I first became interested in gothic and dark rock music back in the days when mix-tapes and tape-trading were the way of discovering new and exciting bands. No iTunes, no downloads, no MP3 and no MTV (back then, they actually DID play music - but rarely something good). It was a nice way of sharing your musical passion with like-minded friends and fans, debate over new songs and recently released albums, and just having a good time together all while playing loud rock music.
So I am happy to revive this tradition with a new take on it: instead of a mixtape, I'll give you a list you should add to your playslist. Feed your players, ladies and gentlemen, for here comes gothic rock and dark sounds for your enjoyment! And if you want to return the favor, please feel free to suggest songs in the comments, I will be happy to check them out!
Here we go:
Fields of the Nephilim - Preacherman
One of the first gothic rock anthems, Preacherman is an epic song, and resposible for getting me hooked on gothic rock music. The slow guitar intro, that unique twang in the sound, and then, the drums kick in together with a galloping bassline, like a steady stampede of rhythm, a solid dark groove, the perfect playground for the filigrane guitarwork of Peter Yates and Paul Wright.
And the vocals, Carl McCoy has such a unique voice and charisma - and they lyrics are catchy; I challenge you to not sing along to the "contamination" chorus, bet you can't! It's infectious, like the Misfits.
Preacherman is not my favorite Fields song, but it's easily the most recognizable one, and I must admit that I get goosebumps as soon as the intro kicks in. And for that, it deserves a place in any good gothic rock playlist.
The Scary Bitches - You'll end up looking like the scary bitches
The funniest band in the gothic rock genre, the Sacry Bitches playfully blend b-movie lyrics, horror themes, with catchy guitar riffs and electronic beats. Funny, catchy and a force to be reckonned with on stage, it's the live performances and the extravagant costumes that earned Alma Geddon and Deadri Ranciid a cult following in Europe. "You'll end up looking like the Scary Bitches" is the last track from their debut album "Lesbian vampyres from outerspace", and I love it because most goths can relate to the humorous lyrics that make fun of all the cliché reactions we're confronted with for looking different, all the things "normal" people often don't get.
Lyrics like "Walking down the street all dressed in black, like an undertaker in you top-hat" or "You look like a vampyre ready for the slaughter, are you our child or Dracula's daughter?", I think we all have had conversations like that with friends, family and relatives who did not understand what's going on. A serious theme that gets a humorous and intelligent treatment.
And the song is super-catchy, try resisting that little "dü-dü-dü-düü" guitar thing going on in the back.
The Cure - One Hundred Year
For me, the legacy of West Sussex based The Cure can be divided into two distinct phases: the "happy" pop-oriented era heralded by songs like "Friday I'm in Love", and the really dark depressive early 80's era that spawned classic records like Faith, Seventeen Seconds and Pornography, my personal favorite. The song starts with an up-beat drum pattern, very catchy, before the wailing, dirty guitars kick in, dripping thick in depression, sadness and sorrow. A song that will blow any shred of happiness away in seconds. The first line of lyrics is "It doesn't matter if we all die", which pretty much sums up the feeling of this song. And I love it. It's a great soundtrack for those "not-so-happy" moments that are part of life.
Killing Joke - Love Like Blood
A true smash hit that defined the dancefloors in the late 80's and catapulted Killing Joke to international fame, even outside the dark scene. One of the rare industrial bands to not use samplers, this song has a steady and very danceable drum beat accompanied by a funky bassline, a haunting keyboard line and guitars that alternate between crunchy distortion and a flanging chorus.
The fact that no samples are used to create the distinctive Killing Joke sounds adds wamrth and a human element to their music that other bands rarely achieve. It has been covered by countless bands, but nobody has ever been able to recapture the magic of the original - no wonder it still is regularly featured on gothic samplers and is a fixture on most DJ playlists.
Sisters of Mercy - This Corrosion
One of the iconic bands credited with creating the gothic rock genre, the Sisters of Mercy have some of the most devout fans and almost a religious following in Europe. The gothic scene loves the Sisters of Mercy, but Andrew Eldritch does not love the "g" word, as he calls it. He sometimes sounds a bit sour that he was denied an international mainstream-career like Billy Idol, but I don't blame him, considering the number of hit-potential songs he has penned: Alice, Temple of Love (with Ofra Haza), This Corrosion, Lucretia My Reflection, Dominion, More, Vision Thing, Body and Soul, the list goes on and on.
Again, it's hard to pick a favorite song, but This Corrosion has such a catchy beat and chorus-refrain, it's always in my playlist. It has to be in my playlist. There's no helping it. Somehow it finds a way in. Sisters of Mercy have not released a new studio album in over two decades, but still has one of the strongest followings any band could wish for. They were the most bootlegged band in the world in the 80's, and recordings of their concerts still are highly sought after to this day.
Danzig - Am I Demon
The 1988 debut album of American rock band Danzig, the solo-project of Misfits and Samhain frontman Glenn Danzig, features the smash-hit Mother and backing vocals and guitars by none other than the mighty James Hetfield. Almost every song on the album has hit-potential, so picking a favorite is really tough. But I am a drummer in my spare time, so I love a good rhythm and beat, and this song has lots of it, the rums, the bass, the guitars, it all grooves hamonically. The sound is crystal-clear and powerful, which is an impressive feat considering this is a debut album released 25 years ago.
My advice: if you want to chose only one song, pick this one, but really, the whole album is excellent, so between us, add them all.
HIM - Poison Girl
The second album by finish rockband HIM, Razorblade Romance, is an epic soundtrack to the sweet torment of unhappy love. A bit more polished in sound and production than their debut album ("Greatests Lovesongs vol. 666), this record features the same mix of distorted guitars, straight beats and mournful vocals beautifully rendered by Ville Valo.
The opinions about HIM are mixed in the European goth scene, but let's not forget that their success spearheaded the wave of many talented finish dark-rock bands that followed, including the 69 Eyes, Apocalyptica, Lordi and many more. And the two first albums are solid. Join me in Death is probably the most famous song from the album, but my preference goes to Poison Girl, great lyrics, a steady rock beat, alternating between melodic and distorted passages.
Ghoultown - Under a phantom moon
My favorite band from Texas, Ghoultown beautifully blends americana and gothic rock with horror themes, wild west legends, undeads and outlaws. Fronted by Count Lyle, Ghoultown have earned a cult-following in the US by relentlessly playing live, among other with the Misfits, Hank III and even the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
Taken from their fourth (and so far last) studio album "Life after sunset", "Under a phantom moon" starts with a punch, a strong intro that gains momentum and culminates in a double-bass rhythm sustained through the entire song and which ultimately leads into a very cool break, a much slower, stomping middle-part that would look good in a gritty western with an angry Clint Eastwood.
Dresden Dolls - Girl Anachronism
And the second band on this list that is beloved by the dark scene eventhough the artist has distanced himself from the word gothic. In their own words, the Dresedn Dolls play "punk-cabaret" and picked that label for their music out of fear that if they didn't, the press would use the "g" word. Well, I love them anyways, Amanda Palmer is fucking awesome, both solo, or with the Dolls. The music, the imagery, the witty lyrics and the authentic emotions, the soul put into the music.
Taken from their marvelous debut album, Girl Anachronism is a strong and powerful song, an eye opener, because before the Dresden Dolls, I did not know it was possible to create music THAT heavy with a keyboard and some drums. An alternately angry and apologetic song about feeling out-of-place and misunderstood by parents and peers, I guess that's somethin most "different" people can relate to in the gothic scene.
Of course the lyrics are witty and brilliant, and I would not expect less from a lyrical genius like Amanda Palmer.