Back in the '80s, bands such as The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division helped define a dark music and culture movement known as "goth." All of these bands would later become household names (Joy Division, in its later incarnation as New Order), and recently, stores such as Hot Topics have sanitized the movement, popping up in mall settings to sell goth to today's youth.
But as the "look" of the goth scene (lots of skulls, black leather, black lace, black … anything) has become more in-vogue, there seem to be fewer visible "goth" acts on major record labels.
The music part of the goth and "dark wave" scene certainly hasn't died, however. There are independent labels such as Gestalt and Dancing Ferret that release music by underground bands, and there are Internet radio stations (such as Gothic Paradise, through www.live365.com that cater to current goth music artists, such as the reviews below.
Close to home, Fashion Bomb, a very visual independent band that has drawn comparisons to Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, recently won a contest that could potentially land a major record deal. Fashion Bomb falls on the metallic side of the goth-derived spectrum, and already has put together its own demo CD, complete with a video for the hard-rockin' song "The Line." The band also scored as the opening act on Halloween in New Orleans for Marilyn Manson.
At the end of last month, Fashion Bomb won a contest called "The Next Big Thing II," put on by Chicago's 94.7-FM.
A four-song demo recording deal with Hollywood Records. So, if the demo recording goes well, one of Chicago's own goth-metal acts could end up with a major label deal in 2004. Check their Web site at www.fashionbomb.net for more info, or check them out live at Chicago's Metro on Feb. 7.
The Cruxshadows’ last disc, Wishfire, made it into my best of the year selections for 2002 for its innovative mix of gothic imagery, ‘80s techno synthesizer sounds and electric violin. Ethernaut continues in the same vein, centering on the fist-raising vocals of spiky-haired leader Rogue, which are augmented by the ethereal harmonies and spoken vocals of guitarist Stacey Campbell.
Opening with the science fiction trappings of “Into the Ether” (which includes clips of astronaut dialogue and building scales of Rachel McDonnell’s violin), Ethernaut then slips into its best track, “Cassandra,” which features the fuzzy pound of techno percussion and some siren-like background vocals by Campbell. That’s followed closely by the evocative strings and cool electronica percussiveness of the epic “Winter Born (This Sacrifice).”
“Love and Hatred” opens with an almost Erasure-like pop synthesizer tone, but the sugary element of that quickly gives way to pounding drums and a wash of echoing electronica textures and Rogue’s distinctive vocals. Likewise “Untrue,” which rests on a warbling ‘80s style synthesizer rhythm bed that begs to get a dancefloor churning. And the band crafts some evocative atmospheres in the cyclic polyrhythms of “East.”
While The Cruxshadows’ fifth album doesn’t include a track as memorable as their song “Eurydice,” which spent more than years in the top 40 New Wave charts of mp3.com, the band has crafted another solid disc in Ethernaut, capitalizing on their long-established innovative sound.
No other band mixes electronica, gothic atmosphere, crunching guitar chords
and soothing violin lines like this. If you enjoy innovative techno music dressed
in a melancholic blanket of darkwave, don’t miss this disc. (see www.cruxshadows.com)
I first heard Dark Orchid on Internet radio, where the dark, dreamy “Painter” gets a lot of play. Anchored by the sultry emotive vocals of bassist Tonja Nolan, this Colorado quartet creates sinuous melodies that are both seductive and ethereal, yet filled with power.
Taj Yelton’s drumming keeps all of the songs on Kali Yuga filled with energy, even when the band is travelling a dreamy road. “Painter,” with its hypnotic bassline and Nolan’s melancholic lyrics (“you just stare back through the mirror at the sadness in my eyes”) is the best track on this nine-song release, but the entire CD is definitely worth a listen for dark mood-setting.
The band is currently on hiatus, but the disc remains available, and their
record label offers other gothic-based bands as well. (see www.gestaltrecords.com)