by Oliver Sheppard
When some people think of “deathrock,” they think “80s retro horror punk.” More’s the pity.
First of all: What is “deathrock”? When I use the term, I mean guitar-driven, punky, morbid or gloomy rock ‘n roll primarily influenced by the 1977 punk rock movement and/or the 1982 hardcore punk movement. I always defer to Dinah Cancer‘s statement in 2004: “The first prowlings of deathrock came in the early ’80s before we were labeled as our other counterparts – the gothic movement. There were no Goths. The Deathrockers were splintered off from the punk/hardcore scene that was going on at the time. We played punk rock but we loved Halloween and we looked like vampires. So the phrase ‘death rock’ was born.”
Dinah Cancer was in Vox Pop, Castration Squad, 45 Grave, Penis Flytrap, and more. So, case closed, as far as I am concerned. Regardless, the word “rock” is in the word “deathrock,” and like Rozz WIlliams’ favorite bands — The Stooges, Velvet Underground, etc. — rock ‘n roll has always been a fundamental part of the deathrock equation.
What follows is a survey of new bands carrying on in that vein. There is a lot of exciting activity from punk and hardcore bands spinning off into dark postpunk projects — bands rooted in punk branching off into darker and more experimental territory the same way that the original punk bands like Warsaw, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Crisis also began as punk bands but ended up becoming the dark postpunk bands of that era.
This article is not by any means exhaustive. New bands are popping up all the time. But these are a few of the bands that have recently jumped out at yours truly as being especially notable — or just plain old cool! A lot of them are from the West Coast — specifically, the Pacific Northwest. But let’s start with Santa Barbara, California’s Crimson Scarlet, shall we?
Read the rest of the feature after the jump!
1. Santa Barbara’s Crimson Scarlet released their “Sanctuary” 7″ last September. They have a Bandcamp page here. Female vocals front a band whose primary influences seem very much to be in the Blood and Roses, Rubella Ballet, and Lost Cherrees vein. Speaking as someone who DJs the “No Doves Fly Here” deathrock night in Austin, Texas, I was surprised and even a bit flummoxed when we got a request to play this new band a few weeks ago. I didn’t have anything by the band on me, but I vowed to look them up. (I played a Bellicose Minds song as a kind of apology, the patron’s second request). And thank God I did! Great stuff!
Crimson Scarlet are very, very good. You can buy their 7″ on Cool Summer Records.
2. An East Coast entry here from New York City’s Anasazi. Major Christian Death worship — and in this case, that’s a good thing! A very good thing. Anasazi have played with fellow East Coasters Lost Tribe and Cult of Youth, and will be playing at Chaos in Tejas in the Summer in Austin, Texas. If you’re on Facebook, you can check out Anasazi at their band page, here. I can’t wait to hear more new stuff by this band.
3. Agnostic Pray are another recent and exceptional entry in the dark postpunk/goth-punk/deathrock canon. Did I say Anasazi were a “rare” East Coast entry? Maybe I shouldn’t have! Agnostic Pray are a Brooklyn, NYC goth-punk/peace punk/deathrock/etc. band. What’s amazing is the consistent quality of musicianship that so many of these new dark postpunk bands are bringing to the table: Clearly there are gifted guitarists and drummers in these many of these bands — like Agnostic Pray, hence why I am mentioning this. Thankfully these gifted musicians are choosing to employ their talents towards forwarding this oft-neglected, shadowy genre of music. Agnostic Pray are great. This song may sound a lot like Killing Joke‘s “The Wait,” but that’s why it’s so good. They have a Bandcamp page.
4. Tanzkommando Untergang. A name and imagery that might put one in the mind of raw, Disclose-style d-beat hardcore punk, maybe — but it’s raw deathrock and beautifully well-made dark postpunk that is delivered in the best sense of Madhouse and maybe a rawer Skeletal Family, here. Glorious stuff. From Germany. Their Fall 2011 demo is available on Bandcamp.
5. Blue Cross began as a side project of crust band Germ Attak. Like a lot of side projects, it became clear early on that this Canadian band might have something that would supersede the original band’s breadth of appeal. This demo came out in 2010.
6. The Spectres. Vancouver, British Columbia’s The Spectres’ “Last Days” LP finally came out in 2010. Releasing songs at a slow trickle, their “Cold War” and “Visions of a New World” EPs came out on vinyl throughout the mid 2000′s, teasing folks who wanted to hear more from this band that reminded all at once of Joy Division, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and Rikk Agnew.
7. Italy’s Dystopian Society are one of the stronger current political deathrock bands going (like Christ Vs. Warhol). Along with Le Vene di Lucrezia, Dystopian Society are keeping Italy’s deathrock scene on the map. Check out their EP and other songs on their Bandcamp page.
8. Cemetery, from Chicago, are also forging ahead and making new deathrock that stands out.
9. Alaric. The Bay Area’s Alaric recently came out with a split EP with Atriarch. Containing members of Cross-Stitched Eyes, Dead and Gone, and Noothgrush, Alaric are a kind of post-hardcore deathrock supergroup, claiming influences by UK deathrock bands like Part 1 and Amebix and others.
10. Atriarch. Another West Coast band exploring deathrock sounds in their musical evolution — and to fascinating results. Their split with Okaland’s Alaric can be bought from 20 Buck Spin here.
That’s all for now. As Kenn Kroosaficks wrote in previous posts, bands like Deathcharge, Vivid Sekt, Moral Hex, and others are making new music in this vein. More to come later!