Cemetery‘s cassette demo in 2011 was a welcome and gloomy surprise from Chicago that I first wrote about for CVLT Nation in March, 2012. Although the band have produced at least an LP’s worth of material – and are planning to release it soon, as they detail below – since the demo, and have played out on the East Coast and elsewhere, it’s hard to find info on the mysterious group. As one of the better-sounding bands that are part of the new revivalist deathrock and goth-punk movement that includes bands like Lost Tribe, The Spectres, Deathcharge, Arctic Flowers, Crimson Scarlet, Belgrado, and others, the creepy, Christian Death-sounding quartet have slowly been amassing followers due to word of mouth praise and dubbed circulation of their cassette.
I interviewed singer Danny and guitarist Desmond below to find out what bands have inspired them and what they’re currently working on.
…or at least listen to.
There have been a lot of new dark postpunk and deathrock releases lately. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track. But here are some of the recent singles, EPs, and LPs that deserve your attention.
Like their fellow deathrockers in Fangs on Fur and Christ vs Warhol — two bands that, like Catholic Spit, are from Southern California — Catholic Spit inject their take on deathrock with a fiery punk sensibility and energy. This 6 person (!) band has been fairly prolific compared to other bands in the genre. (The most prolific band has to be Blue Cross, who have released 3 LPs in just over two years.) Catholic Spit’s 7-song Pact with the Devil LP was released in late 2012 and was followed only a few months later with the uptempo “I’m Your God Now” 2-song 7″. And now comes this split, which you can stream for free at the band’s Bandcamp page. Ericka’s vocals shriek — in a good way — through watery, flangey guitars (think John McGeoch), backed up by Nick Townsend’s andrenalized, uptempo punk-style drumming and Kaleb’s rock solid bass. (Townsend also did the band’s recordings for this release.)
The Catholic Spit contribution to the split can be heard at this Youtube video below.
When I started doing these deathrock mixtapes in early 2012, my point was to illustrate that guitar-driven, dark punk in the deathrock tradition was alive and well, still evolving, despite some folks’ stubborn perception of this genre as being “old school.” (And, actually, as a genre that came into its own in the 80s, it’s younger than industrial or some other types of dark music.) Like the broader genre categories of rock ‘n roll, country, or even the blues, the deathrock subgenre is indeed “old school,” and also like those types of music, it isn’t.
So, here’s yet another new assortment of bands, including tracks by what I call “legacy” dark (post-)punk bands like UK Decay, Killing Joke, and The Damned, bands that are still alive and well and who are still cranking out surprisingly good new material. Among the newer bands, Finland has a strong showing here: Masquerade and Silent Scream reassert the primacy of Scandinavia in this genre; and new 12 inchers by bands like Belgrado, Deathcharge, Catholic Spit, and others also reaffirm the innovation that continues in this style of dark music.
This deathrock mix is not meant as an exhaustive or definitive or authoritative compilation. It’s supposed to serve as a springboard for your own sonic exploration. Some of these bands may not consider themselves to be “deathrock” at all; Arctic Flowers, for example, describe their sound as “a mix of punk, deathrock, post punk, and goth.” All of the songs below resonate strongly with, and are relevant to, the development of deathrock/goth-punk/gothic rock in the modern era as a whole, however.
Tracklist below the jump cut. Enjoy.
by Oliver Sheppard
Pinkish Black’s sophomore LP, Razed to the Ground, is set for release on September 17. The Fort Worth band’s first and self-titled LP (which was reviewed for CVLT Nation last year, here) was on Denton’s Handmade Birds label; the new album sees them on the larger and more metal-centric Century Media imprint.
Pinkish Black’s sound, however, has thankfully not changed: Razed to the Ground is an opus of doomy, sludgy, crushingly dark music that incorporates elements of doom metal, Projekt Records-style ethereal wave, gothic rock, and other dark music elements. And also as with the first LP, one once again is reminded of 80s Cop-era Swans, early Godflesh (and especially the proto-Godflesh band, Fall of Because), and even stuff like Killing Joke’s “S036″ or Mass’s much-overlooked “Cabbage” release from the 80s. It’s a unique, churning sound that doesn’t fit neatly into any pre-defined categories. There is even a kind of creeping “space drone” twist to the sound this time around that serves as an intriguing development in the band’s evolution. The effect is often eerily psychedelic.
In 1960, American novelist John Steinbeck wrote:
“I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox.”
Over the decades, Texas has produced a lot of great music, from thrashy 60s proto-punk in the form of the Zakary Thaks, to a large amount of formative and influential punk and postpunk in the form of bands like The Huns, Stickmen with Rayguns, MDC, the Big Boys, the Dicks, Scratch Acid, and Really Red — on up to World Burns to Death, and over to unique performers like the Reverend Horton Heat and outsider musician Daniel Johnston.
In the 1990s and in the past decade, a few Texas bands began exploring the sonic territory that acts like Current 93, Death in June, Fire + Ice, and others had opened up – a type of music that’s been called both “post-industrial” and “neofolk.” Verdandi, who were one of the first Texas bands to begin playing neofolk, hail from Houston. Awen are from the Dallas area, and Gabhar call Austin home. While Awen will be playing in Europe soon, both bands will be opening for Death in June’s show in Austin, Texas on September 14. American neofolk bands are still fairly rare, although groups like Cult of Youth and King Dude (both of whom have either worked with or have professed an admiration for Awen) and others like Wreathes are making up for America’s heretofore poor showing in the neofolk arena. So, while European acts like Rome, Osewoudt, and Of the Wand and the Moon still dominate, American neofolk — especially neofolk of any decent quality — is still relatively unusual. Given that fact, that Texas is home to at least two of the better US neofolk bands there is all the more remarkable.
An interview with Awen
Awen founder and singer Erin Powell was interviewed by Oliver in December, 2012.
(Note: This article originally appeared, in an earlier form, at Souciant.com, here. It is reprinted with permission from the author.)
Manchester’s Warsaw changed their name in 1977 to Joy Division to avoid conflict with the punk band Warsaw Pakt. Coincidentally, that change served to mark the break between Joy Division’s punk phase and their later, better-known dark postpunk era. There is something important to this: Many bands at that time started as punk bands yet ended up becoming postpunk, deathrock, and gothic rock acts.
Although Warsaw’s output has its fans and diehard evangelists to this day, it’s the Joy Division material that garnered that band’s popularity. Easy Cure – a British punk band – became The Cure. Crisis became Death in June. The punk band The Outsiders became the postpunk band The Sound. And it goes on. But other bands have had the opposite problem: They are known for their punk material, but their later postpunk output remains neglected, or is seen (by purist punks, at least) as a kind of embarrassing deviation from punk purity, to be brushed under the rug. Rare are bands like Wire or Siouxsie and the Banshees, or Killing Joke — bands whose punk and postpunk material is accorded equal acclaim.
Well, here are five bands whose postpunk material merits reexamination. Audiophiles will be familiar with some of the releases. The material warrants broader exposure regardless.
Anasazi: A little bit Virgin Prunes and a strong helping of Southern Death Cult — add in liberal amounts of Christian Death, nuke it all in a microwave for a few minutes, and the finished result might look something like this New York City cult-punk-cum-deathrock outfit. The brainchild of urban warrior/poet/necromancer Chi Orengo, Anasazi’s discography (two 7-inch releases, two demo cassettes, and one split cassette with the band Survival) and song titles like “Horror at the Mass,” “Desecration,” “Bone Collector,” and “Mausoleum” tell the tale of Anasazi’s gloomier sonic inclinations. Recently I interviewed Chi about the band’s output and what inspires it.
NYC, of course, has been a natural hotbed of dark music since the days of Velvet Underground. Follow that lineage through to the late 70s punk and no wave scenes that produced everyone from The Cramps, to The Mad, to Lydia Lunch, to DNA, to Klaus Nomi, on through to the 80s NYC deathrock and goth scene that included bands like the Naked and the Dead, Of a Mesh, and Scarecrow (all ably documented in the excellent Dark New York compilation I reviewed earlier for CVLT Nation here), on through to current bands like Rosenkopf, and Anasazi doesn’t seem so out of place. Anasazi’s latest release is a 7-song demo on Inflammable Material.
Interview conducted by Oliver in July, 2013.
Oliver: Chi, let’s some get some basic information out of the way first for readers. How long has Anasazi been around, and who is currently in the band?
Chi: Well, Mr. Oliver, Ansazi was started in 2010 originally with the darkest rain storms and the howling of many trees. It was with myself, current geetarist, and creator Keegan and our friend Mikkey C. on bass, and Eddie from Psychic TV on drums. We jammmed awhile but that didn’t work out due to bears eating them in Jellystone Park.
2011 came around and we got new members. I got the talented Bread Barrely on drums, Jasper on bass, and Christian on synth — members of The Hunt. This began our journey. It was a perfect fit, like OJ’s glove. We started playing shows in summer 2011. Magic moons and whisps of violent ways were in hand, potions were boiled and 420 smoke in basements were in full effect. I KID! We recorded our self-titled demo in the famous weird night basement where the ghost of a lil’ girl roamed. Then Jasper and Christian passed on. RIP. Then the wonderful Haydne from Dream Affair stepped in on bass, then stepped off a ledge. Also RIP. Now we have the great Jess from Survival on bass, who is a delight and a awesome friend. AND DAT IS DE LINE UP NOW! (“SHHH” — MY MOM.)
One of the best products of the contemporary underground dark punk/postpunk scene, Portland’s Bellicose Minds’ debut LP, The Spine, has been a long time coming. Although it was recorded over a year ago, in June 2012, it has slowly trickled out to the masses via mailorder and smart independent record stores that have an ear for good music. I interviewed the band almost a year ago for CVLT Nation when the only release under their belts was the excellent self-titled 2011 EP (and a demo tape); the 2011 EP had been previously reviewed by the late Kenn Kroosaficks for CVLT Nation. Bellicose Minds were one of his favorite bands, and they’re also one of mine. Although The Spine was technically released late 2012, it’s good enough to be on my own personal “Top 10″ list for 2013.
Whether you want to call it dark punk, dark postpunk, or goth-punk — and any of these terms would fit — The Spine recalls a time when bands like Vex, The Dark, and The Mob circulated freely between the punk and postpunk scenes simply because those scenes had not split apart into their own distinct worlds yet. (I’m speaking of the early 80s, when segments of the British music press referred to bands like UK Decay and Sex Gang Children as “gothic punk” and “positive punk.”) That’s the fine music and cultural line that The Spine treads – and it does so wonderfully.
The first track of the CD version of Troller‘s self-titled LP is called “Milk”; it’s nightmarishly gothic and genuinely creepy. Horror movie sound effects (or noises that remind me of horror movie sound effects) slash across a dreary landscape of synths and bass guitar, and after a slow build up Amber Ormand’s vocals – echoey, despondent, and ghostly – announce the arrival of an LP that is at turns darkwave-y, shoegaze-y, and eerily psychedelic. It’s a good and darkly atmospheric album by a younger Austin, TX band on Denton’s Handmade Birds label. (The original cassette and vinyl came out on Holodeck / Light Lodge/ Living Tapes.)
There are 10 tracks total, 4 of which are untitled dark ambient/instrumental pieces that thread together the 6 other songs with vocals, most of which have monosyllabic titles (“Tiger,” “Best,” “Milk,” “Thirst”). Although there is nothing quite as deathrock-sounding on the release as the opener, the rest of the LP is a multi-layered, lush journey through achingly sweet dark pop nostalgia (“Winter”) and early 4AD shoegaze-esque postpunk (“Best”). In fact, much of the music has a very Projekt Records “ethereal wave” vibe, a la bands like The Cranes – wails of tragedy and bliss awash in kaleidoscopic synths, vocals floating wraith-like above a melody anchored – barely – to earth by a drowsy, gloomy bassline. The Anti-Gravity Bunny blog called it “graveyard hallucination pop”. That’s not a bad description at all.
by Oliver Sheppard
Ottawa, Canada’s goth-punk duo Blue Cross have just delivered their third full-length LP, “Conspiracy,” in under two years – a remarkable feat, considering that many bands nowadays take years to release new material. Originally a side-project of street punk band Germ Attak, Blue Cross’ music explores more mid-tempo postpunk and deathrock territory. Their sound, guided by Jess’ spectral vocals, recalls bands like the Superheroines, Madhouse, and more obscure early goth-y postpunk with female vocals like Your Funeral or Pink Military.
Chaos Rurale Records and Blue Cross’ own Bandcamp page have made “Conspiracy” available for streaming, coinciding with the physical release of the album. (Bruised Tongue is actually offering the LP on cassette!) CVLT Nation has been following Blue Cross since the beginning; the band’s debut LP, “Mass Hysteria,” was reviewed here; their second LP, “I am Death,” was reviewed here; and the band was interviewed by CVLT Nation last year here. Recently, Maximum Rock ‘n Roll also interviewed the band.
Click the graphic below to begin streaming “Conspiracy” now!