Tag Archives: Goth

Goth’s Undead: Six Current Releases From Groups Old and New

Goth

Goth’s Undead. Illustrations by George Wylesol.

Few strains of rock music get less respect than goth. Though the genre’s lush soundscapes and searing-then-willowy guitar attack are all over bigger acts like Savages, Preoccupations, and Merchandise, they tend to attract the “post-punk” tag instead. Goth just isn’t cool; it’s too emotional, too baroque, too weird. Witness the absorption of Joy Division into the nebulous history of post-punk, despite 1980’s Closer being about as quintessentially goth as Edward Gorey.

Goth may not be cool, but it is definitely not dead, either, not as a subculture or as a public trope; witness its thriving life on Tumblr and in the fashion world, the garage rock world’s Beach Goth festival (at which, we are sad to report, there has never been a goth band), and so forth. Even those ever-incisive chroniclers of subcultures and outsiders, The Mountain Goats, have turned their eyes to the night for their upcoming LP; called, simply, Goths. In a terrifying, shifting world there will always be value in finding beauty in luxe sensation, in decay, in darkness. The alternative is total despair… and not in a poetic way.

So let’s celebrate these artists, who are mining the decadence, coy humor, and sheer sonic power of goth for all it’s worth; from throbbing tracks for the dancefloor, to skeletal elegies, to gleaming melodic pop, and so on, through all the colors of the dark.

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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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Monica LaPlante Funnels Fear, Darkness, and Phil Spector Into Shadowy Garage Rock

Monica LaPlante

Garage rock can be a beginning, middle, and end for many who make it, but Monica LaPlante—a 25-year-old singer-songwriter and guitarist—isn’t interested in cookie-cutter revisionism. Her 2013 debut, Jour, has a bright indie-pop feel, steeped in 1960s allure. But as the name of her new Noir EP makes clear, she’s darkened considerably—and gained substantial depth along the way. Noir’s songs, particularly the locomotive (and ridiculously catchy) “Hope You’re Alone” and the harmony-drenched “From Your Shadow,” are rich and endlessly playable. Each one occupies its own highly-specific sonic space, and the entire EP showcases a formidable talent coming into her own. LaPlante spoke with Bandcamp’s Michaelangelo Matos at the Amsterdam Bar in downtown St. Paul on a drizzly fall afternoon.
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King Dude on His Dark Records About Love, Fear, and Sex

TJ Cowgill is King Dude.

TJ Cowgill is King Dude.

Now far removed from his days in hardcore outfit Teen Cthulhu and the blackened death metal group Book of Black Earth, TJ Cowgill has been making somber, emotional music under the name King Dude since his 2010 album Tonight’s Special Death. Some have called what Cowgill does “Southern gothic” (even though he’s from Seattle), placing him in the same loose tradition as artists like 16 Horsepower/Wovenhand, who draw from country and blues, but drape it all in black lace.

His latest release, Sex, is the third entry in what will eventually be a four-part series. It shares themes with its predecessors, 2011’s Love and 2014’s Fear, and all three albums offer subtle hints about the theme of the fourth. Sex is a work of harrowing beauty, one that deals forthrightly with everything from ritual sex and religion to feminism and mortality.

In advance of its release, we sat down with Cowgill to discuss the themes and ideas that crop up throughout the record.

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The Enduring Influence of H.P. Lovecraft on Extreme Music

Vision Bleak, Necronomicon, Azathoth, and Hod
From the left: Vision Bleak, Necronomicon, Azathoth, and Hod.

In the blackened pages of the most gripping horror fiction, unspeakable atrocities await the unsuspecting, and ghastly terrors befall even the most benevolent. Some of the finest writers of the past two centuries have gleefully and sadistically conjured chilling tales designed to keep readers in varying states of dread. Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Bram Stoker, Clive Barker, Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, and Anne Rice are just a handful of writers whose work has influenced the style and content of numerous counterculture musicians. But no individual has had as great an impact on today’s extreme acts as H.P. Lovecraft.

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