Deathrock—the genre that simply won’t die. Although recent years have seen a revival of synth-and-drum-machine-based darkwave styles of postpunk, the shadowy intersection of goth and punk rock known as deathrock continues to be made by bands entranced by the appeal of the genre’s prominent guitars and its original ties to the punk roots of the music. There was a kind of second revival of deathrock around 2011-2014, when bands like Fangs on Fur, Rule of Thirds, Crimson Scarlet, Blue Cross, and Catholic Spit were in their heyday. Although some preferred to refer to those bands as “dark punk” at the time, it seemed clear that clutch of bands was reaching back into the power of 80s UK goth-punk and So-Cal deathrock (along with, sometimes, the darker side of 80s anarcho-punk) for much of their inspiration. The recent book Phantoms: The Rise of Deathrock from the LA Punk Scene, an exhaustive new history of deathrock by author Mikey Bean, has garnered rave reviews, and is an example of enduring interest in the genre. Fast-forward to the middle of 2020 and many new bands have popped up, pointing exciting new ways forward. At the same time, older bands have also come out with compelling new releases.
Here are five newer deathrock bands you should be listening to. (Of course, there are more than five bands that could be included below, and perhaps there’ll be a “Part Two” for this article some time soon!) This brief list is not exhaustive; it’s meant as a springboard for your own discoveries. It’s worth mentioning that some of these bands may, in fact, not even consider themselves “deathrock” at all—or, at least, not purely deathrock. “Our sound is a mix of punk, deathrock, post-punk, and goth,” Stan Wright of Arctic Flowers has said, for example. “Aggressive, but at times danceable and melodic.” (And along those lines it’s also worth remembering Sisters of Mercy will not concede that they are a gothic rock band, either—and yet … they are, regardless of what Mr. Eldritch thinks.)
On that note — enjoy!
1) DETOXI — First Flesh LP (2019)
Detoxi, like the classic acts of the deathrock scene, hail from Southern California. (Ventura in this case, to be exact.) Featuring members of early 2010s deathrock act Catholic Spit, and The Ancestors, as well as punk band Stalag-13, Detoxi’s songs marry traditional punk political concerns with deathrock gloominess. Musically, there is much of the old, circa-1983 UK “positive punk” (early goth rock) vibe circulating through the band’s blood. Detoxi vocalist Derek Jennings even sometimes sounds like UK Decay‘s Steve Abbott, and sometimes perhaps a bit like Rudimentary Peni‘s Nick Blinko. Detoxi’s first and so far only LP, First Flesh, is highly recommended. A real bright spot for folks into the original roots of gothic rock in the UK and the West Coast of the US. Detoxi have a Bandcamp page here.
Detoxi’s video for “Death of a Nation”
2) ROSEGARDEN FUNERAL PARTY — “At the Stake” EP (2020)
“What if I never come back from this? / Forever part of my eternal darkness / My hands feel stained — I can’t find the place / Between salvation and saving face,” Rosegarden Funeral Party sing on their new EP, “At the Stake.” The Dallas, Texas band have come a long way since their “Horror Rock” and “Blitzkrieg in Holland” releases in 2017 and 2018, respectively. “Siouxsie and the Banshees are definitely a huge influence on us,” singer Leah Lane mentioned in an interview I did with Rosegarden on this website last year. “Obviously, we love Bauhaus and The Cure… We’re also big fans of Pink Turns Blue, Flowers for Agatha, Human Tetris, 45 Grave, Skeletal Family, Boy Harsher, and The Birthday Party.” In fact, Lane’s meticulously crafted lyrics and moody, Siouxsie-like vocals provide much of the band’s gravitas. Rosegarden Funeral Party’s new EP is a darkly melodic entry in the genre, and is highly recommended. Super songwriting, vocals, and musicianship guide the band to new heights. The “At the Stake” EP comes out June 18th on Germany’s Young and Cold Records. One of the current bands to keep an eye on. Rosegarden Funeral Party have a Bandcamp page here.
Rosegarden Funeral Party continue to make waves out of Texas
3) VUELTAS — Self-titled demo (2019)
Vueltas are one of the more exciting purist deathrock acts to come forward in recent years. The PDX power trio can count Max Avila, who has drummed for the Chromatics, Soft Kill, Antioch Arrow, and Atriarch, among their ranks, lending to this group’s powerful rhythm section. All lyrics are in Spanish. The vocals occasionally remind of the witchy power of early Eva O’s vocals for LA’s The Superheroines, and there is a dirgey, gritty, garagey vibe to all of Vueltas excellent songs. Vueltas play doomy deathrock for exorcisms; or, perhaps, for the opposite — demonic conjurations. Looking forward to catching this great dark band live again sometime in the future. Vueltas have a Bandcamp page here.
4) NEW SKELETAL FACES — “Celestial Disease” EP (2019)
According to California deathrock band New Skeletal Faces’ Bandcamp page, their “Celestial Disease” EP was released on Halloween of 2019. Fitting! The dark power trio recall a side of the deathrock and old goth scene that is perhaps not in as much focus these days—the side that counted rocker acts like Lords of the New Church and Fields of the Nephilim as among their sonic peers instead of the more synthy, new wave-tinged stuff. NSF’s burly EP might even have some crust elements in the mix, a la Deathcharge. The track below, “Celestial Disease” reminds, at times, of 13th Chime (especially that band’s song “Fire”). Whatever the case, NSF deliver big-hair-and-leather-jacket style, rock-influenced deathrock, a great soundtrack to a midnight beer and whiskey-fueled funeral party. New Skeletal faces have a Bandcamp page here.
New Skeletal Faces’ video for “Skeleton Structure”
5) MYSTIC PRIESTESS — PTP Sessions EP (2020)
With their new “Part Time Punks Sessions” EP, Oakland’s Mystic Priestess have unveiled a classic, powerful deathrocker of a release. Some sonic points of reference for this exciting band may be helpful: Many songs recall the innovative strength of 80s UK groups like Blood and Roses or Brigandage, pioneers of the old British “positive punk” movement that led to the creation of gothic rock in the 80s. As well, lead track “Smoke and Mirrors” brings to mind the style of music played by Northern California colleagues in Crimson Scarlet: Driving and to-the-point, but with enough unsettling atmosphere to please fans of classic/trad gothic rock. Mystic Priestess announce that much of their music concerns “facing the shadows of chaos in the world and revealing the facade of inauthenticity that creates self-doubt and division that keeps us following the herdsman and our own demise.” Mystic Priestess’s spectral, guitar-driven sounds also incorporate some of the political feelings of the zeitgeist, giving voice to LGBTQ and feminist issues that instill the band’s music with a compelling and modern urgency, marrying the gothic-punk tradition to political concerns sometimes not commonly found in the darkwave scene. The vital “PTP Sessions” EP is a great example of Mystic Priestess’s top-shelf, witchy gothic punk rock.
Stay tuned for “5 More Deathrock Bands You Should Also Be Listening To,” some time soon.
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