Well, we’re two years into these Deathrock mixtapes, and the fascination that dark postpunk and deathrock continues to hold over the punk scene continues unabated, even if many punker-than-thou bands refuse to acknowledge their own new swing into gothic territory, proud as some would-be tastemakers are. The punk scene’s dipping into the waters of this tradition is producing, to me, some of the best new music around these days. And the best of that is represented in the mixtape below.
First off: Buy this comp. If you care at all about the history of postpunk or gothy guitar music since the late 1970s punk explosion, you should own this.
Sacred Bones’ new “Killed by Deathrock, Volume 1” anthology collects, Nuggets-style, some of the less well-known dark postpunk, gothic rock, and deathrock bands from the 1980s. Although the internet and mp3 filesharing have dramatically changed what’s thought of as “obscure,” it’s fair to say that in the big scheme of things, the bands that Sacred Bones have collected here are indeed gathered from the more obscure recesses of deathrock’s history.
Oh, are there other deathrock comps that you’ve listened to? Of course there are. But herein, my ghouls and ghosts, is why this one is especially good.
by Oliver Sheppard
Portland’s Arctic Flowers will have a digital release of their long-awaited second LP soon, with a proper vinyl release following some time in the Spring. In the meantime, the new “Weaver” LP is available here at CVLT Nation for streaming.
After last year’s excellent “Procession” EP, an EP that showcased the Flowers’ talent for combining the tradition of anarcho/peace punk with a postpunk sensibility, the new “Weaver” LP (on Deranged Records – who are on a roll lately) continues in much the same vein. The first side kicks off with the energetic track “Magdalene” and the pace doesn’t let up too much from there, culminating in the barnstorming track “Anamnesis,” which employs a riff that reminds me of a Rudimentary Peni track (specifically, “The Evil Clergyman” off RP’s “Cacophony“). But it’s Side 2 that contains my favorite tracks off this new release. The second side kicks off with the memorable track “Byzantine”; guitarist Stan Wright lays down a chunky, Killing Joke-esque riff (think of that band’s song “Tension” mixed with “The Wait”), complemented by frontwoman Alex’s vocals, which recall the classic goth-punk of bands like Rubella Ballet and Lost Cherrees. The following title track, “Weaver,” is another winner – just a great mid-tempo punk rocker that, in true Arctic Flowers fashion, blurs the boundaries between classic punk, postpunk, and early gothic rock. Indeed, in an interview I did with Arctic Flowers almost two years ago, founder and guitarist Stan Wright stated, “Our sound is a mix of punk, deathrock, post punk, and goth. Aggressive but at times danceable and melodic.”
by Oliver Sheppard
It’s here: http://current931.bandcamp.com/
Or, nearly Current 93′s complete discography. (There are so many unofficial releases, semi-official releases, quasi-official releases, etc., that a truly complete discography is pretty daunting.)
Current 93: The long-running dark-ambient-cum-post-industrial-cum-neofolk project, whose only constant member has been David Tibet, has been making musick for over 30 years now, providing a fertile matrix of material that has influenced, or that has indeed included, countless postpunk, metal, neofolk, industrial, et. al, acts into its orbit. That Tibet uploaded nearly all of Current 93′s catalog onto Bandcamp last Fall is of no small significance. In fact, it’s a radical move, exposing the project’s sprawling and esoteric catalog to millions of new listeners.
Earlier neofolk was sometimes called “apocalyptic folk,” a phrase seen on at least one early Current 93 flyer that seemed to sum up early bands’ stripped down, back-to-basics acoustic approach to making doomy, and quite often occult-tinged, music(k). One of the longest-running current podcasts of this style is in fact the aptly-named “Aural Apocalypse: A Soundtrack for the Final Days” (hosted by the amazing Merrick Testerman, it should be noted).
The early grand trifecta of neofolk was Death in June, Current 93, and Sol Invictus, and those 3 bands had members circulating between them quite often. One of the few American bands that carries forward in that early, dark, postpunk, and guitar-strumming vein is Chicago’s Et Nihil. It’s been mentioned elsewhere that they are one band that put the apocalyptic rightfully back into the “apocalyptic folk” genre tag. Their debut LP, ONUS, is evidence of that fact.
Kommunity FK are one of the founding bands of what came to be known as deathrock – that particular admixture of gloomy/gothy punk rock and postpunk experimentation usually seen as a regional byproduct of the late 70s and early-to-mid-80s Southern California punk scene. Although Kommunity FK’s 1st LP, the classic Vision and the Voice, was not released until 1983, the band had been playing out since at least 1980, and can be counted among LA bands like Christian Death, 45 Grave, the Superheroines, and others as one of the flagship acts of the movement.
In a broader sense, Kommunity FK are musical and cultural cohorts of other bands from the dark post/punk scene that was just beginning in the late 70s and early 80s, a milieu that includes bands like Bauhaus, Killing Joke, Specimen, Joy Division, The Damned, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. In much the same way that The Fall or Death in June crystallized into the musical outlet of their respective lead singers, despite personnel changes, so Kommunity FK persists into the present as Mata’s vehicle for expression. His early spiky-haired look (and two early KFK songs, in fact) were inspired by Discharge, but Mata’s vocals evinced a David Bowie influence; aesthetically, the influences of Dadaism (Tristan Tzara) and Surrealism (Jean Cocteau) weighed heavily upon Kommunity FK’s look and approach, as well. They were employing tribal drumming, more sophisticated and experimental tempos, and more poetic and introspective lyrics at a time when the punk counterculture largely demanded uptempo, political three-chord thrash from its bands. (In fact, 35 years on into the punk scene, many punks still insist on this, and nothing but this!)
by Oliver Sheppard
A lot of the recent infusion of music and interest into neofolk can be traced to bands like Cult of Youth and the excellent Agalloch, bands originally rooted in the punk and metal scenes, respectively. This is quite a new development in the history of the music, given that it was originally thought of as a “post-industrial” style whose principle founders had come from the industrial and postpunk scenes. (Granted, Crisis were punk as fuck, and that band ties directly into the formation of the genre, too.) While there is an indie/hipster component to some of the new attention – for example, some folks insist that Chelsea Wolfe is “neofolk,” and the boundaries of the genre do continue to blur – the core of the music’s tradition continues forward and reliably delivers beautiful and inspiring releases year after year.
2013 was no different, with new entries by bands like Australia’s Lakes and Chicago’s Et Nihil being added to the canon. Below are the Top 6 Neofok releases of 2013!
Often compared to “Queen of Siam” or “13.13″-era Lydia Lunch, San Antonio, Texas’s Guilty Strangers appeared on CVLTNation’s “Deathrock 2013 Mixtape, Part 2″ earlier this year. Their 2012 “Oracle” LP evinced a mix of no-wave, deathrock, and postpunk along the lines of bands like Lung Overcoat, Executive Slacks, 45 Grave, and even Lene Lovich.
They will be playing a rare free show this Friday, December 20th, in Austin, TX at Funeral Parade, which is Austin’s only monthly deathrock event. (Show info at that link.)
Musically, Guilty Strangers’ approach is one of attacking the dark side of rock by taking the course that bands like the (early) Sisters of Mercy and Killing Joke did: They employ a traditional 4 piece outfit — that is, a live drummer and live guitarists — but come at the music by oblique and unexpected angles: Slashing, trebly guitars meet tribal drum patterns and strange, Sex Gang Children-esque basslines, all brought to the fore via singer Christine Terry’s classic deathrock-sounding vocals — which, again, recall very much the early 80s material of Lydia Lunch and even Dinah Cancer. Their covers of Killing Joke and Christian Death are only partly an homage to the tradition to which they belong.
I recently interviewed Guilty Strangers, below.
by Oliver Sheppard
It was a hard field to narrow down to only 6, but here’s my take on the Top 6 deathrock/goth-punk/etc releases for 2013. At the end of the list are further releases that could have easily rounded out a Top 10 or Top 20 (CVLT Nation prefers to do “Top 6″ lists, so that’s the format I’m following; see the end of the piece, however, for other releases that merit attention!).
As I mentioned in my Top 6 from last year, the term “deathrock” can inspire endless debate, both online and off. The strictest, least forgiving, and most pedantic definition of the term would be that it was a dark punk and postpunk phenomenon that lasted from 1979 until about 1986 or 1987, and was primarily local to Los Angeles — or the US southwest in general, including California (Burning Image were from Bakersfield; Shadow Image were from San Francisco), Nevada (Theatre of Ice), and Arizona (Mighty Sphincter, The Consumers). And yet for many later bands, like Cinema Strange, and current bands, like Christ vs Warhol, Los Carniceros del Norte, or Las Gorgonas, there is simply no other genre tag that fits, although increasingly terms like “goth-punk” and “dark punk” are used. Parallel regional music phenomena — Spain’s “Siniestro” music (Paralasis Permanente), Germany’s “Depro-Punk” (EA80), Japan’s “Positive Punk” (Auto-Mod and Phaidia), “French Coldwave” (Siglo XX and Clair Obscur), the East Coast’s horror punk (The Cramps and Misfits), England’s “positive punk”/gothic rock (UK Decay, Sex Gang Children), etc. — developed in tandem, but for simplicity’s sake I’m just referring to all this current interrelated material under one catch-all rubric. (I’ve even seen the phrase “dark neo-postpunk” bandied about. Arrrrgh!!)
HERE THEY ARE, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
by Oliver Sheppard
In 1993, Crypt Records released The New Bomb Turks’ “Destroy-Oh-Boy!!” LP. This LP landed like a smart bomb into the very weird early 1990s punk scene, one that was torn between the then-very popular riot grrl punk scene, the newfound interest in grunge & indie rock evinced by music columnists – rock critics who suddenly had been hip to punk all along, but had apparently felt no need to write about it or let anyone in on the secret before 1991, before Nirvana – and actual hardcore punk, which was delving more deeply into crusty Japanese and Scandinavian hardcore. It was a weird time for underground punk music.
John Peel almost immediately enlisted the New Bomb Turks for some Peel Sessions. And those Peel Sessions are below. As well, a New Bomb Turks split with Swedish death metal band The Entombed followed. That is also below. And Maximum Rock n’ Roll [specifically, MRR editor Tim Yohannan] said the New Bomb Turks’ debut LP was one of the best LPs since the founding of punk rock. Two decades since its 1993 release, Destroy-Oh-Boy!! is due for a proper appreciation.