Gothic Metal

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Gothic metal or goth metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music. Gothic metal combines the aggression of heavy metal with the dark melancholy of gothic rock. The genre originated during the early 1990s in Europe as an outgrowth of death/doom, a fusion of death metal and doom metal. The music of gothic metal is diverse with bands known to adopt the gothic approach to different styles of heavy metal music. Lyrics are generally melodramatic and mournful with inspiration from gothic fiction as well as personal experiences.

Pioneers of gothic metal include Paradise Lost, Theater Of Tragedy, The 3rd And The Mortal. Other pioneers from the first half of the 1990s include Type O Negative from the United States, Tiamat from Sweden, and The Gathering from the Netherlands. Norwegian band Theatre of Tragedy developed the "beauty and the beast" aesthetic of combining aggressive male vocals with clean female vocals, a contrast that has since been adopted by many gothic metal groups. During the mid-1990s, Moonspell, Theatres des Vampires and Cradle of Filth brought the gothic approach to black metal. By the end of the decade, a symphonic metal variant of gothic metal had been developed by Tristania and Within Temptation.

In the 21st century, gothic metal has moved towards the mainstream in Europe, particularly in Finland where groups such as The 69 Eyes, Entwine, HIM, Lullacry, Poisonblack and Sentenced have released hit singles or chart-topping albums. In the US, however, only a few bands such as Lacuna Coil, Evanescence have found commercial success.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_metal

Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Symphonic Metal):
  • DippoMagoo


gothic metal top albums

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PARADISE LOST Obsidian Album Cover Obsidian
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PARADISE LOST Icon Album Cover Icon
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MOONSPELL Wolfheart Album Cover Wolfheart
MOONSPELL
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THE GATHERING Mandylion Album Cover Mandylion
THE GATHERING
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TYPE O NEGATIVE October Rust Album Cover October Rust
TYPE O NEGATIVE
4.13 | 33 ratings
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MOONSPELL Irreligious Album Cover Irreligious
MOONSPELL
4.14 | 23 ratings
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PARADISE LOST Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us Album Cover Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us
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TYPE O NEGATIVE Life Is Killing Me Album Cover Life Is Killing Me
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4.08 | 31 ratings
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gothic metal Music Reviews

SWAN CHRISTY One with the Swan

Album · 1998 · Gothic Metal
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lukretion
Swan Christy are one of prog metal’s best kept secrets. The Greek band never managed to accumulate any real success in the 1990s/2000s when they were most active in the metal scene. This is a true pity because they released three great metal albums in those years (1998’s One with the Swan, 1999’s Today Died Yesterday and 2001’s Black Is the White Color), before turning to experimental/jazz music and eventually changing name to signal their distancing from their early metal days. One remarkable thing about these three albums is how diverse and different from one another they are. The debut album that I review here in detail is a magical combination between opera, classical music, prog metal and gothic metal. The sophomore album is more squarely rooted in prog/power metal, while Black Is the White Color is a strange hotchpotch of electro-goth, alternative metal and prog. That’s covering quite a lot of ground!

The debut LP, One with the Swan, is a concept album telling a story that sounds a lot like a revised version of Faust, re-imagined in a Game of Thrones setting. Musically, the 13 songs of the album are written in the style of prog/power metal, but with added classical instrumentation and operatic vocals (provided by guest soprano singer Natalie Rassoulis, who also sang with SepticFlesh). In line with the concept nature of the album, the music is very theatrical and the album does feel a lot like a small-scale metal opera. The violin and the piano are very prominent instruments, often providing the foundations of the songs. The guitars act as counterpoint, with a raw, low-toned sound that creates a nice contrast with the delicate classical instrumentation. Meanwhile, Kostas Makris’ vocals add yet another layer to Swan Christy’s music. His voice is dark, low and dramatic, and gives a gothic vibe to the songs, reminding me at times of Moonspell, which is why Swan Christy are sometimes classified as a symphonic gothic metal band. Personally, I think the label is somewhat misleading because it is often used to refer to the “beauty and the beast” style that was in vogue in those years. Swan Christy’s music could not be further removed from that trend, though, and sits much more firmly in progressive metal ground.

The album is comprised of 13 songs, but most songs are very short, rarely exceeding the 3 minutes, and the whole record clocks in at only 45 minutes. The songs act as small vignettes, each telling a piece of the concept story. The album may feel slightly fragmented at first, but this does not detract from the listening experience, especially if one listens to it with the spirit of sitting through a rock/metal musical.

The music is fairly original. There are some references to other contemporaneous prog/power metal giants like Savatage and Rough Silk, but these are not overly transparent. The playing is first-class, all musicians are really proficient and this is definitely one of the positive aspects of the album. Kostas’ vocals are perhaps slightly tentative on this release. He will improve on later albums, but here his voice does not come across as completely polished and in control. The most negative aspect of the album, however, is the sound production, which is rather primitive. It is quite obvious that this album was recorded on a low budget: the guitar sound is very raw and unpolished, the instruments are not always well balanced in the mix (the voice is at times barely audible), and the overall sound is muddy and muffled. The ambition, scope and quality of the music on this album would have deserved a much better sound production.

Nevertheless, One with the Swan is an excellent record that should definitely appeal to fans of progressive rock/metal. There are a lot of ideas on this record that push the album at the boundaries of the prog metal that was being played in the mid 1990s. As such, the record has a fairly unique and original feel that elevates it above much of the competition. Of course, being this a debut, there are still many rough edges, not least in the way the music is recorded and produced. But One with the Swan is a minor prog metal gem and I promise you won’t regret giving it a spin.

SWAN CHRISTY Today Died Yesterday

Album · 1999 · Gothic Metal
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lukretion
Hailing from Greece, Swan Christy are a criminally underrated and unknown prog metal band that in the late 90s / early 00s released a stream of very interesting and diverse records. Today Died Yesterday is their second LP and was released in 1999 with an expanded line-up compared to their 1998’s debut album, One with the Swan. Swan Christy’s masterminds Iraklis Yalantzides (keyboards) and Kostas Makris (vocals) are accompanied here by Grigoris Vasilopoulos (guitars), Dimitris Georgiou (guitars), and Giorgos Kalaintzoglou (drums), as well as by a score of guest musicians that include Nikos Nikoloudias on bass, a trio of classical instrumentalists (violin, violoncello and oboe), a soprano (Rena Strouliou), and vocalists Spiros Antoniou (SepticFlesh), Ferdy Doernberg (Rough Silk) and Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ).

The rich and diverse line-up is reflected in the music on the LP, which covers a lot of ground between classically-inspired symphonic metal (in the vein of Rage), prog/power metal (Dream Theater, Rough Silk, Savatage), and a touch of gothic/dark metal. The Savatage and Rough Silk influences are particularly prominent on this record, where the piano and violin play a role as important as the guitar in weaving the texture of the songs. Meanwhile, Kostas’ vocals are often theatrical and dramatic, featuring the occasional canon like Jon Oliva’s band often did (after all, what can we expect from a band whose very first demo was titled “Christopher Oliva Lives Forever”?!).

The album flows away very pleasantly across its 8 tracks, all of which are high quality, with a good balance between melodic accessibility and technical complexity. All musicians involved are highly proficient instrumentalists, so the playing is often very technical and classy, with some good solos. The arrangements are also very good, layered and complex without being overburdened. Kostas’ vocals are pleasant too. He has improved a lot compared to the debut, where his performance was somewhat tentative. Kostas has a distinctive timbre, quite dark and smooth. His low tone gives the music a quasi-gothic feel that explains why Swan Christy are sometimes classified under the “symphonic gothic metal” umbrella. Make no mistake, though, this album is quintessential prog metal, pretty much in the same field as the more prominent bands mentioned above (Dream Theater, Rough Silk, Savatage, Rage).

Alas, here probably also lies the main limit of this record. While Swan Christy’s debut album was quite original, exploring new ground at the border between opera, classical music and metal, Today Died Yesterday is much more obvious about its influences and at times the music sounds a tad too close to that of the bands that inspired the Greek combo. The influence of Rough Silk is particularly prominent, especially in the combination between low-tuned rhythmic guitar, piano and vocals that are sometimes melodic and other times rougher (listen to the opening bars of “No More Everything” for the most Mephisto-inspired moment of the record). One can feel that with this album Swan Christy were trying to broaden their audience and appeal to the prog metal crowd, leaving somewhat behind the operatic and gothic influences that had made the debut album so peculiar. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but Today Died Yesterday sounds somewhat less special and unique compared to the band’s previous album, or to the next one.

There are nevertheless plenty of interesting moments on Today Died Yesterday. “Here Comes ... I” surprises with a refrain that sounds almost grunge, while the rest of the song is pure prog metal deluge, including a breath-takingly technical guitar solo. A strange combination that may be jarring at first, but quickly becomes irresistible upon repeated listening. “Night Flower” is instead the song that gets closer to the sound of the debut album, with Rena Strouliou’s operatic vocals and Kostas’ croon beautifully layered over a classical background, for what is perhaps the most inspired and magical moment of the whole record. The classical influences are also evident on “One Foot in the Grave”, a gentle interlude that starts with cello, violin and oboe, giving the music very strong Rage vibes, before a dramatic chorus with polyphonic voices brings to mind some of Savatage’s best moments. The opener title-track “Today Died Yesterday” is another interesting piece, packing some jazz/fusion influences as well as delicate electronic effects. Meanwhile, album closer “The Benefactor” is the obligatory “prog metal epic”, with a duration exceeding 8 minutes and a complex, multi-part structure that includes vocals by guest singers Spiros Antoniou (SepticFlesh), Ferdy Doernberg (Rough Silk) and Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ). Despite its ambition, however, this song is only partly successful as it lacks a proper climax to resolve all the tension and momentum that is built throughout its 8 minutes.

In summary, there is a lot to chew on in this record, but Swan Christy always manage to strike a good balance between complexity and immediacy so that the album has both instant impact on the listener and strong potential for repeated listens. The album lacks somewhat in originality and fans of bands like Savatage, Rage and Rough Silk will easily recognize the influence these bands had on Swan Christy’s sound. This prevents me to score this album higher, but I nevertheless recommend it heartedly to any prog metal fan, because the playing is sublime and the compositions are pure gold if you are into symphonic prog/power metal.

SWAN CHRISTY Black Is the White Color

Album · 2001 · Gothic Metal
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lukretion
In the second half of the 1990s, Greek combo Swan Christy released two excellent albums that contained a special blend of prog metal, classical music, opera and gothic metal. Despite inhabiting similar sonic territories, the band’s first two albums already showed clear signs of progression and an ambition not to rest for too long on the same sound and style. Black Is the White Color makes this point even clearer, with a dramatic turn into new and surprising musical influences that range from electro-goth to alternative metal, while at the same time retaining a foot in prog metal territory.

It is a strange combination that, in truth, left me quite perplexed the first time I listened to the album. With repeated listens, however, the new songs started to grow on me, not least because some of them are bloody good! Thus, my judgment of this album grew from a mere “meh” score to a “good” rating, just a tad below the band's first two records. The main reason why I am holding back with my rating is that the diverse influences that Swan Christy incorporate in their music on this album, are often not well amalgamated into a neat, fluid style. Instead, they mostly emerge separately across different songs of the album. The end result is a record that feels a little too fragmented. Most songs, taken on their own, are good and exciting, but as a whole the album does not flow well and feels somewhat disjointed and confused about the direction the band was trying to take their music.

There are essentially three types of songs on this album. First, we have a bunch of tracks that revisit the prog metal style the band had already used on their first two records. “Cast in Tears” and “8?” are textbook prog metal, hinting at bands like Savatage, Rough Silk, Dream Theater and Rage (the latter influence emerges especially clear on the classically arranged “8?”, which is also one of the best tracks here). Then we have a couple of songs that seem to take inspiration from the electro-goth turn of bands like Paradise Lost in the late 1990s. “Seven Is Enough” and “Love It or Hate Me” play with subtle electronic loops, suffused piano arpeggios, and crooning vocals that bring to mind Depeche Mode and the whole metal bandwagon that the English band influenced in the 1990s. The rest of the album is played in a rough alternative metal that brings to mind Metallica. The guitar riffs are aggressive, the drums hit hard, and Kostas Makris’ vocals are gruffy and even shouted at times. Some of the tracks played in this style are quite good (“Because a Motherfucker Said So”, “Fuck Them”), but others feel too monotonous and dull (“Enough of White”, “Salt Penetration”). Meanwhile, “I Am in Hate with an Alien” and “Wish You Were Dead” attempt to find a difficult balance between the alternative metal style, electronica, and trip-hop, resulting in two of the most interesting tracks of the album.

The contrast between the different styles is at times jarring and not all the tracks are equally convincing. Nevertheless, the playing is high-quality throughout, with some excellent guitar riffs/solos, good piano/keyboard arrangements, and catchy vocal melodies. The production is also quite good, a big step forward compared to the tentative and low-fi sound of the band’s previous two records.

Overall, Black Is the White Color is a fascinating album, showing a band that is clearly trying to push boundaries and conjure up a new, original sound. This has been a constant leitmotif throughout Swan Christy’s career (they will soon turn experimental/jazz and abandon completely the rock/metal scene). Perhaps this record tries a bit too hard and as a result it feels a tad overreaching and scattershot. It nevertheless has some great moments and there are at least 5 or 6 tracks here that capture one’s imagination and leave a mark on the listener. Approach with caution, but do not overlook!

ATROCITY Blut

Album · 1994 · Gothic Metal
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UMUR
"Blut" is the 3rd full-length studio album by German metal act Atrocity. The album was released through Massacre Records in October 1994. It´s the successor to "Todessehnsucht" from 1992 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as bassist Oliver Klasen has been replaced by Christian Lukhaup. Atrocity formed as far back as 1985 under the Instigators monicker, initially playing grindcore, but by the end of the 80s and with their name change, they began playing death metal, and they should be counted among one of the seminal death metal acts on the German scene. The band´s debut album "Hallucinations (1990)" was a death grinding technical release featuring a clever concept story about sexual abuse, drug addiction, and death, but already on "Todessehnsucht (1992)", Atrocity sounded quite different and as a listener you began to understand that this was a band not even close to being finished developing their sound...

...and the adventurous approach to composing music is indeed continued on "Blut" (which like the debut album is also a concept story. This time the theme is Bram Stoker´s Dracula), which is a completely different beast to it´s predecessor just like "Todessehnsucht (1992)" was a relatively different sounding release to "Hallucinations (1990)". On "Blut", Atrocity have gone all in though, and if I didn´t know any better, I wouldn´t have guessed it was the same band playing as the one who recorded the two predecessors. There´s only one single moment on the entire album, which sounds like anything off the two albums that came before, and that´s the blast beat section on "I'm in Darkness". Other than that "Blut" features a completely new musical direction for Atrocity.

Or...direction is maybe too big a word, when lack of direction is probably a bit more suiting when describing "Blut". All sorts of musical elements and styles are combined (including elements from death, groove metal, industrial, goth, and even neo-folk) and there is not much of a musical flow on the album. At 15 tracks and a full playing time of 64:20 it´s a very long album too, and in this case that´s not necessarily a good thing. The basis of most tracks on the album is a heavy groove laden music style with heavy groove metal oriented riffs and rhythms and Alexander Krull´s shouting raw vocals on top. Most of the time he sounds like an out-of-breath barking dog, and it takes exactly half of the opening track "Trial" before I´m fed up with his vocals. It´s an unfortunate change of vocal style, if you ask me, and I much prefer his aggressive growling vocals on the first two album. One-dimensional, toneless, and tedious aren´t wrong words to describe the man´s vocals on "Blut". There are a few moments when he breaks the monotony and tries something different like on "B.L.U.T.", "Calling the Rain", "Leichenfeier", and "Land Beyond the Forest", but his vocal experiments are few and far between.

The above mentioned tracks are also the highlights of the album (or at least the most standout tracks). Both "Calling the Rain" and "Land Beyond the Forest" features guest vocals by Krull´s sister Yasmin Krull, and her contributions are a nice variation in the vocal department. She is not a typical angelic clean female vocalist, but uses a more middle-eastern influenced vocal style, not completely unlike what you´ll hear on a Dead Can Dance album. Both tracks are neo-folk type compositions featuring acoustic instruments and percussion. "B.L.U.T." is a gothic tinged metal track and "Leichenfeier" is a dark, heavy, and industrial tinged track with spoken vocals on top. Those are the exceptions though on an otherwise rather one-dimensionally groove laden album. It´s not that I´m allergic to groove metal riffs and rhythms, and there are definitely some decent riffs and rhythms featured on "Blut", but most of the tracks just sound so uninspired and tame. Some of them (like "Miss Directed") even come off awkward.

"Blut" is obviously performed by a skilled band and the album features a relatively well sounding production too, so there are redeeming features on the album. To my ears the lack of a musical direction combined with the monotone vocals destroy much though, and the few successful musical adventures on the album can´t save it from the label "failed experiment". "Blut" is a case of experimentation for the sake of it, and a case of sacrificing a musical red thread in exchange for the band´s need to progress. Sometimes an uncompromising attitude like that deserves applause, but that usually requires the experiement to be at least partially successful, which certainly isn´t the case here. A 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

TIAMAT Wildhoney

Album · 1994 · Gothic Metal
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UMUR
"Wildhoney" is the 4th full-length studio album by Swedish death/doom/goth metal act Tiamat. The album was released through Century Media Records in September 1994. It´s the successor to "Clouds" from 1992 and features quite a few lineup changes since the predecessor. Although Tiamat experienced a fair bit of success with "Clouds (1992)", lead vocalist/guitarist Johan Edlund wasn´t completely satisfied with the way the album turned out and after touring in support of the album, Edlund fired all members of the band except bassist Johnny Hagel. "Wildhoney" was therefore recorded by the duo of Johan Edlund (guitars, vocals) and Johnny Hagel (bass), with the help from sessions musicians Magnus Sahlgren (lead guitars), Lars Sköld (drums), Waldemar Sorychta (keyboards, also credited as engineer and producer on the album), and Birgit Zacher (additional vocals).

Stylistically Tiamat have changed their musical direction quite a bit compared to their early output. "Clouds (1992)" still featured a few (very few) death metal elements, but predominantly featured a melodic tinged heavy/doom metal style with gothic metal leanings, but "Wildhoney" is an almost entirely different sounding beast. Other than a couple of heavy riffs and some raw shouting vocal parts, "Wildhoney" isn´t a very heavy album. In fact much of the album feautures an ambient (sometimes almost spiritual), dark, psychadelic and mellow music style. Acoustic/clean guitars, atmospheric keyboards, male clean singing/talking, occasional female vocals, and some nicely energetic and creative drumming.

Artists like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Mike Oldfield are valid references at various points during the playing time. As mentioned it´s still occasionally pretty heavy music with distorted riffs and harsh shouting vocals, but just as often the listener is transported to a much more mellow and psychadelic tinged place. I´m not going to mention highlights, because the strength of "Wildhoney" is more the overall flow of the album and the dynamic of the heavy and the mellow tracks, which compliment each other perfectly.

While Edlund isn´t the most skilled nor the most interesting vocalist on the scene, he makes it work well here with what he has got. The instrumental performances are high class on all posts, and "Wildhoney" also features a dark, organic, and very well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. So upon conclusion it´s a high quality album, which upon initial release was considered quite adventurous. In terms of being relevant today, I think the album has aged pretty well, and to my ears it´s one of those timeless releases which works as well today as it did back then. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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