The first 30 years of Goth in 30 records

Fields Of The Nephilim - Preacher Man (1987 single)

Contamination, radiation… the scenario didn’t look too bright in the Mad Max world of Preacher Man. From the opening apocalyptic-hoedown churn of guitar and Carl McCoy’s first phlegmy growl, it was clear this Hitchin band were both serious and yet somehow not. 

Epic, booming, wreathed in smoke and proudly presenting a video full of zombies and gas masks, this is so loaded with swagger and gusto that it’s hard to resist. 

The Sisters Of Mercy - Floodland (1987)

No one trades in the currencies of irony and disinformation quite like Andrew Eldritch. And if the Sisters Of Mercy linchpin is to be believed, his second album was either a work of unmatched genius or an exercise in glorious stupidity. In the end, it turned out to be both.

The acrimonious dissolution of the previous Sisters line-up following 1985’s debut album First And Last And Always meant that Eldritch was effectively starting again from scratch, a task he undertook with relish. This follow-up found him erasing any remaining traces of the band’s post-punk beginnings, repositioning the Sisters as the Wagnerian wing of the snakebite-and-black set.

He was helped in part by the unlikeliest of collaborators: Meat Loaf wingman Jim Steinman, who co-produced three of the songs here, including magnificently batty 11-minute centrepiece This Corrosion. Its baroque tendencies were balanced out by the altogether more crepuscular Driven Like The Snow, Flood I and II and the Zeppelin-referencing Neverland (A Fragment). At the heart of it all was Eldritch, a black-cowled cardinal conducting his own personal Inquisition, right down to the malevolent whisper and smirk on his lips.

Now, as then, Floodland towers above its peers in sound and ambition; a cathedral in the middle of a cemetery. Eldritch never made another album like it. But then neither did anyone else. 

All About Eve - All About Eve (1988 album)

Raffled up with the goth movement more on account of Julianne Regan’s backing vocals on The Mission’s God’s Own Medicine album than any stylistic leanings, All About Eve were altogether more poppy, whimsical and hippyish than the black hat, dry ice brigade.

This, their debut album after being signed to major label Phonogram, has something of the pastoral about it and is a lovely ode to naivety. Flowers In Our Hair, Gypsy Dance and Martha’s Harbour set the tone and it’s not hard to get the gist of where the Eves are coming from. If the Sisters Of Mercy were Altamont and speed, then All About Eve were Glastonbury and a spliff. 

Guitarist Tim Bricheno’s stylings are from the same school as The Mission’s Simon Hinkler – all space, nippy fills and a whiff of the other-worldly – but Regan’s vocals and lyrics turn Eve’s songs into something much more gentle and pretty.

Regan is dismissive of what she says was the label’s attempt to turn the band into the next Fleetwood Mac, with her cast as the indie Stevie Nicks. Listening to the splendid In The Clouds again, we reckon that was no bad thing. 

Paradise Lost - Pity The Sadness (1992 album track)

With their groundbreaking third album Shades Of God, Yorkshire misery masters Paradise Lost transcended their doom/death metal roots to pioneer and perfect the then nascent form that was gothic metal.

Everything that makes a classic Paradise Lost tune is here: the monstrous rhythm guitar chug, vocalist Nick Holmes’ James Hetfield-esque roar, the stately grandeur of the epic mid-section and yet another skeletal, spine-tingling guitar solo from Greg Mackintosh.

Despite the vast scope of its predecessor, Gothic, Shades Of God is where the seeds of Paradise Lost’s future greatness first revealed themselves, and Pity The Sadness cuts straight to its black heart. 

Type O Negative - Bloody Kisses (1993 album)

Emerging from the bare-knuckle free-for-all that was New York’s mid-80s hardcore punk scene, Type O Negative were unlikely standard-bearers for the goth-metal boom of the early 90s. But the Brooklyn natives’ third album stands as a towering landmark for this nascent genre, and one that caved in the door for a new generation of doomed souls.

Led by singer/bassist Pete Steele – a 6’8” man-mountain with the mien of an undertaker and the larynx of a depressed bullfrog – they sat at the nexus of a black-hued Venn diagram where Black Sabbath and Swans met The Sisters Of Mercy and Dead Can Dance. Bloody Kisses added a sludgy metallic grind and an all-encompassing layer of despair to the goth template, from blasphemous mini-symphony Christian Woman to the heroically funereal title track.

But there was an obsidian-black sense of humour at work beneath the gloom, evident in the Addams Family-style finger-clicks peppering Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All) and their dismantling of soul classic Summer Breeze, which turned the Isley Brothers honeyed original into a suicidal dirge – a state of mind that the singer had first hand experience of.

The band would mine this same seam over subsequent albums, before Steele died of heart failure in 2010 at the age of 48. You can’t help but wonder if he’d already written his own epitaph here. 

My Dying Bride - For You (1996 album track)

Like Gods Of The Sun, the fourth album from Yorkshire’s gothic doom doyens, is their most accessible. They’ve never really been a singles band, but if one track stands out as an obvious contender, it’s For You.

Archetypal mid-period MDB, it’s built around an unusually up-tempo and strangely catchy opening riff, and a series of mournful verses of the bleakest poetry. This was MDB at their commercial peak, riding the ‘new goth’ wave of the nineties From gothic to romantic to doom laden and back, For You has it all. 

The 69 Eyes - Gothic Girl (2000 single)

Gothic Girl started off as a pastiche of Type O Negative’s Black No.1, but it turned out to be the breakthrough The 69 Eyes needed. Pandering to every gothic cliché, the five-piece brought the slick dark rock of The Sisters Of Mercy bang up to date with singer Jyrki69’s new ‘undead Elvis’ vocals awarding them the goth’n’roll tag.

With its Nephilim-esque guitars and über-dark Lords of The New Church-style keyboards, it didn’t take long for the album Blessed Be to propel the Helsinki Vampires from underground glam rockers to goth pin-ups.

HIM - The Funeral Of Hearts (2003 single)

The Finnish nu-goth heroes’ breakthrough single ticked all the relevant boxes: Ville Valo’s crushed velvet vocals, wintery atmospherics, the passing reference to Baudelaire’s The Flowers Of Evil. But its cleverest trick was to wrap the whole thing up in ribbons and roses and serve it to an audience virtually crying out to be seduced.

The clue was in the title of parent album Love Metal: this was the musical equivalent of an Anne Rice novel, all doe eyes and doomed romance. Suddenly, goth had a new pin-up. 

Marilyn Manson - If I Was Your Vampire (2007 album track)

“If I had to do a record review,” said Manson of his sixth album Eat Me, Drink Me, “I’d say it’s got a cannibal, consumptive, obsessive, violent-sex, romance angle, but with an upbeat swing to it.”

Thrilling six-minute opener If I Was Your Vampire is an industrial-goth thumper where the drums out-muscle the guitars and our man (who owes Bauhaus a large debt) describes, with knowing irony, ‘Blood-stained sheets in the shape of your heart’ and reckons ‘Everything’s black/ no turning back’

Manson claims he sang those lines lying on the studio floor, thinking of his very public romance with his then-girlfriend, actress Evan Rachel Wood.

Tiamat - Misantropolis (2008 album track)

Lyrically inspired by mainman Johan Edlund’s relocation to Greece, Misantropolis is the ultimate dark ballad. Showcasing the frontman’s guttural vocals, which had apparently been packed away after the band’s 90s breakthrough album Wildhoney, this tune caused some head-scratching among newer fans unaware of Tiamat’s background.

The album it came from, Amanethes, was a return to the Swedish metallers’ doomier days after several years of flirting with sing-a-longs. This melancholic collection was their only studio album with Nuclear Blast, but it put them back on the metal map and again proved that the Scandinavians do darkness exceedingly well. 

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