Formed during the late 70’s, goth rock branched from post-punk with acts such as Joy Division and The Cure. Musicians who set the mold for the genre included Leonard Cohen, Jim Morrison, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, psychedelic groups such as The Velvet Underground and most notably Mark Bolan. The 80’s introduced a subculture of goth clubs and fashion.
This edition of Top Shelf Tuesday takes a look at ten seminal goth rock bands, six honourable mentions, and five homegrown artists. Let out the inner goth and bleed black as you progress through the gloomy sounds you are about to take on board.
(1978–1983 1998 2005–2008)
Originated in Northampton, England, the UK post-punk outfit known as Bauhaus 1919, who were named after the German art school, are recognised as one of the first gothic rock groups. Lead by vocalist Peter Murphy, who was joined by guitarist Daniel Ash, drummer Kevin Haskins and bassist David J. Within six weeks the band name was changed simply to Bauhaus dropping 1919.
Five studio albums were recorded with the debut In the Flat Field (1980) and Burning from the Inside (1983) being the last before a breakup. The band reunited to tour in 1998 and from 2005 till 2008 when the fifth and final LP, Go Away White (2008) was released.
Murphy left after the band split to undertake a solo career while Ash and Haskins formed Tones on Tail. J later joined the duo starting up another post-punk group going by the name of Love and Rockets.
The Sisters of Mercy
(1980–1985 1987–1993 1995–present)
The Sisters of Mercy were formed in Leeds, in 1980 by guitarists Gary Marx and Andreas Bruhn, with the name taken from Sisters of Mercy a Leonard Cohen track from Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967). Only three studio recordings were released that being the debut, First and Last and Always (1985), Floodland (1987) and Vision Thing (1990).
Marx left in 1985 after the band split to form post-punk outfit, Ghost Dance with vocalist Wayne Hussey and bassist Craig Adams forming The Mission in 1986. As a protest to record label Time Warner, The Sisters of Mercy are now only a touring band.
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Formed in London in 1976 by vocalist Siouxsie Sioux and bassist Steven Severin, Siouxsie and the Banshees mainly focused on post-punk in their early career with their first two records, The Scream (1978) and Join Hands (1979). Original members, guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris left before the follow-up Kaleidoscope (1980), which saw the introduction of synthesizers, a drum machine and even experiments in electronic music.
It wasn’t until the breakthrough album, Juju (1981) and the success of the Spellbound single when the band gained the gothic rock moniker. Seven records continued after the iconic album with The Rapture (1995) being the final offering, with a breakup on the cards the following year. Sioux and drummer Budgie continued going by The Creatures, who were formed in the early 80’s. The only time the band reunited was in 2002 for The Seven Year Itch Tour, since then Siouxsie would focus on her solo career from 2004.
Fields of the Nephilim
Deriving from the Biblical race of giants or angel-human hybrids known as the Nephilim, Fields of the Nephilim formed in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England in 1984. The original line-up consisted of vocalist Carl McCoy, saxophonist Gary Wisker, bassist Tony Pettitt, guitarist Paul Wright and drummer Alexander “Nod” Wright. After the release of the debut EP Burning the Fields (1987) Wisker left the band and was replaced by Peter Yates as the second guitarist.
The debut full-length, Dawnrazor (1987) was followed by The Nephilim (1988). Elizium (1990) was the final LP before a double-live album, Earth Inferno (1991) and Zoon (1996) which was released as Nephilim.
Formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1979 by vocalist Rozz Williams, Christian Death became an influential gothic rock band, introducing what would be known as death rock. After Ashes (1985) Williams left and was replaced by guitarist Valor Kand.
Williams formed his own incantation of the band with Christian Death featuring Rozz Williams, releasing The Iron Mask (1992), The Path of Sorrows (1993) and The Rage of Angels (1994) before cutting his life short at the ripe age of thirty-two due to suicide.
The Wind Kissed Pictures (1985) was the first record with Kand on lead vocals, with the most recent being, The Root of All Evilution (2015).
Alien Sex Fiend
Formed in 1982 at the Batcave club in London, where Nik Wade (Nik Fiend) worked, soon joined by Christine Wade (Mrs. Fiend), David James (Yaxi Highrizer) and Johnny Freshwater (Johnny Ha-Ha). The current line-up of the band consists of Nik Fiend and Mrs. Fiend. Influential to the style of deathrock, Alien Sex Fiend was born. Known for dark, electronic industrial sounds and using heavy samples, loops, dub remixes and manic vocals the crazed group of misfits stood apart from their peers.
Having released twelve LP’s which include the debut Who’s Been Sleeping in My Brain (1983), the iconic Here Cum Germs (1987) and most recent, Death Trip (2010), the Fiend is one exciting band with a discography that is worth digging up with other bodies buried in the backyard.
(1986–1996, 1999–2008, 2011–present)
Formed in 1986 by frontman Wayne Hussey and bassist Craig Adams (The Sisters of Mercy) they were soon joined by drummer Mick Brown (Red Lorry Yellow Lorry) and guitarist Simon Hinkler (Artery and Pulp). Known simply as The Mission apart from the United States who refer to the band as The Mission UK.
The line-up has changed due to the band going into hiatus on two occasions with the last man standing being Hussey. The back catalogue includes ten LP’s such as the debut, God’s Own Medicine (1986) and the most recent being Another Fall from Grace (2016).
Sex Gang Children
“One of the groups coming up at the same time as Southern Death Cult was Sex Gang Children, and Andi — he used to dress like a Banshees fan, and I used to call him the Gothic Goblin because he was a little guy, and he’s dark. He used to like Édith Piaf and this macabre music, and he lived in a building in Brixton called Visigoth Towers. So he was the little Gothic Goblin and his followers were Goths. That’s where goth came from.”
— Ian Astbury of the Cult, (Alternative Press, November 1994)
Like Alien Sex Fiend, Sex Gang Children were formed at the Batcave in London by Andreas McElligott (Andi Sex Gang) in 1982. Bassist Dave Roberts, guitarist Terry McLeay, and drummer Rob Stroud joined making the original line-up.
Naked (1982) was a live cassette which was released shortly before the debut EP, The Beasts (1982) and the debut LP Song and Legend (1983) which was under the Illuminated Records label. McCleary left in 1984 and the band was renamed Andi Sex Gang & the Quick Gas Gang for the release of Blind (1985) which was later reissued by Cleopatra Records in 1992 when Sex Gang Children reunited with the release of Medea (1993) on Cleopatra Records. Andi went on to make a number of well-received albums for various labels as a solo artist.
The Danse Society
Formed in Barnsley, England in 1980 The Danse Society was active until 1987, reforming in 2011. Their original lineup included vocalist, Steve Rawlings, guitarist Paul Nash, bassist Tim Wright, drummer Paul Gilmartin and Lyndon Scarfe on keyboards. Scarfe was replaced by David Whitaker (Music for Pleasure) after Heaven Is Waiting (1983) was released. The aforementioned album and the debut, Seduction (1982) were the only two to feature Rawlings as a vocalist under The Danse Society name with the third album, Looking Through (1986) going by The Danse Society International. All remaining band members formed Johnny in the Clouds with Rawlings continuing as Society releasing a single for Saturn Girl (1987) before pursuing electronic music with Meridian Dream.
A campaign titled ‘The Danse Society Reformation Plot’ went underway at the end of 2009 bringing the majority of the band back together. The reformed Danse Society featured female vocalist Maethelyiah from the group Blooding Mask and Change of Skin (2011) was released with Scarey Tales (2013) and the most recent VI (2015) to follow.
Described as one of the most popular underground Goth Bands in the UK, Inkubus Sukkubus had to make the list. The British goth/pagan band was formed in 1989 by vocalist Candia Ridley, guitarist Tony McKormack, and bassist Adam Henderson, who was later replaced by Roland Link. The band currently uses a drum machine and Marcus Gilvear as a live drummer.
A staggering twenty studio recordings make up part of the bands lengthy discography, including the independent release of Beltaine (1990) and their most recent offering, Belas Knap (2017).
Southern Death Cult
(October 1981–February 1983)
Origin: Bradford, Yorkshire
Note: Vocalist Ian Astbury and guitarist David “Buzz” Burrows went on to form The Cult.
(1979–1985, 1988–1990, 2005–present)
Origin: Los Angeles, California
(1994-2006 (hiatus), 2007)
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
Origin: Leeds, England
Gene Loves Jezebel
Origin: United Kingdom
The Skeletal Family
Origin: Keighley, West Yorkshire, England
The Birthday Party
Note: Vocalist Nick Cave later formed Nick Cave & The Bad Seas and to this day leads a promising solo career.
Dead Can Dance
(1981–1998, 2005, 2011–present)
Big Electric Cat