Category: goth

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Kælan Mikla Release a Breathtaking Visual for Brooding “Sólstöður”

2018 was a breakthrough year for the Reykjavik-based post-punk/industrial trio Kælan Mikla: The trio —  Sólveig Matthildur,  Margrét Rósa, and Laufey Soffía — were championed by the The Cure’s Robert Smith, who handpicked the band to open for them on several festival stops in the UK and the US. They also played a set at the Roadburn Festival and they toured with King Dude — before the release of their third album Nótt eftir nott. 

The album featured three singles that I had written about at the time:

“Nornalagið,” a chilly, dance floor friendly track, centered around a motorik groove that managed to evoke a brewing storm rolling across enormous skies.
“Næturblóm,” which to my ears found the trio channeling Siouxsie and the Banshees and the classic 4AD Records sound simultaneously.
“Hvernig kemst ég upp,” a brooding and industrial-leaning track that to my years would draw comparisons to early Depeche Mode and New Order.

The trio supported the album with a lengthy Stateside tour that included an a Reykjavik Calling showcase at Brooklyn Brewery with Icelandic metal act Sólstafir. Since then, the trio have been busy writing and recording material for their Barði Jóhannsson-produced fourth album, which is slated for release through Artoffact Records this fall.

“Sólstöður,” is the first bit of new material from the Icelandic trio in three years — and offers fans a taste of what to expect of the fourth album. “Sólstöður,” is a brooding and cinematic track, featuring droning and shimmering synths, nightmarish screams in the background and an ethereal and gorgeous vocal melody. Sonically speaking, the track evokes the soundtrack of horror films — those centered around witches and demons slinking out in the night for rituals involving some sort of brutal human sacrifice. “’Sólstöður’ is an ode to the darkest night of the year, when witches summon winter spirits in the frozen vastness of Icelandic landscapes,” the members of the Icelandic trio explain in press notes. “The song represents the strength of unity, Kælan Mikla in its truest form, fueled by the power of harsh and raw nature.”

Directed by Pola Maria, the breathtakingly beautiful visual for “Sólstöður” features the trio as black-clad witch-types brandishing swords, challis and other objects while seemingly performing obscure rituals among the majestic landscapes and brooding skies of their homeland. Naturally, many of these rituals seem to tie into the longest night of the year.

New Video: Violent Vickie Releases a Dark and Seductive Visual for Club Friendly “CIrcle Square”

Rising Los Angeles-based coldwave/darkwave/dark synth-riot act Violent Vickie — Vickie (vocals, production) and E (guitar, production) — have released material through Crunch Pod, Emerald & Doreen Recordings, Riot Grrl Berlin and LoveCraft Bar, which the act has supported with tours with Atari Teenage Riot’s Hanin Elias, The Vanishing’s Jessie Evans, Trans X, Them Are Us Too, Aimon & The Missing Persons. Additionally, the Los Angeles-based duo has played sets across the Stateside and European Festival circuits with stops at Insted Fest, Solidarity Fest, Shoutback Fest and Gay Prides and Ladyfests.

“The Wolf” was featured in a National Organization for Women film and she was interviewed for the documentary GRRL as part of the museum exhibit Alien She. And adding to a growing profile, Monster Alley was voted best album by KALX. Violent Vickie’s latest album Division was released last September through Crunch Pod.

Division’s latest single “Circle Square” is a dark, brooding, dance floor friendly bit of coldwave/goth-inspired techno centered around industrial clang and clatter, a relentless motorik groove, arpeggiated synths and Vickie’s achingly forlorn vocals ethereally floating over the murky mix. Sonically drawing from the dark techno songs that Vickie used to party to in Oakland warehouse parties, the track as the duo explains thematically and conceptually “is an exploration of the illusion of not belonging.”

Directed by Ex Corpse Art Collective’s AJ Strout, the recently released video for “Circle Square” was shot with the PhotoBooth app on Vickie’s computer during pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. And while being made around a decidedly DIY ethos, the video employs the murky and trippy aesthetic that Strout has presented at goth clubs across Los Angeles.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay Chelsea Wolfe Teams Up with Emma Ruth Rundle on a Hauntingly Gorgeous Single

Throughout the course of this site’s ten-plus year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink cover the acclaimed Northern California-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Chelsea Wolfe. During that same period, Wolfe has maintained a long-held reputation for channeling somber and eerily haunting beauty in a variety of styles and forms including gothic rock, doom metal and folk.

Wolfe’s unique gifts as a songwriter is made much more apparent whenever she strips her material down to a few key elements. Wolfe’s latest single, “Anhedonia,” features guest vocals and guitar from labelmate Emma Ruth Rundle, and the slow-burning and hauntingly gorgeous song continues in the vein of the JOVM mainstay’s last full-length album — centered around a sparse arrangement of shimmering acoustic guitar, reverb-drenched guitar and ethereal effects. Interestingly, the song manages to evoke our current moment of socioeconomic and political instability, of constant death, fear and heartache. Pleasure and happiness right now just seem inappropriate and impossible.

“I wrote ‘Anhedonia’ after I experienced it during summer of 2019, then tucked the song away and moved forward with my acoustic album and subsequent North American tour,” Wolfe says of the new single. “When COVID-19 hit and stay-at-home orders began in 2020, my European tour was canceled and I had to fly home. Restless, I started listening through my archives of unfinished songs and little unused ideas. When I heard Anhedonia again, it hit me how strangely relevant the lyrics felt to current times. I’d been wanting to work on a song with Emma [Rundle] for a long time, so I recorded it and sent it her way. She graciously added her gorgeous vocals and lead guitar, and then Ben [Chisholm] mixed it, adding his signature sound landscape as a fortress around the song. As I listened back to the final version, I was finally able to set free those emotions which I couldn’t feel back in 2019. I had worries around releasing the song, not wanting to romanticize the condition of anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure), but I also understood that it could possibly be cathartic for others who are struggling, as it was for me, to sing and dance my way out of a depression.”

Emma Ruth Rundle adds “I was moved to tears when she sent me Anhedonia, which made getting through the tracking very emotional and slow on my end. I love the way the guitars I tracked morphed in Ben’s mix. The whole song swirls in a poignant eddy of sorrowful sound and still takes a hard swing at my heart hearing it now.”

New Video: Dallas’ Nicole Marxen Releases a Feverish Loss-Fueled Visual for Cathartic “Tether”

Nicole Marxen is a Dallas-based musician and visual artist, best known for being a member of the acclaimed, avant-garde pop act Midnight Opera, an act that has been featured by outlets like BrooklynVegan, Impose Magazine, Tiny Mix Tapes, Daytrotter and The Observer — and QVC, who highlighted the act in an original docs-series on beauty and glamour. Additionally, the band was awarded “Best Group Act” by The Dallas Observer for their mesmerizing live show, which melds opulent set design, choreography and costumes.

Marxen steps out into the limelight as a solo artist with her forthcoming solo debut Tether EP. Recored at John Congleton’s Elmwood Studio with Alex Bhore, Tether is a meditation on grieving and loss, influenced and informed by the sudden death of Marxen’s mother — and the EP’s material may arguably be the most personal effort of the Dallas- based musician and visual artist’s career to date. “I used to think that my life wasn’t worth writing about,” says Marxen. “I hid behind the characters I created, the haven of the stage, the armor of costume. My art was elaborate escapism.”

Fittingly, “Tether,” the EP’s first single and title track is a dark and brooding goth-like track featuring layers of wobbling and arpeggiated synths, skittering beats, industrial clang and clatter, scorching guitars and Marxen’s achingly vulnerable, soaring vocals that evokes a brewing storm of uneasy and complicated emotions coming to the surface in ways that the song’s narrator can’t completely comprehend or predict.

“In many ways, it was a crucial first step in my own grieving process and self-discovery as a songwriter. Being so rooted in showmanship, I hadn’t explored such vulnerability in my work before,” Marxen explains. “When I began to shift my efforts inward, I found that my truth very much needed to be expressed. The song serves as a reminder to hold space for myself.”

Directed by Judd Myers, the recently released video for “Tether” is lustrously shot black and white fever dream of nostalgia, heartache and loss featuring old home videos, lonely black top and Marxen underwater. Each frame is much like a surrealistic painting full of intense cathartic emotion.

Rising New York-based post-punk act Bootblacks — Panther Almqvist (vocals), Alli Gorman (guitar), Barrett Hiatt (synths) and Larry Gorman (drums) — derive their name from novelist William Burroughs’ description of the dark underbelly of New York. Unsurprisingly, the band’s surroundings have deeply influenced their work both sonically and thematically. “It’s an energetic city and people have all the reasons in the world not to give you the time of day,” the band’s Panther Almqvist says in press notes. “I think our music has been shaped by that in many ways.”

In 2012, the New York-based post-punk released their Jim Sclavunos-produced debut EP Narrowed. 2016 saw the release of their full-length debut Veins, which they supported with extensive touring. Interestingly, 2017’s sophomore effort Fragments found the band expanding their sound with the material becoming more synth-based, more atmospheric and much bigger than its immediate predecessors. And as a result, Fragments received quite a bit of attention, which helped the band earn slots on a number of post-punk/New Wave/goth festivals including Cold Waves, Terminus, Absolution, Wave Gotik Treffen and A Murder of Crows — and the album landed on a lot of year-end lists.

The members of Bootblacks have played at every significant venue in the New York Metropolitan area, sharing stages with Clan of Xymox, Light Asylum, HEALTH and VOWWS. Along the way, they’ve managed to tour across North America and Europe. Of course, like countless acts across the world, the members of the rising New York-based post-punk act had plans — and hopes — for a big 2020, pre COVID-19 pandemic quarantines and lockdowns: they were handpicked to open for Modern English during their North American tour this year. Unfortunately, that tour has been postponed. But in the meantime, the band’s highly anticipated Jason Corbett-produced third album Thin Skies will be released through Artoffact Records and the album reportedly finds the band zooming forward where Fragments left off — with its nine songs meshing dance floor pulse and melodic, brooding post-punk with anthemic hooks. The album’s material also features backing vocals from ACTORS‘ Shannon Hemmett, SRSQ‘s and Them Are Us Too‘s Kennedy Ashyln.

Thin Skies continues the band’s long-held thematic concerns: the loneliness of city life. “Most of the lyrics on the album are about loneliness,” says Almqvist. “Looking back on the lyric writing process there seems to be some connective feeling of isolation and distance present in all of the songs… I’m always hoping that a listener personalizes the song, that’s why the songs never have a narrative but try to embody a feeling.”

Earlier this month, I wrote about Thin Skies‘ first single “Traveling Light,” a brooding yet dance floor friendly track with reverb-drenched guitars that recall The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree-era U2, shimmering synth arpeggios and relentless motorik groove that made the track evoke sweaty nights on the dance floor and coming across someone who captures your attention and dreams.  The album’s second and latest single, “The Jealous Star” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor — but centered around jittery percussion, atmospheric synths and motorik pulse, meant to evoke the anxious and unsettled yearning of a confused, vagabond heart.

“I was fascinated with this tradition of the wanderer’s poem, like ‘Ozymandias,'” Bootblacks’ Panther Almqvist says in press notes. “I wanted to contribute my own version to this theme, the eternal traveler, the rolling stone. In the last couple of years I experienced that dichotomy, alone on the road, anxious at home. So ‘The Jealous Star’ is about the disorientation of travel. How it forces you to live outside of yourself and makes you appreciate the places and people you leave.”

Rising New York-based post-punk act Bootblacks — Panther Almqvist (vocals), Alli Gorman (guitar), Barrett Hiatt (synths) and Larry Gorman (drums) — derive their name from novelist William Burroughs’ description of the dark underbelly of New York. And it shouldn’t be surprising that the band’s surroundings have influenced their work both sonically and thematically. “It’s an energetic city and people have all the reasons in the world not to give you the time of day,” the band’s Panther Almqvist says in press notes. “I think our music has been shaped by that in many ways.”

In 2012, the New York-based post-punk released their Jim Sclavunos-produced debut EP Narrowed. 2016 saw the release of their full-length debut Veins, which they supported with extensive touring. Interestingly, 2017’s sophomore effort Fragments found the band expanding their sound with the material becoming more synth-based, more atmospheric and much bigger than its immediate predecessors. Fragments received quite a bit of attention, which helped the band earn slots on a number of post-punk/New Wave/goth festivals including Cold Waves, Terminus, Absolution, Wave Gotik Treffen and A Murder of Crows — and the album landed on a lot of year-end lists.

The members of Bootblacks have played at every significant venue in the New York Metropolitan area, sharing stages with Clan of Xymox, Light Asylum, HEALTH and VOWWS. And along the way, they’ve managed to tour across North America and Europe. Of course, much like countless bands across the world, the rising New York-based post-punk act had hopes for a big 2020 pre COVID-19 quarantines: they were recently handpicked to open for Modern English during their North American tour this year. Unfortunately, that tour has been postponed.

But in the meantime, the band’s highly anticipated Jason Corbett-produced third album Thin Skies will be released through Artoffact Records and the album reportedly finds the band zooming forward where Fragments left off — with its nine songs meshing dance floor pulse and melodic, brooding post-punk with anthemic hooks. The album’s material also features backing vocals from ACTORS‘ Shannon Hemmett, SRSQ‘s and Them Are Us Too‘s Kennedy Ashyln.

Unsurprisingly, the album continues the band’s long-held thematic concerns: the loneliness of city life. “Most of the lyrics on the album are about loneliness,” says Almqvist. “Looking back on the lyric writing process there seems to be some connective feeling of isolation and distance present in all of the songs… I’m always hoping that a listener personalizes the song, that’s why the songs never have a narrative but try to embody a feeling.”

Centered around reverb-drenched guitars that recall The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree-era U2, shimmering synth arpeggios, a relentless motorik groove, an enormous and Almqvist’s plaintive vocals, Thin Skies‘ first single “Traveling Light” may arguably be among the most dance floor friendly yet brooding songs Bootblacks has ever released, as it evokes sweaty nights on the dance floor, meeting some one who captures your attention and dreams — and eventually heading home alone to obsess over what you should have done.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Secret Shame Releases a “120 Minutes” MTV-Inspired Visual for Anthemic and Shimmering New Single

Over the past 15-18 months or so, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering Asheville, NC-based goth/post-punk act and JOVM mainstays Secret Shame. Founded in 2016, the act — currently, Lena (vocals), Nathan (drums), Matthew (bass) and Billie (guitar) has been centered around its members desperate need to create, “If I couldn’t sing or play music, I would tear my skin off.” the band’s front person Lena explained in press notes. Shortly after their formation, the band released their self-titled debut EP, which helped established their dark and atmospheric sound — while the material thematically touched upon domestic rabuse, mental health, political and social dissatisfaction and frustration.

The Asheville-based JOVM mainstays’ full-length debut Dark Synthetics was released to critical acclaim last year — and the album find the band expanding upon their sound, crafting material that seemed indebted to both Siouxsie and the Banshees and 4AD Records. Building upon the growing momentum surrounding the band since the release of their debut, the members of Secret Shame have released a series of Dark Synthetics remixes as a teasers while they were returning to the studio to record new music. 

Throughout their relatively short history together, they’ve developed a reputation for an ever-changing songwriting process centered around a collective songwriting approach. The end result is that it allows the band to not allow themselves to be pigeonholed into a single subgenere of goth or post-punk. Interestingly, Secret Shame’s latest single “Dissolve” finds the band turning towards a completely new sound while managing to evoke the same feeling and vibe of their previously released material. There’s clear nods to Joy Division, New Order, and Echo and the Bunnymen on this one — with a tiniest of nods to The Smiths here: the song features shimmering guitars, rapid-fire four-on-the-floor, enormous and rousingly anthemic hooks and Lena singing with a plaintive earnestness. It’s arguably their most gorgeous sounding song they’ve released to date, but underneath the shimmer, is a hardened bitterness and dark thematic concerns that have won the band attention. As the band’s Lena says of the song, “A cathartic break from a bad situation, but a gateway to something still destructive. What are the benefits of nobody knowing what’s on your mind? What are the drawbacks?”

Visually, the recently released video for “Dissolve” seemed indebted to 120 Minutes-era MTV with tape hiss and nods at Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar” and “The Killing Moon,” among others that immediately come to my mind. 

“Dissolve” will appear on a self-released 7 inch that will be release don June 5, 2020. 

New Audio: German Darkwave Act NNHMN Releases a Feverish Visual for “Special”

NNHMN (pronounced as “nonhuman”) is a Berlin-based darkwave duo featuring Lee and Laudrag. Last year, the German darkwave duo released Shadow in the Dark, a six song album that received attention across darkwave and synth music circles for a sensual, propulsive and deeply emotional take on darkwave. Initially released digitally throughk-dreams records, Shadow in the Dark recently saw a vinyl re-released through Oraculo Records.  

To celebrate the vinyl re-release of Shadow in the Dark, the duo released the album’s latest single, the club-banging, early Depeche Mode-like “Special.” Centered around shimmering and rapidly oscillating synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, sultry vocals and an enormous hook “Special,” according to the duo tells the story of a borderline personality, who struggles with expressing love. 

Produced and edited by the members of NNHMN, the recently released cinematic yet feverish visual for “Special” draws heavily from Philipe Garrel’s 1972 film La Cicatrice intérieure, which features a similarly damaged main character.