I will let you in on a secret, although we here at Punk Rock Planet are punk rock diehards, we will always be eternal goth rock devotees. There are fascinating parallels between punk rock and goth rock that I’d like to ruminate on more, but for now let’s just say that during a magical period of time in southern California punk rock bred bands like Christian Death that were the harbingers of deathrock/goth rock.
Rikk Agnew, the brilliant guitarist and early member of influential deathrock band Christian Death mentioned that while he was part of The Adolescents (a punk rock band) he first saw the Rozz Williams lead Christian Death, where they played out a funeral scene before performing, and he was so impressed by Christian Death that he became a member and created some of the most memorable gothic rock music of all time.
So in honor of Halloween, we have compiled a list of the ten most important goth bands of all time. Underneath the black eyeliner and gloomy stereotypes lies the pulse of an underground scene that has created deeply moving music, evocative, romantic, and supremely dark. So without further ado here are the ten most important goth bands.
10. The Gun Club
Some people might be confused as to why The Gun Club is included on this list, but one needs to remember that the Jeffrey Lee Pierce led band was labeled a goth band when first bursting onto the scene with their debut album “Fire Of Love.” While the visionary Jeffrey Lee Pierce later went on to experiment with different styles of music, his strongest efforts I believe were when he combined the devilish pulse of Delta Blues with his own mysterious alchemy of mysticism and punk rock. In the vein of a Nick Cave, songs like “Mother Of Earth” make the listener long for something they can’t put into words.
10. The Wake (Tied)
The Wake is a band from Ohio that is more identifiably goth than The Gun Club, and although they may be a bit more obscure than bands like Sisters Of Mercy, they have absolutely created some of the best gothic rock I’ve ever heard. Dismissed by some as a Sisters Of Mercy clone, I would argue that although there are similarities, I actually prefer them to Sisters Of Mercy, and bands who draw from similar influences will inevitably have a comparable sound. However, I would recommend listening to songs like “Sideshow” and “Christine” to hear for yourself how seductive their music is. There’s even an amazing video of The Wake performing in Mexico floating around on YouTube.
9. Type O’ Negative
Although the charismatic lead singer Peter Steele has passed away (RIP Peter), Type O’ Negative holds the mantle of being one of the most influential and talented gothic bands of recent time. They could be categorized as a gothic metal band, and what they were able to do that any memorable gothic band is able to do, is create a world with their music that people are drawn into, full of symbolism, dark romance, and of course evil forces.
8. Siouxsie And The banshees
The only band on this list led be a woman, Siouxsie was an amazingly talented singer and creative visionary. She may very well be the most influential woman in goth culture, the music she created was ahead of its time and to this day still sounds remarkably innovative and creative.
7. Alien Sex Fiend
Alien Sex Fiend is the opposite of a band like Type O’ Negative in the sense that Alien Sex Fiend embraced the campier side of gothic culture. Led by the ageless Mr. & Mrs. Fiend, their campy videos and manic energy, combined with their use of electronic beats, steered goth into a more industrial direction.
6. The Damned
The Damned were one of the best bands at straddling the thin line between punk rock and gothic rock, and were referred to by each label. The lead singer Dave Vanian is a goth legend, and The Damned have consistently released great music over decades. Along with the Sex Pistols, The Damned was a UK band that brought punk rock over to the United States.
5. Joy Division
Although in retrospect, Joy Division may be considered more of a post-punk band, during their time, they were often referred to as a gothic band, and Sisters Of Mercy was often considered a ripoff of them. For sure, Joy Division was able to tap into the darker rhythms and subject matter that are often associated with goth culture. However, fashion-wise and aesthetically, they carved out new territory for themselves with their haunting and deeply compelling music. Although only around for a short time, due to the unfortunate suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis, their cover art for “Unknown Pleasures” and pure brilliance of their music has been musically, artistically, and cinematically hailed as genius.
4. The Cure
With tear stained eyeliner, and that powerful but perpetually plaintive voice of Robert Smith, The Cure perhaps more than any other band have come to represent what mainstream society thinks that goth is for better or worse. Growing up as a teenager when The Cure was in their prime, their music was the soundtrack for teenage love, despair, and life in general. Perhaps the original “emo” band, their discography is actually amazingly good, and Robert Smith in my opinion is one of the best rock vocalists of all time.
Peter Murphy may have been the sexiest goth around, although like many singers classified as “goth” he preferred not to labeled. However, his band Bauhaus created the gothic rock classic “Bela Lugosi Is Dead” that will forever be associated with goth culture. However, Bauhaus and Peter Murphy are no one hit wonders, and when one actually delves deeper into the Bauhaus discography, the discovery is that they created textured haunting experimental music on par with Joy Division.
2. Sisters Of Mercy
Although Andrew Eldritch is notoriously irascible, Sisters Of Mercy is a supremely brilliant band. It’s interesting to note that many critics criticized them as ripoffs of Joy Division, but now many years later no one thinks so anymore. This shows how silly critics can be, and how they denigrated the significance of the work that Sisters Of Mercy was creating.
1. Christian Death
While this may be a controversial ranking Christian Death had to be ranked number one, due to the one and only dark prince of deathrock Rozz Williams. Christian Death are the founders and innovators of deathrock in the United States. Rozz Williams was a fearless artist, and he also was a gender-fuck visionary that lived his early days in Pomona as basically a deathrock woman.
Lead singer Rozz Williams was influenced greatly by punk rock, growing up during the blistering music scene of the eighties in Los Angeles, where he lived nearby in Pomona. However, he branched out with darker, occult-inspired imagery and his debut album with the first formation of Christian Death “Only Theatre Of Pain” has been pretty unanimously hailed as one of the great classics of goth music.