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Gothic Philosophy

GOTHIC F.A.Q.

This is rather an old version of FAQ, the last version is 3.0 but it is not translated into english.

v. 2.5 (18/I/98)
by Coroner
Translated by Angel Zero

Contents

1. Preface.

3.10. Medieval

2. The history of gothic music

3.11. Neo-classic

2.1. From post-punk...

3.12. On gothic metal and whether it exists

2.2. ...to gothic rock

3.13. On ethno-gothic and whether it exists

3. Subgenres of gothic music

4. On goths and gothic subculture

3.1. Note

4.1. On gothic look

3.2. Proto-gothic rock (post-punk)

4.2. Gothic movies

3.3. Early gothic rock

4.3. Gothic literature

3.4. Modern gothic rock

4.4. Gothic music and gothic subculture in Russia

3.5. Gothic ethereal

5. Suggested listening

3.6. Dark ambient

6. On the additional information sources

3.7. Darkwave

6.1. Bibliography

3.8. Synth-gothic

6.2. Net resources

3.9. Gothic folk

7. Afterword

1. Preface

This FAQ was compiled with but a single purpose in mind: to shed at least a spark of light on the question: "What is gothic music?". This FAQ is not, by all means, complete and infallible, though an attempt to meet these requirements without mixing in one's own likes and like-nots was made. The main driving force behind the creation of this FAQ was the total absence of coherence in discussions on gothic music held in various newsgroups, namely fido7.su.music, fido7.su.music.metal and fido7.su.music.gothic. The results are yours to judge upon.

Any questions or amendments to this FAQ can be sent to coroner@gothic.ru, as well as be discussed in fido7.su.music.gothic and Russian Gothic Page's on-line newsgroup.

I would also like to thank those who have contributed to the development of this FAQ:
Dmitri Alekseev (dmitri@p14.f501.n5020.z2.fidonet.org)
Dmitry M. Tolmatsky (dmitry@p2.f11.n5053.z2.fidonet.org)
Dmitry Krivoruchko (dmitry@p1.f286.n5020.z2.fidonet.org)

2. The history of gothic music

First, I would like to set the terms that I'm going to use (and, sometimes, abuse) throughout this text. Wherever "gothic music" is used, it denotes the gothic music genre as a such - the one that is considered a part of the alternative music in whole and includes wildly different subgenres, such as gothic rock, gothic ambient, darkwave, and others. The subgenres are denoted as such ("gothic rock", "gothic folk", and so on).

Quite contrary to the belief widespread in Russia, gothic music IS NOT a doom metal subgenre. Its development has nothing to do with doom metal (for more on this, see section 3.12.). Gothic rock, being the first gothic music subgenre to appear, developed from post-punk.

2.1. From post-punk...

In the very end of the 1970s and in early 1980s, a part of the post-punk bands that possessed an original sound was no longer subject to the constraints of the existing genres. Journalists were forced to think of a name for the emerging genre; the result was "gothic rock". It is thought that it was used for the first time in 1978 by BBC to describe the music performed by Joy Division. Later, in 1979, this adjective was widely used by the New Musical Express newspaper to describe the "Bela Lugosi's Dead" single by Bauhaus; since then, it is condsidered to be the first gothic rock single ever. Thus started the history of the gothic rock as an officially nominated music genre. At the same time, the word "gothic" was used by Siouxsie Sioux to describe Siouxsie & the Banshees' new sounding. It comes as no surprise, then, that Joy Division, Siouxsie & the Banshees and Bauhaus are now hailed as the gothic rock founders, even though initially the word "gothic" was used to show how barbaric and harsh their music was ("Goth, n. - a member of ancient Teutonic tribe, a barbarian. -ic, adj. - pertaining to Goths; barbarous").

2.2. ...to gothic rock

Gothic rock wave was started by the first gothic rock band to ever exist, the Bauhaus. Gothic rock originated in British night clubs that considered themself alternative and generally underground; the most famous of these was "Batcave", where almost all founders of gothic rock held their concerts. Classic, or early gothic rock bands (circa 1980s) can be divided into two parts: the first one will include the post-punk bands that became famous as a part of the gothic wave (Bauhaus, Southern Death Cult (later the Cult), Specimen, The Virgin Prunes, Sex Gang Children, early The Cure), while the second will feature the bands that sounded differently, if not simply better (X-Mal Deutschland, The Sisters of Mercy, Mission, Fields of the Nephilim, Christian Death, All About Eve). In the mid-1980s, other gothic subgenres began to appear, such as gothic ambient and gothic darkwave, and others; though I can not provide their history, I will be grateful to those who could. 1990s are generally hailed as a gothic (rock) revival period. Alas, as it always goes with the history, we can only guess at the most important gothic bands of our time.

3. Subgenres of gothic music

3.1. Note

Lately, gothic music has become a truly original music genre, making the task of classifying its subgenres a daunting one. I will avoid the strict definitions, denoting the especially treacherous questions with the flavorous writing like that found in this section. As an attempt to further drive my point, I have included examples and references that should make the understanding of the particular style's peculiarities easier for you. Some parts of this chapter may duplicate the information contained in the previous chapter.

3.2. Proto-gothic rock (post-punk)

As it has been said before, gothic rock stems from the post-punk bands, namely Joy Division, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Killing Joke, Bauhaus, UK Decay, and others. The music that those bands performed was rudely aggressive and decadently depressive at the same time. Common to the post-punk bands, their sound was distorted and the guitars sounded harsh.

Suggested listening: Joy Division "Unknown Pleasures", Joy Division "Closer", Bauhaus "Mask", Bauhaus "The Sky's Gone Out".

3.3. Early gothic rock

The notion of further discerning between the early gothic rock bands mentioned in the section 2.2. holds right. There are post-punk bands that became popular or were formed as a part of gothic wave, thus being dubbed "gothic" (Southern Death Cult, Skeletal Family, Theatre Of Hate, The Virgin Prunes, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Danse Society, Specimen, March Violets, Ausgang, Sex Gang Children, early The Cure). Harsh post-punk sound still rules here (see section 3.2.); no violins, cellos, synthesizers and sweet female vocals. Then there are bands with a more original sound, deviating further from the post-punk and forming the early gothic rock scene, circa 1980s (The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Fields of the Nephilim, X-Mal Deutschland, Christian Death, Play Dead, All About Eve). Music styles differ; drum machines, female vocals and synthesizers appear. Still, this is all about the fast rock and you can feel post-punk beneath - so wait for the next section until you see more familiar sights.

Suggested listening: Skeletal Family "Burning Oil", Sex Gang Children "Song & Legend", Specimen "Batastrophe", The Sisters of Mercy "First and Last and Always", The Sisters of Mercy "Floodland", The Mission "Gods Own Medicine", Fields of the Nephilim "The Nephilim", X-Mal Deutschland "Fetisch", X-Mal Deutschland "Tocsin"

3.4. Modern gothic rock

Modern gothic rock is a varying lot, making it difficult to put down a single criterion for bands to qualify. England no longer being an exclusive importer of gothic rock, the music styles differ according to the individual band's country of origin. Fine examples of to what extremes the modern gothic rock can go are Faith and the Muse, Die Laughing, Inkubus Sukkubus, Rosetta Stone, Children on STUN, The Wake, London After Midnight, Vendemmian, Nosferatu, Corpus Delicti, Love Like Blood, Two Witches, Sunshine Blind, Giant's Causeway, The Shroud, Black Atmosphere, The Garden of Delight, Mephisto Walz, Moonchild, and others. Some of them follow the steps of the early gothic rock bands (London After Midnight, Nosferatu), while others went into the fast and rhythmic rock with clear guitar sound and female vocals (Die Laughung, Inkubus Sukkubus, Sunshine Blind). As it has been said before, there is no common criterion for modern gothic rock bands, though it is evident that they are removed quite far from the original post-punk sound, becoming more melodic, employing synthesizers, drum machines, violins, cellos and female vocals. Still, a rock is a rock, and (fast) guitars are a must.

Suggested listening: Faith & the Muse "annwyn, beneath the waves", Die Laughing "Glamour & Suicide", Rosetta Stone "Adrenaline", The Wake "Masked", Inkubus Sukkubus "Heartbeat of the Earth", London After Midnight "Selected Scenes from the End of the World", Nosferatu "Prince of Darkness", Corpus Delicti "Sarabands", Sunshine Blind "Love the Sky to Death", Giant's Causeway "New Light".

3.5. Gothic ethereal

Though hard to define, this subgenre is characterized by the melodic, serene, atmospheric sound; electronics and classical instruments abound. Under no circumstances it is similar to the rock music. It is hard for me to trace the stages of this subgenre development, so I'll suffice to say that the majority of unexperienced listeners picture gothic music the way gothic ethereal bands play it - slow, melodic, featuring violins and female vocals. This subgenre is also known as "gothic ambient", though it seems to me that "gothic ethereal" suits it better due to the greater scope of the latter description. Sometimes, the lightest-sounding bands are dubbed "dreampop-ethereal"; fine examples of this are Chandeen, Ostia and Enigma. Alas, the music press is prone to labeling eveything that sounds "nice" and "atmospheric" as "ethereal": the term misuse victims range from Enigma and Dead Can Dance to Love Spirals Downwards and Danielle Dax. Often, the beautiful, atmospheric-sounding female vocals are enough to call both them and the band that employs the vocals "ethereal". The most famous gothic ethereal labels are Projekt and Hyperium. The most notable specimens of this genre are Aurora, Lycia(along with its sideproject named Bleak), Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Endraum, Stoa, Bleeding Like Mine, Collection D'arnell Andrea, Love Spirals Downwards, Anchorage, Love Is Colder Than Death, Soul Whirling Somewhere, Eleven Shadows.

Suggested listening: Aurora "The Land of Harm and Appletrees", Lycia "The Day in the Stark Corner", Black Tape for a Blue Girl "Ashes in the Brittle Air", Endraum "Innerlichkeit", Stoa "Urthona", Love is Colder Than Death "Teignmouth".

3.6. Dark Ambient

As a such, dark ambient is not a gothic music subgenre, drawing instead heavily on the industrial/electronic scene. Worth including still, as some ideas correspond with those discussed. Though this FAQ has nothing to do with things ambient, it seems that an explanation is in order here: "ambient" music is the one that tries to convey mood by "enveloping" the listener, all the while discarding such important elements of other genres, such as melody or rhythm; an excellent example is Brian Eno's "Ambient" parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Thus, dark ambient is about dark moods. Some dark ambient bands are dubbed as performing "black ambient", which is a music subgenre permeated by the ideology common of the black metal; more, these bands usually are black metal bands' sideprojects. A number of labels specialize in dark ambient, Cold Meat Industry being the most notorious among them. Best-known dark ambient performers are: Raison d'etre, Abruptum, Mortiis, Aghast, Ildfrost, Morthound, Lustmord, Pazuzu, Brighter Death Now.

Suggested listening: Raison D'Etre "Within the Depths of Silence and Phormations", Mortiis "Keiser av en Dimensjon Ukjent", Aghast "Hexeri im Zweilicht", Ildfrost "Autumn Departure", Pazuzu "And All Was Silent".

3.7. Darkwave

Again, a huge term problem. Initially, "darkwave" was a grim and rhythmic electronic music with lots of samples (Phallus Dei, Deine Lakaien, Die Form, Mordor, post-1995 Rosetta Stone Sanctum, Ichor, Deutsch Nepal). Nowadays, "darkwave" is anything grim and electronic that cannot be labeled "dark ambient" while being gothic. Fine examples of this mess are The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud, Die Verbanten Kinder Eva's, Welten Brand, mortiis, and others. Moreover, "darkwave" is used as a handy adjective that can be added to just anything, from gothic ethereal bands (such as Love Is Colder Than Death or Lycia) to gothic rock bands (for example, "New Light" by Giant's Causeway has a sticker on it that says "darkwave & gothic metal", while it is clear we're having to deal with gothic rock here). One can only guess at whether "darkwave" is used to separate gothic rock and ethereal bands from gothic bands that employ electronic instruments (such as Endraum and Rosetta Stone)). An aptly suiting "goth-industrial" lies forgotten.

Suggested listening: Phallus Dei "Luxuria", Deine Lakainen "Forest Enter Exit", Deine Lakainen "Winter Fish Testosterone", Mordor "Cseithe", Rosetta Stone "Tyranny of Injaction", The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud "A New Soldier...", Die Verbanten Kinder Eva's "Die Verbanten Kinder Eva's".

3.8. Synth-gothic

Hard to define, this subgenre is similar to the electronic specimens of modern gothic rock; it includes the usage of samples. As a rule, the music is quite serene, reminiscent of the synth-pop peformed with a "throughness" that is characteristic of gothic bands. Fine examples are La Floa Maldita, Edera, Derriere le Miroir, Passion Noire, The Deep Red, Blind Passangers, (Clan of) Xymox and Alien Sex Fiend of the early gothic music fame. Sometimes, these bands are labeled "darkwave"; that seems incorrect to me for the reasons undisclosed above. Synth-gothic has a subgenre of its own, the so-called "techno-gothic". It employs simple or complex beat and "gothic" vocals or other elements of gothic music. Recommended are Qntal and Primordia.

 

Suggested listening: La Floa Maldita "L'oasis", Edera "Ambiguous", Derriere Le Miroir "Thieves & Kisses", Xymox "Clan of Xymox", various compilations by Alien Sex Fiend (such as "Drive My Rocket"), Qntal "Qntal ][".

3.9. Gothic folk

Now, we're moving on to the even more complicated question; as a rule, "gothic folk" is applied to the majority of World Serpent bands, such as Current 93, Death In June, Sol Invictus/Tony Wakeford, Fire + Ice, The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud, and others. Sometimes, this bands are described as playing "dark folk" or "apocalyptic folk" music. Most of the so-called "gothic folk" or "dark folk" bands utilize the modern approach to music, along with the modern instruments and european folk art feel. No attempts to perform authentic folk music are usually made; still, the influence can be felt. In the strict sense, gothic folk is not a subgenre, more like a generalized description for a number of wildly varying bands. Some of the gothic folk bands go into the modern sound (Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud), while others pursue the folk feel to the extremes (The Merlons of Nehemiah or Sopor Aeternus. Sometimes, "gothic folk" or "european folk" is applied to the Italian bands, such as Ataraxia, Ordo Equitum Solis and Camerata Mediolanense..

Suggested listening: Current 93 "Thunder Perfect Mind", Sol Invictus "The Death of the West", Sol Invictus "In the Rain", Fire & Ice "Guilded by the Sun", Merlons of Nehemiah "Romanoir", Merlons of Nehemiah "Cantoney", The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud "The Smell of Blood But Victory", Sopor Aeternus "Todeswunsch", Dark Reality "Oh Precious Haze Pervade the Pain", Ordo Equitum Solis "Hecate", Ataraxia "Simphonia Sine Nomine".

3.10. Medieval

This is not a gothic music subgenre. Most of the medieval bands are of a chamber lot and thus have nothing to do with gothic subculture whatsoever. Medieval bands try to perform medieval music authentically, whether by medieval authors or self-composed, varying only in the authenticity of the instruments used; note the difference with gothic folk. This is further aggravated by the fact that the "folkier" of the gothic folk bands draw their inspiration from the post-Medieval Ages folk music, that somehow turns out to be almost all dancy and jovial. Some bands (Vox, Sarband) include extensive historical information on the music performed with their CDs. Vocal bands that are into the medieval chorals (Anonymous 4, Mediaeval Baebes, The Gothic Voices) should also be included here. Sometimes, bands that employ medieval harmonies and other elements of medieval music are also dubbed "medieval" (listen to The Soil Bleeds Black to get an idea of what I'm speaking about); Notable medieval bands are: Vox, Sarband, Camerata Mediolanense, Estampie, Ronan Quays.

Suggested listening: Vox "Diadema", Vox "From Spain to Spain", Sarband "Sephardic Songs in the Hispano-Arabic tradition of Medieval Spain", Camerata Mediolanense "Musica Reservata", Estampie "Crusaders - In Nomine Domini", Ronan Quays "The Ebbing Wings of Wisdom".

3.11. Neo-classic

Again, this is not a gothic music subgenre, although some bands are connected with the gothic subculture and are popular among goths. Bands that perform classicized music while employing classical instruments (Amber Asylum, Anchorage, Le Orchestre Noir), as well as the bands that perform classicized music while employing modern instruments (Elend, Tony Wakeford, Shinjuku Thief), are dubbed "neo-classic".

Suggested listening: Amber Asylum "Frozen in Amber", Anchorage "The Bleak Wooden Tower", Le Orchestre Noir "Cantos", Elend "Les Tenebres du Dehors", Tony Wakeford "Cupid & Death".

3.12. On gothic metal and whether it exists

Gothic metal does not exist as a subgenre. Still, you can label some albums as being "gothic metal-ish", denoting the fact that they do feature the elements of both genres. Some bands, such as Creaming Jesus, Lacrimosa and Dreams of Sanity, do readily fall into the gothic metal category, though you can not describe them as such; only after a sufficient number of gothic metal bands emerges, it will be proper to say that a subgenre has appeared. "Doom/gothic" suits some bands that feature various elements of gothic ambient subgenre, such as female vocals and classical instruments. For examples of this, listen to the early The 3rd and the Mortal, Cemetary of Scream and Theatre of Tragedy). Still, you should not confuse the doom metal bands that utilize the elements of gothic music (The Gathering, My Dying Bride, Tiamat, or pre-1995 Paradise Lost) with gothic music itself. Some of them (Paradise Lost, Cemetary, Pyogenesis, Crematory, Lake of Tears) are slowly shifting into the gothic rock, making the gothic metal more of a myth than a truth.

Suggested listening: Creaming Jesus "Chaos for the Converted", Lacrimosa "Inferno", Dreams of Sanity "Komodia", The Gathering "Mandylion", My Dying Bride "Turn Loose the Swans", Paradise Lost "One Second", Cemetary "Sundown", Pyogenesis "Twinaleblood", Lake of Tears "The Crimson Cosmos", Crematory "Awake".

3.13. On ethno-gothic and whether it exists

The only band to be dubbed often as "ethno-gothic" is Dead Can Dance, due to the oriental feel that some of their albums have. While agreeing with that aptly suiting description wholeheartedly, I know not of the other bands performing in this subgenre, forcing me to deny it the subgenre status at all.

Suggested listening: Dead Can Dance "The Serpent's Egg", Dead Can Dance "Into the Labyrinth".

4. On goths and gothic subculture

Having long ago lost its primary meaning of the barbarian tribe memeber name, "goth" became synonymous with those who have made gothic rock and everything gothic the style of their lives. This subculture formed in the mid-1980s and since then was developing along with the gothic music, following the intricate turns the latter took. It includes a more-or-less common dress style and keeps its members united through the common music tastes, common tastes in literature and other common passions. Gothic subculture appears to be the most diverse of the existing subcultures; it is impossible to imagine, say, a head-banger not listening to metal bands, for this is the only thing that makes him a head-banger. On the contrary, gothic music, prose, poetry, art and dark looks do not complete a list of what makes man a goth. The numbers of gothic poetry pages in Internet rival that of the gothic music pages.

4.1. On gothic look

Exaggerating, it can be said that goths of both sexes wear black or purple clothing, along with lots of silver jewelry and make-up, such as black fingernail polish and black kohl. Much more often nowadays, this is not the case; goths are as varied as the music they listen to is, embracing, for example, the so-called "romantic look" and wearing Victorian era costumes. The classic "gothic look" was inspired by post-punk bands that were the gothic rock founders (Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Cramps, Bauhaus, Specimen). Russian Gothic Page will soon feature an article on the gothic look.

4.2. Gothic movies

First and foremost, there are gothic movies dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, such as "Nosferatu", "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", "Vampyr", "Dracula", that enjoy the uttermost popularity among goths. Included among the gothic movies are almost all modern vampire movies that, quite contrary to the widespread belief, are not horror movies. Fine examples of those are "Interview with the Vampire", "Nadja", "The Addiction", "The Hunger", "Bram Stocker's Dracula". Sometimes the movies that feature depressive or grotesque stories, sets and such - like "Bladerunner" and "The Crow" - are also dubbed "gothic".

4.3. Gothic literature

To name a few of those who are traditionally considered "gothic writers" (i.e., writing in horror/suspense genre): Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelly, Bram Stocker; Anne Rice and Storm Constantine are the most well-known modern gothic writers.

4.4. Gothic music and gothic subculture in Russia

It is with great sorrow that I have to conclude the following: the gothic subculture is almost non-existent in Russia. There is a handful of goths, along with a number of gothic bands, most of which play gothic folk music. Though sometimes knowing not of their "gothic" status, the following enjoy the popularity and thus are known to me: Ole Lukkoye (ethno-gothic), Sergey Kalugin (gothic folk), the soon-to-be-featured-at-the-RGP-affiliated-page Moon Far Away (gothic ethereal/ethno gothic), Romowe Rikoito (gothic folk/ethereal), No Man's Land (gothic rock/ethereal), Ad Libitum (gothic folk), Inna Zhelannaya (gothic folk).

I welcome any information on gothic bands having anything to do with Russia.

5. Suggested listening

Each section of this FAQ contains a reference to a number of albums that I decided worth including, not because of their quality, but because of them representing the general feel of a given subgenre. I also do recommend the following compilations by Cleopatra Records: Gothic Rock (#1019), Gothic Rock II (#9648), Gothik (#9536), In Goth Daze (#9400), Goth Box (#9798).

6. On additional information sources

6.1. Bibliography

"Gothic Rock Book" by Mick Mercer, released by Cleopatra Records, is an excellent account on the gothic rock's history, containing a wealth of information and photos.

6.2. Net resources

There are several FAQs pertaining to the questions discussed, though they tend to focus on the gothic look rather than gothic music:
alt.gothic.fashion FAQ(the gothic fashion FAQ)
alt.gothic FAQ(a general FAQ on matters gothic)
uk.people.gothic FAQ(a FAQ for UK goths)

For more links, please see the Dark Side of the Web or Links/Bands Links pages at the Russian Gothic Page.

7. Afterword

I gladly welcome any corrections and additions.

Thanks to:

(c) 1997-1998 Andrew "Coroner" Narkevich

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Hermoso todo amigo, muy buenos posts y excelente música. Un abrazo.

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