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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.


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

gothic metal top albums

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PARADISE LOST Obsidian Album Cover Obsidian
4.61 | 20 ratings
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PARADISE LOST Draconian Times Album Cover Draconian Times
4.33 | 50 ratings
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THEATRE OF TRAGEDY Velvet Darkness They Fear Album Cover Velvet Darkness They Fear
4.29 | 28 ratings
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PARADISE LOST Icon Album Cover Icon
4.21 | 46 ratings
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PARADISE LOST Tragic Idol Album Cover Tragic Idol
4.23 | 25 ratings
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MOONSPELL Wolfheart Album Cover Wolfheart
4.21 | 26 ratings
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THE GATHERING Mandylion Album Cover Mandylion
4.15 | 39 ratings
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TYPE O NEGATIVE October Rust Album Cover October Rust
4.12 | 35 ratings
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MOONSPELL Irreligious Album Cover Irreligious
4.14 | 23 ratings
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PARADISE LOST Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us Album Cover Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us
4.11 | 23 ratings
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TRIBULATION The Children of the Night Album Cover The Children of the Night
4.17 | 11 ratings
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TYPE O NEGATIVE Life Is Killing Me Album Cover Life Is Killing Me
4.06 | 33 ratings
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Neither Moth nor Rust
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gothic metal Music Reviews


Single · 2003 · Gothic Metal
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Released in 2003 to launch Tiamat’s new full-length album Prey, Cain is a single containing three songs. Two are taken from the forthcoming LP (“Cain” and “Love in Chains”). The version of “Cain” included here is actually radio-edited and is about 90 seconds shorter than the version that will appear on the full-length (you can easily spot where it was cut as soon as you hear the horrible fade out that obliterates away Thomas Petersson’s solo at the end of the track). The third song on the disc is a cover of WASP’s “Sleeping (In the Fire)” that you can also find on some reissues of Prey. I have mainly two criteria to evaluate singles: 1) whether the record gets me excited about the full-length album, and 2) whether it contains any interesting non-album material that is not readily available elsewhere. Cain does not disappoint in either dimension, but it also does not get full marks.

Not having yet listened to Prey, the two album tracks got me moderately intrigued about it. Tiamat seem to have taken a darker course on this one. “Cain” is at the intersection between doom and gothic metal. Its verse is built around a particularly foreboding melody, that is only partially resolved in a brighter and catchier chorus. All in all, this is a good song that is catchy without being cheesy, and explores an interesting, dark mood. I cannot say the same about the other track taken from Prey, “Love in Chains”, where Tiamat took a page from the book of The 69 Eyes to write a fairly plain and run-of-the-mill goth rock number that chugs away without leaving any lasting impression on me. I actually like the Finnish band, but it is disappointing to see Tiamat, who have been among the forerunners of the gothic metal scene, lose their unique sound to churn out vanilla goth rock tunes instead.

Coming to the “non-album” track, I am not overly excited about it, either. Don’t get me wrong, I love WASP’s version of this song. It’s an awesome power ballad that Blackie Lawless literally rips apart with his incredibly emotive vocal performance. And that’s where the problem lies for Tiamat’s cover version. Edlund’s sedate voice simply cannot provide the emotional oomph that this simple song would need to leave its mark. He simply sucks the life out of the song, which makes for an interesting, but emotionally sterile listening experience.

Overall, Cain leaves me with a mixture of curiosity and apprehension about the full-length album the single is supposed to advertise. I am not sure that is a good thing. Would I buy Prey, based on these songs alone? Probably, but that’s because I am already a Tiamat fan. If I hadn’t already been into the band, I am less sure that this single would convince me to check them out. And that cannot possibly be a good thing.

NOVEMBRE Wish I Could Dream It Again

Album · 1994 · Gothic Metal
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A volte-face to anyone who thinks Doom Metal can’t be energetic and exciting, and a great lesson in what makes true Doom a completely different beast from Trad Doom. Wish I Could Dream It Again is one of the earliest true Doom albums, having zero Sabbathian influence, none of the 80’s Doom groove, and a total focus on somber, melancholic atmospheres. And unlike most prior Doom bands, it doesn’t rely on being consistently slow to achieve this. Lethargic, doomy sections still run through the compositions, but a lot of this material is lively, especially the rhythm section. Simple melodies and morose chords permeate the songwriting, but that drumming ensures a complex and ever-changing foundation to the music.

Novembre also have very melancholic lyrical themes, sticking to the introspective and poetic, drawing upon aquatic, summery and warm imagery across the album in another first for Doom Metal. The sentimental mood here was pretty unique at the time, but the general melancholy on display became a staple for the genre. Doom bands had already begun adopting this focus on gloomy atmospheres, which is how true Doom was born in the early 90’s, but Novembre here upped the ante. This was probably the most melancholic metal album at the time of its release.

As debuts can be, it’s a bit rough around the edges in some places; the clean vocals in particular are quite amateur, though they don’t bother me at all because they perfectly encapsulate that morose feeling of Doom. Either way, a landmark release for the genre, and a great learning experience for those who aren’t privy to the great variation that can be found in Doom Metal.

TIAMAT Wildhoney

Album · 1994 · Gothic Metal
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An album that leaves me with very mixed feelings. Halfway innovative masterpiece, halfway boring directionless filler. Wildhoney is considered to be Tiamat’s best release, as well as the one where they found their signature Gothic sound. It’s aesthetically unique and many steps ahead of the game, leaving a lasting impression on the Gothic Metal world. But can it back up that legacy?

Calling Wildhoney “Gothic Metal” is only correct because it’s the closest thing to a unifying sound found here. Less than half the runtime is Metal – the rest is a mix of Ambient, Darkwave, Rock, and Psychedelia. And therein lies the verdict. You see, the Metal here is great – particularly the doomier stuff, like Visionare. This track mixes some crushing Death Doom melancholia with the prettier and more ethereal Gothic Metal pretty much invented on this album. A great track, and the other Metal tracks aren’t far behind.

The weakness lies in everything else. Nothing against those other genres of music, but none of the songs are done particularly well. The album doesn’t sound like a super creative mix of many styles; rather, it sounds like a few great Gothic Metal tracks and then a bunch of filler stuff that was easy to put together to fill out the runtime. None of the ambient or darkwave stuff is memorable, and the last track which is an odd combo of Psychedelic Rock, Ethereal Wave and Folk doesn’t have nearly enough going on to justify an over 8-minute runtime. This album was an important piece of art in Metal history, but offers much less than its legacy might imply.


Album · 1996 · Gothic Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Gothic metal is yet another metal subgenre that developed in the United Kingdom with bands like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema all taking the death-doom metal standard into more atmospheric and gloomy mood settings. One of the unforeseen side branches of the goth metal scene is the beauty and beast vocal effect where growly male vocals were accompanied by operatic female singers and then certain bands decided to nix the growly vocal thing altogether and focus on a female fronted style of metal that mixed various styles of metal with the dreamy ambience of 80s goth bands like Dead Can Dance.

MOONLIGHT is one such band that sort of has walked the tightrope between progressive rock and gothic metal. This band was founded as far back as 1991 in Szczecin, Poland and started out as more of a trippy shoegaze type of art rock band but the band quickly discovered the power of adding some heavy metal guitar heft and quickly changed its style to become one of those early female fronted goth metal bands in the vein of The Gathering or Theatre of Tragedy. The band gained popularity in its native Poland and even found a bit of success in neighboring Germany as well as Italy despite composing lyrics exclusively in Polish.

KALPA TARU was the debut album that means “Garden of Plenty” in the Old Babylonian language. While the band of five members equally participated in the composition process, the lyrics on the other hand were primarily crafted by keyboardist Daniel Potasz and vocalist Maja Konarska. This album emerged in 1996 and although a side note in the overall history of 90s gothic metal, MOONLIGHT showcases on this debut what a truly diverse subgenre of metal that the goth subsection could be. While bands like Type O Negative excelled at slow gloomy vampiric moods and motifs, bands like MOONLIGHT adopted a completely different approach not unlike bands like Lacuna Coil only more sombre, more mysterious and more varied in style.

This debut featured 15 tracks and plays for more than 57 minutes making it a bit long however the songs are varied and more diverse than the average goth metal experience which keeps it listenable for its entirety. The star of the show is clearly lead vocalist Maja Konarska who offers a more eclectic than usual set of performances here. One certain tracks she offers tender vulnerable vocal deliveries while on others she can belt out harsh yelling. She implements both clean feminine sensual phrasings as well as rough and tough metal grit. In addition to the expected goth and progressive metal aspects of the album, there are many folk flavors as well ranging from Celtic to Middle Eastern influences which allows Konarska the opportunity to experiment with various singing styles. In fact every track seems different from the next.

Like most gothic metal, MOONLIGHT mixed a style of metal guitar heft with atmospheric keyboard moodiness. While death-doom was more common of a template in 90s goth metal, on KALPA TARU it seems more of an alternative metal mix with many passages eschewing the metal elements altogether. The arrangements are fairly unique as well and i can honestly say that this album really doesn’t sound like any other of the era. While the album strength is that it is varied enough to endure an hour’s worth of attention, on the other hand the downside is that it doesn’t feel very cohesive either but of course a debut album consists of years of gathering enough material for a full release.

Unless you speak Polish you won’t comprehend a word of this but for my ears the Polish language makes it sound even more cryptic and mysterious. Perhaps there’s not as much metal in this as i would like as the emphasis on the more ethereal and atmospheric aspects are much more common and at times the album sounds more like an ethnic folk infused Dead Can Dance than a metal band but just when you think they’ve dropped the metal altogether the tempo picks up, a raging guitar riff enters the scene and the bass and drums follow suit. The album is actually well paced and the compositions are intricately delicate and even quirky in the off-kilter deviations from convention. Still though the melodies are easily accessible and offer an instant connection.

MOONLIGHT has released over ten album since 1996 and changed its sound many times. The band was forced to break up in 2007 due to legal conflicts with their music label Metal Mind Productions but reformed in 2015 and finally released another album in 2018. This band will not appear on many best gothic metal bands lists but it’s certainly not one to be overlooked as its unique approach makes them stand out in this unique nook of progressively infused gothic rock / metal. And i cannot emphasis enough what a treat it is to soak in Maja Konarska’s vocalizations. She has the perfect voice for this kind of music that fluctuates from tender and delicate to aggressive and best of all she doesn’t deliver the kind of vocals you would expect at any given moment. For example during some of the aggressive metal parts she actually sounds more like Catherine Ribeiro with Alpes giving a trippy psychedelic seance kind of performance. This was a surprise that i liked this as much as i did. Keeper.

TIAMAT Vote for Love

Single · 2002 · Gothic Metal
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Vote for Love was released as a single in January 2002, only a few weeks before Judas Christ, Tiamat’s 7th full-length album. It contains three tracks in total: two songs taken from the forthcoming LP, plus “Cold Last Supper”, a song that was not included in the LP's tracklist, but did appear as a bonus track in some versions of Judas Christ. The CD also contains the video Tiamat shot for "Brighter Than the Sun", a song from their previous record Skeleton Skeletron, which is a nice, little bonus.

I normally use two criteria to evaluate single releases. One is based on how much excitement for the forthcoming full-length they manage to stir in me. In this respect, Vote for Love scores full points. The title-track is an awesome gothic anthem that indeed will also be one of the best songs of Judas Christ. It showcases all of Tiamat’s best qualities: catchy vocal melodies, witty lyrics, tasteful arrangements (with the “empty”, suspenseful verses that resolve satisfyingly in the fuller, more musical chorus), and a great use of female backing vocals to create some exciting harmonies in the song’s coda. The version of the song included in the single is slightly edited to make it more palatable for airplay, but the differences are only minor (a shorter intro and a slightly shorter instrumental break). If I wouldn’t have already planned to buy Judas Christ because I was a big Tiamat fan at the time, I would have decided to buy Judas Christ based on this song alone. The other album song, “So Much for Suicide” is also good. It is a slower, doomier number that displays the less upbeat and catchy side of Judas Christ, which in fact I ended up liking even more than the more easy listening material.

The other criterion I use to evaluate singles is based on the extra, non-album material they contain. Here, Vote for Love falls a bit short. It does contain a song - “Cold Last Supper” - that was not included in Judas Christ (though, as I mentioned, it did appear as a bonus track in some versions). However, the song is not very good. It’s a rather monotonous, industrial/electronic affair that revolves around some weak melodies and a repetitive arrangement that grows tired fairly quickly. In short, one can immediately understand why this song was left out from the LP’s tracklist and used as a bonus track instead. This reduces somewhat the value of this release, which may become particularly unattractive if you already own the version of Judas Christ that includes “Cold Last Supper” as a bonus track.

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