Tag Archives: Altar de Fey

Back from the Grave: Altar de Fey on Deathrock’s Origin and Legacy

Alter de Fey

Alter de Fey, 1985 by Renee Haden Pouvreau

Echoes in the Corridor, the new LP from Altar de Fey, exudes all of the extravagant darkness and drama of deathrock from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Its lyrics and imagery are stocked with vampires, wraiths, and demons. But if Echoes in the Corridor sounds authentic, it’s because Altar de Fey were there from the genre’s start.

Deathrock originated in California, blending West Coast punk with UK post-punk influences like Bauhaus and Joy Division—bands who reveled in the melancholic excess of death and decay. That baseline aesthetic was spiked with elements lifted from ’50s Hollywood and B-movies, along with a touch of glamour and camp. Gory and blasphemous imagery—crucifixes, blood, bats—raised the level of theatrics. Deathrock’s spooky, squalling vocals, pounding drums, and maniacal, punk-influenced guitars were the perfect match for its visuals, an attractive aesthetic for angsty young adults.

Altar de Fey formed in San Francisco in early 1983, combining the aggression of their punk roots with guitarist Kent Cates’ melodic and moody approach. The group released a handful of tracks before disbanding two years later. Despite their short run, their legacy lingered, largely due to the rediscovery by young goths of their distinct and jarring deathrock look: backcombed knots of birds nest hair, deathly pallors, and ripped fishnet tights that clung to them like spiderwebs. Images of Cates with guitar in hand, black-lined eyes, and carved-out cheekbones, caused a frenzy of reblogging amongst scene aficionados, eventually summoning the band back from the grave.

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