Iconic Goth Bands: Bauhaus (Photo Credit: Fin Costello)
A true melting pot of different genres, post-punk gave rise to the emergence of goth rock in the late 70s. Bauhaus and The Cure were among the big names associated with its creation. Heavily influenced by the pioneers of goth rock, artists such as indie outfit Pale Waves and synth-pop band The Ninth Wave have continued the tradition by embracing the more gothic overtones in their work. Today, we will take a look at these iconic goth bands throughout the decades, and see how the pioneers have permeated the culture and helped shape the sounds of our generation.
Iconic Goth Bands, then and now
Bauhaus was originally named ‘Bauhaus 1919’ as a nod to the German art school and the German Bauhaus art movement in the 1920s. Forming in Northampton, England in 1978, they were highly influential in pioneering goth-rock. Inspired by bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, they might have maintained a dark persona and gloomy sound; however, this didn’t limit the band from mixing other genres such as power pop, funk and psychedelia. Their debut single ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ (1980), failed to make a dent in the UK Singles Chart. Still, the gloomy-guitar driven track was followed by their debut album, In the Flat Field (1980), which marked the beginning of their commercial success and their experimental glam-rock sound.
The band not only left their mark on goth groups, but also a wide range of modern artists and bands. From industrial rock artist Marilyn Manson to pop-punk band Blink 182, who namedropped Bauhaus, on their track ‘She’s Out of Her Mind’. Even member of Guns N’ Roses, Duff McKagen, included Bauhaus 1979-1983, in his 100 favourite albums list.
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Siouxsie and the Banshees
Formed in London, Siouxsie and The Banshees have to be one of the most iconic goth bands. Frontwoman Siouxsie Sioux (AKA Susan Janet Ballion) met Steven Severin at a Roxy Music concert in 1975. They decided to form a band due to the lack of new music (that they could relate to) being released. After several line-up changes and eleven studio albums, the band’s career spanned over two decades. However, longevity isn’t the only mark of their musical triumph. Between their debut album The Scream (1978) and their last album The Rapture (1995), the band thrived on experimentation. Their debut appearance was at The 100 Club in 1976 at a punk festival. However, what began as a celebration of post-punk, eventually morphed into an exploration of alt-rock, gothic-rock and new wave elements. Appearing to draw on darker elements, Juju (1981) was an unexpected concept album. It peaked in the top 10 album charts, marking their impact on the expanding gothic scene. Peepshow (1988) saw the band expand their sound with the inclusion of a cello and accordion. Leading track ‘Kiss Them for Me’ from their Superstition album in 1991, noted a continuation of utilising string elements and made its way into the US charts.
From Joy Division’s Peter Hook to The Cure’s frontman Robert Smith, many have shared their admiration for the band’s live performance. Their continued influence on modern artists is also widely noted. In The Weeknd’s ‘House of Balloons’, you can hear sampled parts of ‘Happy House’ and the chorus from the original version. Between the slick playing of the band’s instrumentals and Sioux’s powerful vocals, their sound has understandably stood the test of time.
They may have changed their line-up several times. However, consistently led by vocalist/guitarist Robert Smith, they remained a force to be reckoned with. Usually cladded in eyeliner and dark-coloured attire, the band fully embraced the goth aesthetic. Even though Smith may have said in 2006, “it’s so pitiful when ‘goth’ is still tagged onto the name The Cure”, they were notably one of the first iconic goth bands to break the barrier between alternative rock and mainstream music. It wasn’t long before others began to notice. Their debut album Three Imaginary Boys (1979), allowed the band to tour around the UK. By 1992, they’d already amassed 19 hits. ‘A Forest’ saw the band approach their songwriting with a darker twist. Their draw to ugliness and decay was further explored with their album Pornography in 1982. The band’s venture into psychedelic music was heard in The Caterpillar (1984) and more pop tones with ‘Let’s Go to Bed’- which marked the start of their creative partnership with director Tim Pope.
The Cure’s reign on goth-rock has spanned across the decades and is yet to dwindle. Their best-known indie-pop track ‘Friday I’m In Love’, is still a fan-favourite. Their influence has also been noted by the frontman of Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan and Scottish-rockers, Interpol. From headlining Glastonbury for the first time in 1986, to headlining an event in 2017 at Hyde Park, London – after 40 years they’ve managed to stand the test of time.
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Fields Of The Nephilim
Hallmarked with a distinctive style, Fields of The Nephilim, took their name from angel-human hybrids referred to as the ‘Nephilim’. Their frontman Carl McCoy’s growling vocals set them apart and were the cornerstone of their music. Formed in Hertfordshire, the gothic-rock band released their debut EP, Burning the Fields in 1985. It introduced the world to their lyrical inspirations of subjects as obscure as chaos magic and the Sumerian religion. The popular track ‘Preacher Man’ (1887) was a glam-rock masterpiece, bolstered by thunderous guitars. This signature sound would take a heavier doom-metal turn, as heard on their latest album Mourning Sun (2011).
Adopting a “dust and death” image, they often wore cowboy dusters and a dusting of flour. Despite the fact that the Nottinghamshire Police had mistaken it for drugs, it was later proved to be flour. In 1988, the band received some mainstream attention after their successful album Dawnrazor (1987) which led British newspaper Melody Maker to include spoof articles about them. Being one of the most iconic goth bands, their legacy has and will continue to inspire others.
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American singer-songwriter and musician, Chelsea Wolfe, is known for her knack for blending various genres, such as gothic-rock, doom metal, and folk music. The Northern California native boasts an ethereal soprano vocal range and hails an eclectic range of artists, including Joy Division and R&B icon, Aaliyah. Her first two albums The Grime and the Glow (2010) and Apokalypsis (2011), were composed on her broken mother’s classical guitar, and used in the studio recordings. The Grime and the Glow was a lo-fi bedroom record, and the next few albums would see Wolfe embrace a more electronic blues sound. Each track is set for the live stage, with her heartfelt performances celebrated wherever she performs. Her latest release, Birth of Violence, was written and recorded at her home. It saw Wolfe’s quintessential blend of genres come full circle.
As well as a successful solo project, Chelsea Wolfe has also formed a duo called ‘Mrs. Piss’, with Jess Gowrie. They began working together during the tour for Wolfe’s album Hiss Spun. In May 2020, they released their debut album Self-Surgery. The partnership acts as another way for Wolfe to reaffirm her love for haunting melodies and gritty electronic elements.
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Led by vocalist Anja Howe,Xmal Deutschland are a staple for goth-rock lovers. Initially boasting an all-female line-up, they formed in Hamburg, West Germany in 1980. However, they quickly gained acclaim from outside their hometown. They may have only created music together for a decade; however, they made several chart hits. Their debut album Fetisch (1982) is widely regarded as a ‘goth classic’ and instantly made it into the UK Indie Charts, despite the band singing and performing in their native tongue. Their album Viva (1987) showcased their doom rock sound, encapsulated with leading track ‘Matador’. Their final album “Devils” (1989) showed their break away from the doom and move into lighter pop-sounding tracks.
Their shrieks and ghoulish instrumentals are what distinguished them in the industry. Despite having embraced more of a pop sound and including more English lyrics in their later years (as heard in their ‘Sequenz’ EP), the band was essential in introducing the gothic genre of music to the masses and is definitely one of the most iconic goth bands of all-time.
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Frontman Will Gould stated that the band has always “proudly represented the so-called sinners, the weirdos, the outsiders and those who don’t feel like they fit in anywhere in this world.” They may have cited influences from other goth-punk groups such as AFI and Alkaline Trio, however, Creeper is a musical entity of their own making. Theatrically goes hand in hand with their music, as they are also inspired by productions such as Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’, as well as ‘The Lost Boys’ by Joel Schumacher. The band has taken some cues from glam-rock legend, David Bowie, in the creation of their concept EPs. The Callous Heart (2015) was a lesson in pop-punk perfection. However, The Stranger (2016) saw the band’s increased venture into glam-rock. Theatrical track ‘Misery’ highlights the band’s tradition of pouring their hearts into their music. Similarly, to Bowie’s character, Ziggy Stardust, they disbanded in November 2018, after a show promoting their debut album, Eternity, In Your Arms (2017). However, they returned after a year with single ‘Annabelle’, which was a goth-rock symphony for the sinners.
Now, the band is set to release their postponed sophomore album Sex, Death & The Infinite Void on 31st July. Regarding the album, Gould has previously said, “You won’t hear anything like it.” As far as Creeper is concerned, we should always expect the unexpected.
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The Manchester-based band combines synth-pop with touches of indie-rock to create a sound which is ingeniously theirs. The goth-pop outfit has been making waves since their formation in 2014. The four-piece consists of Heather Baron-Gracie, Ciara Doran, Hugo Silvani and Charlie Wood. Citing a love for The Cure, Baron-Gracie has confessed an adoration for “songs that give you melodies that you can sing at any time, but within those melodies, there are things that break your heart.”
Their debut single ‘There’s a Honey’, is a synth-driven melodic number and was released after signing a record deal with Dirty Hit in 2017. It was produced by label mates, The 1975, whom they supported on their North American and EU tours. It was shortly followed up by ‘Television Romance’, which saw them sell out their headline tour. Their debut album My Mind Makes Noises (2018) was instantly a hit. From track ‘Red’ described by Baron-Gracie as a “gay anthem” to ‘Noises’ being about her “hating herself”, they consistently wear their heart on their sleeves. This is topped off with their natural skill for big choruses and pop hooks.
Their talent has been rewarded with an accolade of success, including earning fifth place in the BBC Sound of 2018, winning the NME Under The Radar award and Q Best Breakthrough Act Award in 2019. Their latest release was SkinDeepSkyHighHeartWide (2020), was a collaboration with Lawrence Rothman for the soundtrack for horror film, The Turning – a perfect collaboration for the goth-pop outfit.
The Ninth Wave
Beginning on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow-based band The Ninth Wave are led by Hadyn Park-Patterson and Amelia Kidd. Their gothic post-punk sound was introduced with their debut EP Reformation (2017), which was produced by Dan Austin (Placebo and Pixies). To celebrate the release of their EP, they arranged their own gig in some old railway arches and built their own stage out of old palettes. Their debut album Infancy (2019) saw the band’s penchant for the dramatic and the continuation of their blend of haunting synth. However, the inclusion of guitar-powered track, ‘Imitation’, proves that the band can do it all. Their motivation to DIY their success is clear. Their video for their track ‘Half Pure’, is a tragically apt depiction of supermodels literally in pain for their art. The Ninth Wave never shy away from making a statement.
Their latest track ‘I’m Only Going to Hurt You’ was inspired by the “internal conflict faced after realising the difficulties of a relationship that seemed to be damaged before it was allowed to flourish.” Their upcoming EP Their Happy Days is inspired by the likes of The Twilight Sad and FKA Twigs. They are set on doing everything on their terms. From using bins as percussion instruments to using a mannequin, their live shows are anything but forgettable.