When one says “Southern Gothic,” romantic images of kudzu-covered mansions, sycamore trees, and melodramatic Tennessee Williams scenes immediately come to mind. Not so when it comes to the less-glamourous Rust Belt. This once championed “heartland” of the United States fell on harder times with the decline of industries, and it is no surprise that with the demise of prosperity comes a rise in lamentation. In a post-pandemic world, with over a million gone and families bitterly feuding over politics, it can be hard to get your authentic voice heard in a tidal wave of social media chatter.
We saw this phenomenon before in the UK. Factory towns and industry cities spawned countless bands during the economic crises of the 1970s-1980s. (Bauhaus famously recounted these wistful pipe dreams in All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.) We saw this phenomenon of musical political commentary erupt, across all music forms, in major US cities at different points, particularly Los Angeles and NYC with the rise of punk, post-punk, and hip-hop.
But what about those small-town misfits: the oddballs who hail from (and remained in) Kalamazoo, Michigan? Evansville, Indiana? Akron, Ohio? Are there actually Alien Sex Fiend fans in rural Kentucky?
Yes, of course. And Twice Dark (aka Josh Kreuzman) has shone a light on those very souls with a compilation of goth, industrial, post-punk, and deathrock bands from all those states, simply titled Midwest Gothic.
As with every locale experiencing economic and societal strife, there is great poetry, and creative spirit within that rarely get a chance to see the light of day…beyond a turn at the local tap room, or a moment on a college campus coffee shop. With this compilation, we hear a collection of very diverse underground acts, such as Soma and Seraphim (who indulge in Bauhaus-style guitar over ominous bass lines); BlaK SundaY who move more into impassioned Danzig/Damned territory, and the dour Pillar (who echo Siouxsie’s Israel with their guitar licks).
For those lamenting that “no one is writing authentic music anymore,” you have no excuse. Go buy this unique snapshot of the shadow side of Small Town America.
Twice Dark began in 2020 in Indianapolis and is currently based in Bloomington, Indiana. Their own music is a classic gothic sound in the vein of Sisters of Mercy and Clan of Xymox, loaded with baritone gravitas, spooky choruses, and catchy hooks, peppered with eerie synth stylings that create a sinister air.
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