My Name Is Ruin
Savage: Songs From A Broken World
The Blogging Goth: One of my earliest entries into alternative music was a slavish obsession with Cars when I was probably still in single figures. I’m delighted I can still indulge my love for the original paranoid android, as I’ll be going to see Numan on his latest tour at the end of the month. BBC Radio 6 Music premiered the single “My Name Is Ruin” from the upcoming LP “Savage” just last week, and it’s already ear-worming me.
Repetitive, mournful choruses over trademark Numanesque electronica of glacier coldness, now marked with his 21st century guitar shredding. There is a concerning lack of bass and presence in Numan’s work, but treble-heavy is the way his stuff has always been mixed, so it’s hard to argue. I’m anticipating “Savage” with professional interest and personal desire.
amodelofcontrol.com: There is something really intriguing about this song. It retains the harder-edged, industrial rock sound that Numan has been mining with impressive results for over a decade now, but in addition there is an unexpected middle-eastern influence here, with vocals (apparently by his daughter!) not unlike Ofra Haza’s in Temple of Love offering a texture not often heard in this genre. On his first album in four years, this is an impressive return, even if it doesn’t break too much new ground.
In addition, I look forward to flipping the tables when The Blogging Goth comes to Infest next month. More from amodelofcontrol.com on Infest later this week, when I preview this year’s model.
Finally, we move onto the third contributor this week – Joel Heyes, based in Leeds, and involved in countless projects right now. Of particular note from these is the Goth City festival in Leeds, and his long-running band Action Directe (who return to the stage after quite an absence at Carpe Noctum in August).
Needless to say, he’s a busy man right now, but I was able to tear him away for a short time to offer his thoughts on three bands in particular.
The Imperial Broadcast
Joel: Channelling the louche decadence of Nick Cave and the glowering menace of Tom Waits, Stockton’s Golden Age of Nothing are one of the most talented bands on the current scene with an angular sound of pure malevolence and gloom. ‘The Imperial Broadcast’ from new album ‘Monuments’ combines a hacking claw of a bassline with dissonant static and lashings of misery in a manner rarely heard since The Cure’s ‘Pornography’.
amodelofcontrol.com: I’m quite the fan of these guys (earlier single Black Wings was #10 in Countdown: 2016: Tracks), and I’m still hoping someone finds a way to get them down to London to play live sometime. They have gone off in a direction that mystifyingly few bands seem to take, and the new album really does seem them spread their wings that bit further.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Joel: Yorkshire’s self-styled ‘sister doom’ duo have kicked open every door presented to them since emerging on the scene 18 months ago, combining melodic aggression and an eerie sense of suspense. New single ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ comes on like the bastard offspring of NIN and Bauhaus and is easily their most deliriously evocative track yet.
amodelofcontrol.com: OK, this is fucking great. A nasty, electronic-tinged punk track (it has a whole lot more dense sound than a “usual” punk production), and I see what Joel means about the NIN influence – particularly that short-sharp-shock of a breakdown.
Evil Witch Bitch
Joel: London’s Creeping Terrors brutalise post-punk and gothabilly to create a fearsomely angry neo-feminist roar. New album ‘Evil Witch Bitch’ is full of thrilling and chilling highlights which manage to sound exactly like this stuff should sound, but never actually does. Expect shouty choruses, primal howls and killer riffs all served up on a jack-o-lantern platter.
amodelofcontrol.com: As Joel infers, this sure as hell ain’t subtle. It’s fun, never-taking-itself-too-seriously death punk, that wastes little time and doesn’t give a fuck what you think about it.
Thanks to my contributors this week.