Defining Deathrock: Deeper Cuts Part 2
Rejoice now, the wait is over! It was not my intent for there to be such a vast lapse of time in between these segments, but so it goes. I pray none of you has wasted away, decaying at your desk, waiting impatiently over the past six months for this to claw its way up from the grave. As I laid the groundwork in Part 1, there’s no real need for a preamble. But, just to give a quick summation, here’s the super short version: deathrock is punk goth, with the emphasis being on punk. That being said, four of the five bands I’ve chosen for Part 2 definitely have more gothy atmospheres than the bands featured in Part 1. I ended Part 1 with Phaidia, the most famous Japanese deathrock band, so I’ll start this one with another band hailing from Japan by the name of…
Ignore the Bauhaus-esque logo, this is nothing like Bauhaus. Coma were a part of the mid-80s Japanese deathrock scene, and in my opinion, were one of the best, despite the fact they only ever released a 4 song 7” (on the legendary ADK Records label!). Musically, Coma sounds like what you’d get if UK deathrock bands like Vex and Part 1 enlisted Christian Death’s Rikk Agnew to play guitar for them. If you don’t know what that would sound like, it’s something like tribal, driving drums and spacey, spooky riffing; and the vocals sound like a totally pissed off apparition, moaning and shouting – begging you to heed his words. This band is the reason I decided to dig deeper into Japanese deathrock (I even included them in my FBN early 80s Japanese punk megapost), and listening to them you can easily see why.
This band only released three songs before disbanding, but they’re total jammers. If you like Ausgang, you’ll probably love Rebel Christening. The drums sound massive, the bass is disgustingly distorted, the guitar work is sparse and atmospheric, yet frantic at times; and there’s reverb on everything. Some of what Rebel Christening does could be seen as cliché, but they’ve got this really dirty edge that reminds me a little of X (Australia) and it’s punishing. The vocals are somewhere in between snotty and apathetic punk like Fang and Dead Boys, and spooky post-punk like Bauhaus and The Danse Society. All of this put together makes for some truly deranged tunes. Even though it is a bummer that this is their only output, at least they didn’t put out any bad material.
ΓΕΝΙΑ ΤΟΥ ΧΑΟΥΣ (GENIA TOU XAOUS)
Most people don’t think of Greece when they think of deathrock (or really punk in general), but there was some fantastic stuff going on there in the 80s, most notably Γενιά Του Χάους (or Genia Tou Xaous). Utilizing UK post-punk, goth, and anarcho-punk influences, Genia Tou Xous forged their unique brand of dreary, yet powerfully urgent deathrock. The guitar work stands out especially to me; it’s got a real bite to it, but also carries a deeply poignant tone, yielding a truly dark and sinister atmosphere. For those interested in digging deeper into the band’s discography and history, it seems they have established a presence on facebook; and have been posting free downloads of rare and out of print material, including what I believe to be previously unreleased demos. I definitely recommend giving their page a look.
I actually mentioned Arch Criminals in the previous segment, but I later realized that the reference might be lost on many people since they’re not quite as well known as bands like 13th Chime or 1919 (both of whom have recently reunited and are playing shows!), but I can assure you they are just as good. Then again, that’s the entire point of this series, to shed light on some dark bands who managed to live in the shadows. Arch Criminals were label mates of Vex, but drew more from bands like Killing Joke and Warsaw than Part 1 and The Sinyx. All of the instrumentation on their Hang 12”is incredible, the guitar flows from spooky, foreboding riffs you’d hear on a Danse Society record, to jangly chords that you’d expect from a band like Gang Of Four; and the vocals are total anarcho-punk snarls. It’s an odd combination, but it works. And it works well.
SPIKE IN VAIN
Where do I even start with this one? I don’t think any description I can give will do justice to Spike In Vain‘s truly frightening sounds, but I’m going to try. Imagine an amalgam of No Trend, Mighty Sphincter, Void, Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, GRRR (see review on FBN), Minutemen, and Christian Death. It’s. Fucking. Terrifying. Very little is known of Spike In Vain – other than the fact that they were from Cleveland, and that not much is known about them – but their LP, Disease Is Relative, is a cult classic, and should be considered essential listening. From the frenzied guitar work to the funk basslines to the George Hurley-esque drumming to the maniacal vocals, everything about Spike In Vain’s sound is unhinged and bleak, reaching dismal depths most bands can only dream of. And sadly, they’re a band who have been – until fairly recently – mostly lost to obscurity. However, while very little is known about them as of now, I advise you all to keep an eye out, because I can guarantee that some lost knowledge will be unearthed in the near future.
I have some truly fiendish projects planned for the near future, many focused on the darkest, most macabre, depraved realms of punk and goth; so let this serve as a portent, lest you miss these revelations. Until then, I bid you farewell, and hope that this, my second bequest, will provide an adequate amount of aberrant and perverse pleasure.