By Coreen WolanskiBorn out of such haunts as the Batcave club in London, England in the early ‘80s, goth music arose out of the ashes of the punk scene. Although not necessarily as anarchic as precursors the Sex Pistols and the Clash, bands such as the Cure, Siouxie and the Banshees and still earlier Joy Division found themselves with an audience ready and willing to adopt these new sounds as the sounds of the future.
Hot on the heels of the punk scene, Siouxie and the Banshees, the Cure, Alien Sex Fiend and plenty others filled the tattered boots of their defunct brethren. The term "goth," although apocryphal in its origins, is said to have been how Siouxie Sioux described the new direction of her punk band, and as the hair got higher and the visual element of the artists became almost as essential as the music itself, this new wave of performers was to pave the way for bands in decades to come. Bauhaus sprang onto the scene in 1979 with "Bela Lugosi's Dead," the anthem of all goths then and now. The young, very handsome, and very theatrical Peter Murphy became not only the front-man of this seminal goth band, but also that of the entire goth movement. Overall, the sound of this bunch was very minimalist — stark, cold and introspective — yet the bands seemed to be linked less by their music than they were by their penchant for stage antics, theatrics, and makeup application.
Key sounds: The Cure Seventeen Seconds (Elektra, 1980); Siouxsie and the Banshees Nocturne (Polydor, 1983); Bauhaus Press Eject and Give Me the Tape (Beggars Banquet, 1982); Joy Division Unknown Pleasures (Qwest, 1979)
Emerging later in the ‘80s, this variety of goth music had more of the classic rock approach to both songwriting and performing. American outfit Christian Death entered the picture in the early part of the decade, giving this genre a home outside of its native England. Brooding vocals, classic verse-chorus-verse song structure and a darker, more foreboding presence characterised the work of this new breed of gothic talent. England's Fields of the Nephilim, Sisters of Mercy and still later Rosetta Stone continued the legacy, incorporating both synth and guitar to create catchy darker rock music.
Key sounds: Sisters of Mercy Floodland (Elektra, 1987); Fields of the Nephilim The Nephilim (Beggars Banquet, 1988); Christian Death Only Theatre of Pain (Epitaph, 1982); Nosferatu The Prophecy (Cleopatra, 1995); Corpus Delicti Sarabands (Cleopatra, 1996)
Sisters of Mercy
Perhaps the most complex order of goth music. This sound can be described as anything and everything from moody, melodic and beautiful, to more doom-and-gloom and slash-your-wrists pessimistic. Sam Rosenthal's Projekt label was born in the early ‘80s, providing new bands to those with a flair for the melodramatic . The haunting vocals of several female-fronted projects have always been a popular defining sound in this category, as have qualities such as more varied string instrumentation and song arrangements.
Key sounds: Cocteau Twins Treasure (4AD, 1984); Black Tape For A Blue Girl Ashes in the Brittle Air (Projekt, 1989); Dead Can Dance Spleen and Ideal (4AD, 1985); Bel Canto Whiteout Conditions (Nettwerk, 1987); Attrition Recollection (Projekt, 1990)
Goth Metal Using everything from glitter and boas to more of a b-movie schlock horror image, this varied bunch has taken goth music and more recently put it out into the commercial forefront. The sound is heavy — incorporating both electronic and organic instrumentation — making the singles popular choices at even the more trendy of dance bars in a melding of the once "alternative" edgy guitar-driven sound with the more traditional elements of heavier gothic music. Of course, there still is the visual element. These artists never fail to please as far as appearances go. Close attention is paid to hair, makeup and wardrobe, giving fans something to see as well as something to hear.
Key sounds: Marilyn Manson Smells Like Children (MCA, 1996); Coal Chamber Chamber Music (Roadrunner, 1997); Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe (Geffen, 1998).