Jennifer Elizabeth Rose

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Behemoth, circa 2009.

Behemoth, circa 2009.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

As many bands throughout Europe began to be more and more influence by Scandinavian Black Metal one of those pocket regions that rose to this movement was the Slavic regions.

Indeed there was an almost camaraderie between the two regions at least musically and they often respected and acknowledged each other’s influence on each other. Fenriz, the drummer for Norwegian black metal band Darkthrone, said on the band’s MySpace that the Master’s Hammer debut LP Ritual from 1991 “is actually the first Norwegian black metal album, even though they are from Czechoslovakia.”

Although the Slavic bands would general employ a quality that would eventually be known as yet another subgenre that is still flourishing to this day: Blackened Death. It was perhaps a combination of Czech Republic’s Torr (http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/T%C3%B6rr/4399) formed in the 80’s and Poland’s Vader and the original elements of Scandinavian black metal’s originators that influenced the early influential bands such as Master’s Hammer and Root.

Both Master’s Hammer and Root said Bathory heavily influenced them. In addition, Master’s Hammer was also influenced the by the extremely technical aspects which Carl Czerny and Giuseppe Verdi which employed in their compositional styles. Master’s Hammer enjoys a reputation among of the most respected metal acts as composers. Such influences among these early bands would lead to the orchestral metal influences in this region just as it did in Scandinavia.

Artwork on records became quite distinctive (and often unusual) in this region. One of the first contributions in this scene actually came from Master’s Hammer vocalist František Štorm, who did the artwork for Root’s first single, “7 černých jezdců / 666,” and their first full length, Zjevení. These and their later albums reached to other parts of Europe, namely to Portugal where the very successful Moonspell is from. They were greatly influenced by them. Root was indeed an early prominent band and was active until only about a few years ago.

In fact, many bands from this region enjoyed a longevity that unfortunately the Scandinavian black metal scene did not. Many are still currently active. One example that also has a great fan base to this day and who also solidified in 1991, is Behemoth from Poland. Their early works were demos on the small Polish label, Pagan Records but later came full length, Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic) in 1995.

A year later, they recorded their second album Grom: A stellar example of Black Metal in its starkest form, it is often the most overlooked Behemoth record. The album hits upon themes not dissimilar to Viking Metal with titles such as, “The Dark Forest (Cast Me Your Spell)” and “Spellcraft and Heathendom,” lead singer Nergal seems to be tapping into his own interest in paganism as Quorthon of Bathory did before him. There are decided Black and Viking Metal influences and the record (from 1996) sounds much older but the influences they took from all those elements and what Vader started in the 80’s, Master’s Hammer and Root in the early 90’s is how Slavic Blackened Death would become completely developed.

Grom as well as other early Behemoth records were unique and ethereal, but Grom was especially important, as it was a pivot between applying what they knew black metal as and the band’s starting to experiment with their own takes of it. Tracks with very madrigal style female and children’s vocals and purely Polish lyrics became something of an archaic harkening to Slavic lands in Ancient and Medieval times.

As Behemoth went on to be the most notable band from the Slavic region to refine the blackened death genre, we must not forget the bands a long the way from other regions that were influential such as Akercocke, Belphegor, and Sacramentum. However, Behemoth became more political and critical of Catholicism in their native Poland just as Quorthon was in Sweden and they are still going strong with many of these sentiments as well as thought provoking lyrical themes of many kinds in addition to exploring different subgenres of metal. On their new album, The Satanist (that we reviewed in March) they seem going back in time by using older methods and songwriting styles just as the bands of the early Slavic scene had done before them. It is good to know your musical history.

All of the aforementioned bands as well as some of the lesser known independent acts (which I unfortunately cannot decipher enough of the languages to adequately add to this article with accuracy.) But they all seem to all be going strong – Many since the 80’s. Which is an interesting contrast compared to much of the Scandinavian Metal scene where tragedy abounds. Maybe they applied their own cultural takes on Black Metal and instead of “praising Satan” they embraced Vampirism or perhaps they found a better balance with religious assimilations of their Slavic paganism and Christianity that the some of the Scandinavians did not. (At least not among the hype of the crowds.)

All in all, I find the music of these regions and the blackened death subgenre, genuine and both dark and ethereal… Very interesting music. Please check it out.

In addition to my Picks of the Week (from June 2014) leading to this article Here is a list of picks (as chronological as possible) for your enjoyment!

Vader – Dark Age

Törr – Kladivo na čarodějnice

Master’s Hammer – Ritual Full LP

Master’s Hammer – Až já budu v hrobě hníti…

Root – Píseň pro Satana

Behemoth – The Dark Forest (Cast Me Your Spell)

Behemoth – Alas, Lord is Upon Me

Törr – Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives

www.metal-archives.com

 

Quorthon with Bathory, circa 1988.

Quorthon with Bathory, circa 1988.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

After Trad/Doom and NWOBHM really laid down their roots, some sub-genres began to form in the 80’s. Most commonly brought to mind are death and thrash metal but it was with the term “Black Metal” that British band Venom gave us which helped form a more descriptive concept of what was to happen next.

Some of the early bands which really helped shape Venom’s new term/sound were Hellhammer and Celtic Frost (Swiss) and especially, Bathory (Swedish) With this arsenal of influences, new bands were then inspired, namely in the Scandinavian lands into the 90’s and the infamous Norwegian Black Metal movement came about including MayhemEmperorDarkthroneImmortal and controversial to this day, Burzum. These are the most pivotal in the phenomenon which in turn inspired the rest of the world to turn to black metal and then begat scenes throughout Europe and America, though usually they still had the predominant aforementioned death or thrash overtones. (Death SSMercyful FateBlasphemyMorbid Angel, SabbatRootMaster’s Hammer and Rotting Christ are prime examples.)

Since it is arguable among some passionate fans who is really the first Black Metal band, (many say Venom since they coined the term) it is perhaps most reasonable to mention the aforementioned bands first, from the region that fostered it to its “blackest.” And to examine why this occurred. Though in fact, many artists are/were nihilists or misanthropic at worst, satanic references abound in black metal lyrics, themes and supposed activities.

Aside from the infamous murders, suicides and church burnings, it is interesting to note that Quorthon, lead singer and lyricist of Bathory, a hallmark black metal band, eventually swore off these so-called satanic themes which came to originally define Black Metal and its lyrical content. And it was around this time (in the 90’s) when he rediscovered Viking and Norse mythologies and from then on embraced his country’s Pagan roots which led to the rise of yet another sub genre, Viking metal. Was he put off by his brethren’s behaviors? Did he truly have a deep experience with Norse paganism? It is difficult to say, but oddly even though it would seem that he as a leader in black metal his statements were taken out of context and other artists would go on to burn churches and do away with anything that was seemingly not of Scandinavian roots.

This is officially when Black and Viking Metal were divided in two… Oddly with Quorthon as a king of both realms.

However, also at this time, within the second wave of black metal artists who were already long standing and still performing had to contend with additional contemporaries such as Enslaved and Carpathian Forest who went on to embrace even more extreme theatrics. But it was Norwegian act, Gorgoroth, that became the ultimate visual culmination of the genre and seemed to outdo even their predecessors. It would seem that there was nothing left to do but get back to the music.

Up to this point black metal was typically under produced, lo fi and somewhat hard to come by – especially in other countries. Therefore, the performances, the shows, complete with corpse paint and hell fire was what grabbed fans. By the 2000’s, however artists such as Dimmu Borgir basically made Black Metal more of a “norm.” Interestingly enough, it was because of their theatrics. But with that they added symphonic elements to the music and really made it a more complicated genre which developed and that many finally had accessibility to. Such music was made more common perhaps because they adopted a more polished version of the sound. (As with many other types of music). It is not to say that such acts lack substance but rather that they simply put such music into a sort of limelight for many listeners, in their regions of the world and most notably into the ears of American teenagers who before maybe only knew of a few bands).

While this was indeed influential, it in a way marked the end of Black Metal being the original Scandinavian phenomena that it was. And up to now other places in Europe developed more cohesive pockets of their own attempts at the genre. In France, there was a group know as Les Légions Noires which included artists: MütiilationVlad Tepes, Belketre and Torgeist. In neighboring Belgium, there were acts such as Ancient Rites which split a disc with the perhaps more well known, Enthroned. Bands emerged in the US such as Black Funeral and Judas Iscariot alongside any other metal genre. And still as always, back to metal’s birthplace, England with the most famous example of all these: Cradle of Filth.

A place that really put black metal back on the radar in one particular pocket is the Slavic lands. However, yet another subgenre would occur with their own interpretations of it, which would develop with the term blackened death metal and along with their own paganism, Slavic Metal. Stay tuned.

In addition to the some of the Black Metal classics that I chose for Picks of the Week, here is another list of picks for your consideration.

Interview with Bathory’s Quorthon

 BathoryEnter the Eternal Fire from Under the Sign of the Black Mark

 

 GorgorothOf Ice and Movement

 

BurzumFallen-Jeg Faller

 

Dimmu BorgirProgenies of the Great Apocalypse

 

David Gilmour performing with Pink Floyd during their Space Rock era circa 1971.

David Gilmour performing with Pink Floyd during their Space Rock era circa 1971.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

Experimental rock evolved into Psychedelic rock with artists like Syd Barrett in the 1960’s. After his departure from Pink Floyd, new lead guitarist, David Gilmore, helped solidify another subgenre offshoot and the 70’s brought progressive and psychedelic rock outfits such as Pink Floyd and Hawkwind to the foreground as they evolved into Space Rock. Space Rock which was characterized by increased instrumental passages (especially on keyboard/synthesizers) inspired by the science fiction themes and soundtrack music of the day and/or astronomy.

Delia Derbyshire, famous for her composition of the Doctor Who theme song was also a premier influential composer of other music within experimental genres in addition to being a great captivator and sonic painter of the beyond for incidental music in TV and film. Brian Eno, known as both a composer and a rock songwriter, was a major player as well. As for pop/rock songwriters they began to follow suit and added elements, but it is perhaps the lyrical themes that became the most influential, which became evident in other subgenres of rock such as folk rock (Donovan, Cat Stevens) and glam rock (T. Rex and David Bowie, whom worked with Eno.) In fact, the enchantment of space travel and the science fiction that British kids were being raised on became paramount in David Bowie’s most successful records, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Space Oddity. And as Pink Floyd declared themselves Space rock in the70’s, Derbyshire’s Doctor Who theme could be often heard in some variation on the synth parts in performances of  “One of These Days,” from 1971’s Meddle.

More and more pop and mainstream radio rock was also being affected. Even before Gilmour made the decidedly Space rock turn with Pink Floyd after Barrett’s Psychedelic/early Space rock departure, the Beatles, the Stones, and the Steve Miller Band wrote songs with similar themes. Indeed, it became a cultural phenomenon more than a musical one. Perhaps the race for space during this period in history influenced this tendency.

Just like with any political movement in history, cultural and artistic history is often the victim of bandwagon mentalities and the genre suffered a marked decline in popularity until the 90’s with the exception of being cleverly evolved and disguised within Progressive rock (Rush, Yes) and Art rock.

Space rock began as an English phenomenon, and as such it saw its eventual revival in the late 80’s in British alternative rock bands which others could not describe the general sound as spacey or ambient. British bands such as Radiohead, Amplifier, Oceansize, Porcupine Tree, Kasabian, and Mugstar held these elements dearly into the 90’s and American bands went onto as well.  Autolux, Hopesfall, Lumerians,The Secret Machines, The Mars Volta, The Boxing Lesson, Cloudland Canyon, Angels & Airwaves, Tool and Zombi are prime examples, though they all fall into some varying sub-subgenres which begin to split hairs, they are all “spacey” bands.

In the 90’s the term resurfaced to describe the many bands that were labeled as

alternative rock bands but that (specifically) British and American audiences craved a bit more specifics in explanations to others. Shoegazing, stoner rock/metal (sludge) and dream/noise pop acts often saw greater success when sometimes using the words “space” and/or “spacey” to describe their sounds so fans could know what other bands they might enjoy. Kyuss, Slowdive, The Verve, My Bloody Valentine, Flying Saucer Attack, Loop, Ride, Shiner (band),The Flaming Lips, Failure,Year of the Rabbit, Cave In, Sun Dial, Hum, Orange Goblin, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, and Mercury Rev employed the hallmark layers of sonic walls, textures and of course experimentation and many classified themselves as space rock or offshoot, dream pop before the term shoegaze and its sub-subgenres were even a thought.

Nowadays, although it is a more reputable descriptive term for many acts, the term only seems to be used by bands that decidedly use it. Other common descriptions indeed make it obvious that there is a blur in the experimental subgenres. The Flowers of Hell, Comets on Fire,and Flotation Toy Warningall of which who employ the old elements of 60’s/70’s Space rock in their own original ways. Seattle band, Lazer Kitty has a wonderful sound and a performance video of theirs can be seen below as well as a few other tracks that chronicle pivotal points in space rock.

Pink Floyd – One of These Days

Pink Floyd – Careful with that Ax, Eugene

Gong – Flying Teapot

Gong – I Never Glid Before

Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

The Verve – Slide Away

Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet

Lazer Kitty – Hyperion

In addition to this list other Picks of the Week that were played on air for this subgenre can be found on the Raw Alternative’s Facebook Page.

No AlternativeBy Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

During the early 90’s, many music fans in both England and America felt at a for loss words for identifying what was coming out of their post-punk and/or underground rock music scenes. That music eventually became known as the Alternative genre. College Rock Radio seemed to gather the remnants of music that American kids liked, but it was not very cohesive scene-wise/sound-wise.

Inevitably, a movement was bound to take place. In England, the Northern movement, “Madchester,” developed due to the Joy Division-influenced aftermath with journalist Tony Wilson at the helm.

Similar mass communication mediums such as radio, TV and magazines started to again coin genre names in America shortly thereafter. What was going to be the new “thing?” During the very fevered formation of this new genre, the compilation album, No Alternative, was released in 1993 with a whole host of acts that before didn’t seem related, yet conceptually, they came together on this album and it made sense. Alternative, in the broadest sense, was born out of various sounds of rock and folk (song-writer) genres and on the whole seemed to encompass more thought-provoking lyrics than what was on the radio at the time; similar to their post-punk and folk-punk predecessors.

The most popular offshoot of the genre became Grunge (especially in Seattle), but Art Rock artists from other parts of the country were at first often overlooked in this more broad Alternative genre due to media and playlist regularity. Artists such as Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins and Pavement were on the peripheries in the early 90’s, probably due to their more obvious Classic Rock influences, but eventually they enjoyed a steady fan base growth which was more correlated to the aforementioned Northern English music movements such as the “Madchester” movement and of course the ever repeating Brit Rock revivals.

English music show host, Jools Holland, became more influential in a way of picking up where Tony Wilson left off and connected the dots between the American and English scenes throughout the 90’s and the 00’s, reminding us of what and how the term Alternative really came about. An alternative type of music to what was typically played on top 40 rock radio. This is how and when the term became full circle. And now fans expect such artists to almost transcend the induced sub-genres and be beyond a genre, to be something different yet each having THEIR OWN cohesive sounds. Ironically it is NOT about a scene.

Observe.

As well as the aforementioned artists and Picks of the Week leading to this article I know present some wonderful examples that have been often overlooked after the initial Alternative heyday was over. These artists have also really have gone beyond genre and in a way back to what “Alternative” meant, what rock and roll means and what songwriting is. And many of these are from their founding scene giants were from. (Northern England, Seattle.) Just goes to show.

England:

Ocean Colour Scene – The Day We Caught the Train

The Unbelievable Truth – Solved

America:

Jets to Brazil – Chinatown

Pedro the Lion – Live on KEXP

Shoegaze act Catherine Wheel circa 1993. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

Shoegaze act Catherine Wheel circa 1993. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The early development of the Shoegaze genre lies somewhere in the post-punk haze of the 80’s. Gothic/Ethereal artists such as Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain began to fuse elements from uncategorized and/or “art” rock acts like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur, Jr. The name itself evolved because artists, namely guitarists, where using a lot of effects on their guitars through the use of various pedals and stomp boxes and they seemed to be “gazing at their shoes” during performances.

Though many of the genre’s predecessors often used a lot of layering or effects in their music via multi-tracking, in live situations they were more sparse. Live performances from Shoegaze artists differed in many instances because they rarely changed the arrangement or the effects, although the layering was done in a more ethereal or blurred out way to begin with on the records, it was a bit easier to cope with live. Moreover, live versions were even more exaggerated because of this. Shoegaze greats Ride and Catherine Wheel are prime examples of this practice.

By the 90’s, a sister sub-genre called Dreampop surfaced with artists such as Slowdive and Lush. Their music featured the noise of Shoegaze, however was a bit more poppy and melodic. Even Brit Rock/Pop bands like The Stone Roses also experimented with many of the budding trademark sounds with their single, “I Wanna Be Adored” in 1991.

However, 1991 was the year that the first significant stride was made in Shoegaze. One of the first acts to be described as both Dreampop and Shoegaze, the influential My Bloody Valentine, combined airy female vocals and guitarist Kevin Shields’ distinctive sonic wall of guitar noise. In fact, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless had a great impact on many guitarists in the 90’s, not just in Shoegaze, but Alternative in its broadest sense. Billy Corgan and James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins are notable followers.

The torch was in a way, carried most authentically to British band, Catherine Wheel. Shoegaze became full circle and the trademark sound was “nailed” by them in 1993 with their second record, Chrome. This is arguably the cornerstone record in this genre with its dreamy and catchy melodies sung with Gilmour-esque soothing ethereal vocals and sonically lush (but often still aggressive) guitars and concepts which vary throughout. This record is also one of the most unsung and overlooked recordings of the 90’s in general due to the quick shift in focus to the rise (and fall) of Grunge.

However, not all was forgotten. Catherine Wheel went on throughout the 00’s, inspiring new fans of other genres to not only go back and listen to their old records, but discover My Bloody Valentine’s, Loveless too, and draw from a perhaps small collection of Shoegaze records. Even more so, the quality that spanned Smashing Pumpkins’ range of influences, as well as successful English Alternative/Rock acts such as Radiohead and Pulp, had therefore inspired yet another Brit Rock Revival.

In the Shoegaze lineage, little known but amazing American artists such as Starflyer 59 (often referred to as a Space Rock band) and Hum plugged away through the 90’s. In more recent years, the independent two-piece act, Have a Nice Life, emerged with one of the greatest Shoegaze mixtures ever, especially on their debut album, Deathconsciousness. The presence of Dreampop-y melodic hooks, spacey textures and even darker undertones, hark back to the beginning of this genre’s early Post-Punk/Goth influences. (Refer to some of the artists mentioned in last month’s Gothic Rock article).

In addition to the previous Picks of the Week, which I used introduce this origins of this genre I now include for your enjoyment:

Catherine Wheel – Black Metallic. From recommended album, Ferment. 1993

Starflyer 59 – Hazel Would. from recommended album, Silver. 1994

Hum – Stars. From recommended album, You’d Prefer an Astronaut. 1995

Have a Nice Life – Bloodhail. From recommended album, Deathconsciousness. 2008

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By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The first true Science Fiction show. The first Science Fiction fandom.

Pop culture owes so much to a little under-produced British television series called Doctor Who, which made its debut Nov. 23, 1963. With its 50th anniversary special just a few weeks away, there are some that might be intimidated to just jump in and watch without a “History of,” or a proposed list of “catching up” episodes. Though BBC America has had specials all year featuring the personality and contributions each facet of this timeless alien, The Doctor, has undergone, it is nice but not necessary.

“The Doctor,” (name unknown, hence his being referred to as “Doctor Who”) is an alien from Gallifrey, the planet of the Time Lords. Time Lords are able to not only travel time and space but can to regenerate their lives approximatley 12-13 times. The show’s mastermind Steve Moffat isn’t always clear to us on this matter.

Each incarnation of the Doctor is played by a different actor who presents their own interpretation of the character. The show saw much success and influence with British children and many musicians in the 60’s and throughout the 70’s and 80’s the show became a British staple. With the end of the 7th Doctor’s tenure, the show went off air but was briefy revamped in the late 90’s with a feature film featuring an 8th Doctor (a great place for new comers). Its success and the buzz it generated led to the show being relaunched completely (this time with AMAZINGLY high production) with a new 9th Doctor in the 00’s. The new Doctor Who featured complicated story archs and new, more involved travelling companions.

As far as a true “history of…,” it would be impossible to discuss the range of influences this program and its thought-provoking idea/ls have had on any number of creative mediums, or even actual science, in the last 50 years but its influence in recent years alone has spawned a loyal fandom which is far from anything lukewarm.

You either love The Doctor or you don’t.

While fads come and go in entertainment, and the recent popularity? (shakes head) of “geekdoms,” a concern for yours truly, usually people who truly grasp onto Doctor Who are quite changed. But fandom is not about collections, it is not about who has seen the most episodes and it sure is not about a geekdom which is now maybe something amusing on primetime but that might lose its “coolness” overnight with the next fad or social phenomenon. NOR is it about the previous “laughing at” and now “laughing with” a geek of said interest, or any interest. It shouldn’t be. The Doctor would not say that. None of these things matter in all of Time and Space.

However, shows like Doctor Who, along with a small handful of other highly influential series, have seen die-hard fandom endure. Nowadays, fandom has gone mainstream. The influence of popular comic books that have been turned into blockbusters, along with the popular graphic novel The Walking Dead seeing a successful run on television, has seen fandom widely acceptable by the masses.

The upcoming 50th Anniversary special is going to examine “who” this entity of the Doctor really is. His culminated nature, his “name” and what he has done throughout history in “his name.” What does he mean to the Universe (real or imagined)? And as such, this cultural historian really has little to say for a “History of…” because as compared to more longstanding fans, whatever I say would be trite. Though much research has been done prior to this article and really as soon as “fandom” hit with MY “first doctor,” the 9th Docotr played by Christopher Eccleston. But again that is not the point of this fandom of Whovians. It shouldn’t be because it is not the message of the Doctor nor his archetype. Yes, it can be intimidating even though one might have heard great things about the series being thought-provoking, about the endless possiblities posed by time and space travel and the 900 year old alien entity that shared his experiences with little old humans because he chose to. In the series, the Doctor chose to see the good and foster it in this imperfect race. But when one jumps in and finds that yes, there are complicated story arcs but the average episode, any episode, can intrigue a new viewer to watch and crave more. Similarly to novellas.

Fandom. Merchandise. While it is nice to have something one likes become more accessible, one must beware the capitalism. Not “Capitalism” in a broad sense, but by other fans’ capitalization. The, “Oh yeah, I’m a geek too” that a Whovain might hear at say, a convention or even in a more average mundane place. And just proceed with the mission of well, watching the show.

Having said this, a recommended list of books about Doctor Who will not be provided. Although there are some great ones, there are many bandwagon sensationalists that are, again, capitalizing on die-hard fans’ commitment. To truly appreciate the program, one must simply watch it. Watch it alone. Watch it with others. But don’t watch it out of peer pressure or because geekdoms are cool right now and the other geeks are tweaking over it. Don’t believe the hype!

So without further ado, in addition to watching the show, I present some media in appreciation of the Whoniverse in its most basic, honest and/or comical manner.

With love, Ms. Rose

Fandom Picks:

Ian Curtis of Joy Division.

Ian Curtis of Joy Division.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The often misunderstood (or mystified) Goth genre has roots in the darker and/or unexplored Glam Rock and of the course early modern European historical definition. While many rock journalists have cited Jim Morrison the first Gothic Rock singer with his low, intriguing baritone vocals and previously unexplored lyrical themes which were often disturbing both psychologically and artistically in the 60’s, The Velvet Underground achieved the complete backdrop instrumentally and via arrangement including stylistic contributions.

Lou Reed, singer/songwriter, along with Sterling Morrison, the explorative guitarist and velvet-voiced songstress, Nico probably had more in common with darker art rock of their day but this is in fact why they were astounding as an ensemble to the genre’s infancy.

Into the 70’s, Nick Cave and The Birthday Party continued to travel the uncharted territories with his own brand of improv and perceived madness. And while Ian Curtis of Joy Division did much of the same, he examined personal and rugged emotion, no matter the sort. The depressed Goth myth can begin here unfortunately.

Obvious Jim Morrison influences in lower vocal register were apparent, staggered lyric-focused melodies (like Reed’s) were also highlighted. But instrumentally, The Birthday Party and Joy Division embodied not only the “sound” but also arrangement which as again revamped but with a focus on bottom register as a whole (i.e. bass guitar and other instruments which include a lasher/velvety bottom end or even guitars with deeper timbre). These elements were explored and solidified. The style and name of the genre was being defined.

In September of 1979, Tony Wilson, journalist and host of the British show, So It Goes, used the term Gothic to define Joy Division’s stark and eerie style.

“Dancing music with Gothic overtones.” he explained.

By the time contemporaries such as the longstanding Sisters of Mercy which spanned, and spawned many other subgenres such as Goth-Industrial and Goth Metal. Eventually, contemporaries such as Souxsie and the Banshees and The Cure added their elements and developed their more otherworldly, ethereal take on the genre lyrically and instrumentally. Often sporting an odd mash up of the darker corners of the Glam Rock movement and a sort of Post-Punk irony, the aforementioned acts delivered and stamped Goth Rock into the psyches of any sub or sub sub-genre.

While some sub-genres are often thought of when many people nowadays think of “Goth,” there is no substitute for the root and its purposes; examining universal dark themes (not evil, but dark).

Dark is defined in the Free Dictionary as “Lacking or having very little light: a dark corner. b. Lacking brightness: a dark day. 2. Reflecting only a small fraction of incident light.” Such is the very definition of Goth in ANY medium dating back to Medieval and Renaissance visual art and architecture.

While acts such as Bauhaus are often praised and many worthy modern Goth acts (especially Industrial acts) such as ThouShaltNot are overlooked, modern dark ambient and ethereal examples especially from the Projekt Records label are strongest overall “GOTHS.” Acts such as Black Tape for a Blue Girl, This Ascension and Unto Ashes, as well as the solo projects from Mortiis from the Black Metal band, Emperor, own this era of the genre and have kept it strong and genuine since the 90’s via label owner and musician, Sam Rosenthal.

In addition to my “Picks of the Week” which spanned a proto- Goth to 80’s Goth timeline, I also offer for your consideration the aforementioned classic acts and the following modern often overlooked examples of the best of the genre. Enjoy! And do try and pick up or legally download these independent artists’ records.

Black Tape for a Blue Girl – Across a Thousand Blades

This Ascension – Mysterium

ThouShaltNot – Without Faith