Experiencing the Goth Subculture Through the Music

World Goth Day
Gothik: Special Anniversary Edition CD compilation
Gothik: Special Anniversary Edition CD compilation

When I started getting into the goth scene, I went on a mission to navigate my way through the numerous bands that existed. Since it is a music-based subculture, I wanted to have at least a general knowledge of what had been and was continuing to be produced. One of the beautiful facets of goth is its rich musical heritage. There’s an abundance of beats and sounds that have been created within the genre, and others that have sprouted from it, such as darkwave, ethereal, deathrock and coldwave. For World Goth Day, I’m going to share what I listened to and some of the core groups that were my gateway to the music.

How I Got into the Sounds of Goth

Like many a baby bat, I meandered a bit in the beginning before discovering actual goth music. At first, I was drawn to artists with a morbid sound and listened to Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and Orgy. (On a side note, I no longer support Marilyn Manson due to the abuse allegations surrounding him.) While these bands don’t fall under the goth music genre, I couldn’t get enough of their bizarre, dark aesthetic.

Inside cover of Gothik CD compilation
Inside cover of Gothik CD compilation

Then, I gravitated toward the CD compilations Hot Topic carried from labels Cleopatra Records and Projekt Records. These independent music companies are still around and continue to support and promote musicians creating under the genre. It was these albums that gave me a well-rounded introduction to the goth sound. They included tracks from staple bands in the scene, like Rosetta Stone, Alien Sex Fiend, Switchblade Symphony, Sisters of Mercy, 45 Grave and so many more. The styles included on these mixes ran the gamut from gothic rock to darkwave.

From there, I was able to figure out which groups I really enjoyed and explore more of their songs. Some people in the community have fellow goths who help expand their knowledge of the genre and make band recommendations. Since none of my friends were into goth, these album compilations educated me and helped solidify my connection with the subculture.

The Bands

Now as a teen, I listened to a lot of goth music, devouring whatever I could, and I continue to do so because there are new bands emerging all the time, so I try to keep up with how the genre is evolving. The following is just a tiny snippet of bands that were my early favorites and whose music spoke to my dark soul. If you’re curious about exploring the genre and are not sure where to start, you might want to give these artists a listen.

Bella Morte

A band that arose in the late 1990s and combines darkwave, deathrock and gothic rock melodies. The first song I ever heard from them was “Relics,” and hearing lead singer Andy Deane’s melancholy voice made me swoon. A common theme in their music is balancing beauty and tragedy.

Collide

Chasing the Ghost album by Collide
Chasing the Ghost album by Collide

Collide is a band whose music fuses genres, and they’ve been categorized under synthpop and industrial. I feel their body of work also contains ethereal and darkwave influences at times. My favorite album that I used to play all the time is Chasing the Ghost, but in all honesty, I enjoy most of what I’ve heard. Their songs are like dark fairytales. Plus, they just released a new album!

Christian Death

This group was born and bred in Los Angeles in 1979 and played an integral role in the deathrock scene. The band members are entirely different now, and their sound has changed from when they started. I recommend listening to the first album, Only Theatre of Pain, which is considered to be their best by many fans, and I agree.

Faith and the Muse

Annwyn, Beneath the Waves album by Faith and the Muse
Annwyn, Beneath the Waves album by Faith and the Muse

This duo is comprised of singer Monica Richards and William Faith. Their darkwave sound has a magical and mythical element, and I love how they incorporate tribal rhythms. A couple of my favorite tracks include “Sparks” and “All Lovers Lost” from their debut album Elyria.

Kidney Thieves

Okay, so this pair is more industrial, and although industrial is separate from goth music, the genre is enjoyed by many people in the scene, including myself. Oftentimes, clubs spin industrial tracks alongside goth tunes.

Vocalist Free Dominguez and musician Bruce Somers came together in the late 90s in Los Angeles. As a teen, I listened to their 2002 album Zerospace like crazy, and the song “Before I’m Dead” appeared on the film soundtrack for Queen of the Damned. Dominguez’s vocals deliver a sinister punch that’s stimulating to hear.

Lycia

My heart skips a beat when I listen to Lycia. Coming up in 1988 in Arizona, their music beautifully weaves together darkwave and ethereal. Tracks switch between male and female vocals and they’re very calming. While “Excade Decade Decada” on the compilation Projekt: Gothic was the first song I heard, right now I can’t get enough of “A Failure” from the album In Flickers and “Silver Sliver” from Estrella.

Paralysed Age

Based in Germany, this group came onto the darkwave and gothic rock scene in 1991. I can’t recall how I first heard their music, but to this day, Empire of the Vampire is my favorite album. Vampires are a frequent theme and, if Dracula were to ever start his own band, I’d imagine he’d sound very much like the lead singer.

Razed in Black

This group’s sound is an interesting mix of industrial, darkwave and synthpop. They hail from Hawaii and formed in 1994. When they were signed with Cleopatra Records, Razed in Black was featured on the compilation New Dark Noise, which exposed me to their music. For me, “Better Off” is their best track.

The Sisters of Mercy

First and Last and Always album by The Sisters of Mercy
First and Last and Always album by The Sisters of Mercy

One of the founding bands of goth, although lead singer Andrew Eldritch stubbornly insists to this day their music is anything but goth. Despite the band’s desire to not associate with the subculture, The Sisters of Mercy produced a sound that captured the essence of gothic rock.

As a baby bat, I initially heard their most played track “Lucretia, My Reflection” and loved it. However, I’m obsessed with their debut album First and Last and Always with my favorite song being “Some Kind of Stranger.” It gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it and inspired a short story that I wrote a couple of years ago.

Switchblade Symphony

Sadly, this San Francisco based darkwave group is no longer together and they had already parted ways when I began listening to them in the early 2000s, much to my dismay. You’ll find elements of orchestral music in their work, and Tina Root’s voice is so unique and spellbinding. I have many tracks to recommend, but two I will mention are “Wallflower” and “Gutter Glitter” from Serpentine Gallery.

Voltaire

Heart-Shaped Wound album by Aurelio Voltaire
Heart-Shaped Wound album by Aurelio Voltaire

The music of Aurelio Voltaire is eclectic and falls more under dark cabaret. It’s difficult to describe his style because he’s constantly experimenting and blending genres, and no two albums sound the same. Heart-Shaped Wound has some gothic rock influences. The first song I heard of his was “When You’re Evil,” which was another track featured on the Projekt: Gothic CD I owned.

While his discography may not be strictly goth, Voltaire is a prominent figure in the scene and even released a (now out-of-print) book in 1994 titled What Is Goth? He proudly identifies with the subculture today, and I’m happy I’ve been able to see him perform at Bar Sinister. He is charming and puts on quite a show!

Goth CD Compilations

Here’s a list of the compilations I collected as a baby bat. Some are no longer available and others you may still be able to purchase.

  • Asleep by Dawn
  • Graver's Paradise
  • Metropolis 2004
  • New Dark Noise
  • Projekt: Gothic
  • Projekt: New Face of Goth
  • The Suicide Girls Black Heart Retrospective

Asleep by Dawn Magazine Presents: DJ Ferret’s Underground Club Mix #1

Gothik: Special Anniversary Edition

Graver’s Paradise

Metropolis 2004

New Dark Noise: The Darkwave Dance Floor Killer No Filler

Projekt: Gothic, an ethereal/darkwave compilation

Projekt: The New Face of Goth

The Suicide Girls: Black Heart Retrospective

Final Words

I hope you enjoyed this overview of my journey venturing into the goth music landscape as a baby bat. It’s a realm that continues to be near and dear to my heart and speaks to me in a way very few genres do. I am by no means an expert and am discovering new and even older groups every day. However, there are some fantastic goth content creators that have an impressive grasp on the music and I’m going to link those below if you want to dive deeper. Now, go forth and enjoy World Goth Day by listening to the dark tunes of the subculture.

Adrienne LaVey of Ligeia Resurrected

Angela Benedict

The Belfry Network

Cemetery Confessions

Post-Punk.com

21 thoughts on “Experiencing the Goth Subculture Through the Music

  1. Thank you for the lesson on gothic music. I knew some of the bands but I hadn’t really listened to it. Thanks for expanding my music collection.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I know, right? There was a cool time in the early 90s where there were lots of great shows. Genitorturers, Front 242, Front Line Assembly, Project Pitchfork, Apoptygama Berzerk (yes I can never spell that right)…even Skinny Puppy for the Last Rites tour, and probably lots more I’m forgetting–what was the person’s name that was in a band called Subversion? *sigh* *laugh* I’d get out my scrapbook, but it’s packed with my stuff. Even Marilyn Manson performed for the first time at a club in Tampa called the Castle (I think), but hardly anybody liked them, honestly. A lot of people were quite vocal and aggressive in expressing their dislike (this was back when the punk scene sort of overlapped with the goth scene).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, yes! Those genres are perfect listening for working or getting creative. I listen to a lot of dark ambient music while I work. Check out Atrium Carcieri, if you haven’t already. I think you’ll enjoy the atmosphere the group’s sound evokes.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Nice, I could use some new music! I love Amber Asylum and Ataxaria and the like, so I’m sure I’ll like it! (And, while I’m not being an apologist for MM by any means, I’m sorry that one of your key music icons let you down. I know I almost didn’t want to go through with meeting members of the Cure when I had the chance, but the meetings after/during the shows were great! Unbelievably, it was just as magical as how I felt during the songs! They didn’t disappoint, and both Perry and Robert were very respectful and polite and acted like gentlemen!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I’ve listened to Amber Asylum and I’ll definitely check out the other group you mentioned. Thanks! That’s awesome you had a positive experience meeting the Cure members. As for Manson, current events have put a sour taste in my mouth about him, but I’ll always have a soft spot for his old music.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a detailed admiration, Jenn! To those newer to the scene than you, such an informative tour. I suspect you also really enjoyed assembling it.

    Do you remember, back when you first started exploring, being astounded at how much was out here? Making one discovery, only to realize there are a dozen more? Well, that feeling, that sense of wonder, is exactly what you’ve communicated with this entry.

    Liked by 1 person

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