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The GOTHIC MUSIC Radar (Episode #1/2019)

Rather than pointing at a well defined and specified genre of music, the term Gothic indicates a broad scope of bands which combine heavy metal or rock sounds with dark atmospheres, melancholic melodies, romantic or gloomy lyrics. As a result, every good collection of gothic music can only be quite heterogeneous. Indeed, in this selection of the six most relevant records since the beginning of 2019, you will find genres ranging from grunge to atmospheric death metal, and touching also rock and doom. Everyone of the following LPs, however, has within all those elements of charm and darkness that we like so much in Gothic music.

As far as geography is concerned, we have two bands fro the United States of America (A Pale Horse Named Death and Cold Colours), one from Denmark (Demon Head), one from Finland (Swallow The Sun), one from Spain (Helevorn), and one from Germany (Ewigheim).

Enjoy this selection of LPs and stay tuned for the future updates of the GOTHIC MUSIC radar.

“When the World Becomes Undone”, by A Pale Horse Named Death

One of the major events of the first months of 2019 was definitely the release of the new album by A Pale Horse Named Death, which is the band founded by ex-Type O Negative and ex-Life of Agony drummer Sal Abruscato. The album, named When the World Becomes Undone, provided another good example of that intriguing mix of gothic metal and grunge that the band already introduced in the previous two albums.

I was truly impressed by this LP, specifically by the beautiful combination of dark atmospheres, heavy and melodic riffs, with slow – but not obsessive – rhythms. I’ve published a full review of the album, that was included among the category of the Best New Albums. You can check that out for the details.

“Hellfire Ocean Void”, by Demon Head

Among the albums of the first two months of 2019 than more than the others feature all the typical elements of gothic metal, there is for sure Hellfire Ocean Void, the new record from the Danish formation Demon Head. Active since 2012, this quintet from Copenhagen has released in February the third LP of a discography that has attracted so far the attention of both the fans of gothic rock and doom metal.

Their new work is definitely more oriented towards rock than metal, and it’s also characterized by a feeling of antiquity that is mainly due to the particular way in which the various instruments have been recorded for the LP. When you launch Hellfire Ocean Void in your stereo, it will look like you have taken an old record of the 70s for how the sound is dark and also fairly muffled. Assuming that this was a deliberate stylistic choice, I can see its positive aspects: first of all the sense of vintage that emerges from the songs of the LP and, from a certain point of view, the relative unicity of this style. At the same time, however, the sound of this album appears a little anachronistic and, in some moments, it doesn’t make justice to the captivating and fascinating melodies that are played by the band.

In short, Hellfire Ocean Void is a truly curious album: it’s beautiful to listen to for its fascinating and obscure songs, but it’s absolutely anti-modern for its sound and style.

“When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light”, by Swallow the Sun

The new LP by the Finnish band Swallow the Sun was already included in the digest that I released for doom metal, but When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light contains so many elements of Gothic that I had to mention also in this article.

The LP is fully permeated by dark atmospheres, but mainly because of the presence of an impressive number of beautiful melodies, it never becomes oppressive. In this respect, the band has really achieved an impressive maturity in songwriting: the guys from Jyväskylä really know how to build up and dissolve the tension, and how to balance melancholic and energetic moments so that the songs remain always well equilibrated and relatively enjoyable to hear.

There is on the blog a dedicated review of this LP, you can get some more details from there.

“Aamamata”, by Helevorn

There is another publication that will appear in two different editions of the radar. It is Aamamata, the fourth LP from Spanish band Helevorn, which features equal components of doom and gothic metal, and a final touch of death metal.

This sextet of musicians has always strived for the definition of an individual and original direction for their music, which has been always accompanied by excellent performance and also impeccable recording, something that we can appreciate also in the last work. But if the recipe of their style seems to be farily intriguing, Aamamata in my opinion signs a small step back for the band. The album, in fact, seems to lack that passion and intensity that I appreciated in the first works of Helevorn. Their music, today, is stylistically impeccable, but seems much less effective from the emotional point of view.

“Irrlichter”, by Ewigheim

Ewigheim, from Germany, embodies in all respects the stereotype of the Gothic band. Starting from the name, which in German means “Eternal Home”, that is a way of saying to represent death), but also for the sinister lyrics (at least those few I had the patience to translate from German) and the melodic and dark melodies of their songs.

Compared to the other albums that were introduced earlier in this digest, Irrlichter is the one that makes the most continuous and persistent use of piano and keyboards, while on the contrary, it’s definitely the one that shows the most simple and linear structures for the songs. The result is a collection of extremely accessible but at the same time melancholic and sad songs. The album releases a feeling of distrust, of lost opportunities, so it’s hardly the record that you’ll want to hear when there is the need for a little boost in motivation.

In the broader context of the band’s discography, Irrlichter is the seventh LP released by Ewigheim. The style follows substantially what was already heard in the previous album Finding Smooth Salvation in Death: it’s a kind of music that misses the depth and the longevity of the best works of gothic metal, but which is absolutely enjoyable to listen to.

“Northernmost”, by Cold Colours

The last album that I want to recommend for the lovers of Gothic metal is Northermost and was released by Cold Colours, an American band that has consolidated with the years a very nice and fairly original style of death metal that’s full of atmospheric and gothich elements.

The music played by this band blends the melodic and melancholic aspects of gothic with a growling-like style of singing, and also quite complex musical structures. The tracks featured in Northernmost are undoubtedly interesting, but unfortunately, the album has some approximations in terms of the arrangement and also for what concerns the production. These faults don’t permit this LP to reach the level of quality of the albums that were mentioned before. Although this is the fifth album of a career which approaches the twenty-five years, there is something amateurish in the way this formation has arrived at the making of their new album. And it’s sincerely a shame because, from the point of view of the creativity and also the songwriting, the band shows unquestionable qualities.

If you liked the music presented in this article, you will love the playlist GOTHIC, which collects some of the best gothic songs of the last period. Check it out and follow it, it’s going to grow with time.

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