8 New Deathrock and Postpunk releases you should own
by Oliver Sheppard
…or at least listen to.
There have been a lot of new dark postpunk and deathrock releases lately. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track. But here are some of the recent singles, EPs, and LPs that deserve your attention.
Like their fellow deathrockers in Fangs on Fur and Christ vs Warhol — two bands that, like Catholic Spit, are from Southern California — Catholic Spit inject their take on deathrock with a fiery punk sensibility and energy. This 6 person (!) band has been fairly prolific compared to other bands in the genre. (The most prolific band has to be Blue Cross, who have released 3 LPs in just over two years.) Catholic Spit’s 7-song Pact with the Devil LP was released in late 2012 and was followed only a few months later with the uptempo “I’m Your God Now” 2-song 7″. And now comes this split, which you can stream for free at the band’s Bandcamp page. Ericka’s vocals shriek — in a good way — through watery, flangey guitars (think John McGeoch), backed up by Nick Townsend’s andrenalized, uptempo punk-style drumming and Kaleb’s rock solid bass. (Townsend also did the band’s recordings for this release.)
The Catholic Spit contribution to the split can be heard at this Youtube video below.
Pleasure Leftists singer Haley’s mournful, gloomy vocals are one of the best things going in postpunk music today. Her singing has that frustrating quality of “she-reminds-me-of-someone-but-I-can’t-think-of-who.” Actually, Haley’s vocals remind me of Anja Huwe of Xmal Deutschland at many points. I’d venture to say that the Pleasure Leftists and fellow goth-punk band Dekoder have the best vocalists going on in today’s dark punk underground. (Speaking of which, I interviewed the singer of Dekoder here.) Deranged Records, which is Pleasure Leftists’ label, claims, “On first listen it seems easy to compare [the band’s] sound to that of bands like Masshysteri or Terrible Feelings,” but repeated listenings reveal something darker and more complex. The band has recently played shows with Arctic Flowers and other similar groups in the scene, and a 12″ vinyl release from them has been long anticipated. You can listen to the EP for free at Pleasure Leftists’ Bandcamp page.
Below is the haunting track “Elephant Man,” which is one of my favorites by the band. It’s the 2nd track on the 12″ EP, but it was also previously released on a single earlier in the year.
Spain’s Belgrado have been a dark postpunk favorite since their first and self-titled LP was released over two years ago in May 2011. Their new LP, Siglo XXI, is a nearly flawless slab of guitar goth; it’s hard not to hear the influences of band members’ various favorite bands seeping through. Track 1, “Sombra de la Cruz,” sounds a lot like Killing Joke’s “Pssyche,” but the lyrics referring to “in the shadow of the cross” also reminds of British deathrockers Part 1. The influence of Paralasis Permanente, who were also from Spain and kickstarted the Siniestro musical movement that always weighs heavy on Belgrado’s sound, is apparent as well. Belgrado have generously made their LP free to listen to at their Bandcamp page here. This LP will be on any sane person’s year-end “Best of 2013” list.
Here’s one of my favorite tracks off the new LP. Check out the great guitar work.
Not to be confused with the 80s goth-punk band of the same name, Finland’s Silent Scream are a gloom-heavy band for which the appellation “post-dbeat deathrock” fits to a tee. The band has roots in the crust scene, and a lot of Silent Scream’s earliest stuff has a noticeable Amebix/Acrasy/Deviated Instinct influence. On this new LP, Silent Scream have refined their sound even further, pulling from a broader pool of influences that includes Joy Division, Vex, and 1919.
The heavy-on-the-toms tribal drumming is still there, and there is still a very harsh feel to a lot of the songs (all the more surprising, then, when a despondent number like “Haunted” [track 6] pops up, sounding like something off Unknown Pleasures). As with most of the bands in this article, Silent Scream are using a “trying before you buy” approach, and you can generously stream the entire LP for free at their Bandcamp page. One of my favorite songs off the new LP, “Rotten Days,” borrows the drum pattern of Killing Joke’s “Tension” and adds effects-treated bass with vocals that, like Jaz Coleman’s, switch between a rough and aggressive sound and then to an echoey “calling out from the void” style very similar to Vex or Red Beat. Silent Scream are one of my favorite dark bands around today, and help keep the spirit of the more abrasive side of their gothic rock forebears alive and well in the here and now.
“Like a more guitar-heavy Skeletal Family.” Crimson Scarlet’s debut EP, “Sanctuary,” was awesome. The new release isn’t a full-length, which would be most welcome, but it nonetheless will have to tide us over until such gift from the gods materializes. This San Francisco band’s members all hail from the hardcore/punk scene, and while there is still a hard punk edge to Crimson Scarlet, it’s obvious the band members have been listening to a lot Rubella Ballet and, well, Skeletal Family (with whom they are playing at least one or two shows on the West Coast!). The “Window” EP is a fine addition to a recording career that started off strong.
So, long story short: Crimson Scarlet are great. Buy this EP. Pressure them to make a full length release. And demand they play in your area, but more so in mine.
Guilty Strangers are a Texas postpunk/deathrock band I’ve been meaning to write a proper full-length article about for awhile. (I have an interview with them completed but am waiting until I can finish a good writeup about them.) I’ve seen the band tagged as “no wave,” and there is a definite Lydia Lunch influence in singer Christine Terry’s vocals. (Think of the gothy 13.13 and Queen of Siam-era Lydia Lunch.) The songwriting on their Oracle LP — which, it is true, is not so “recent” in that it came out in 2012 — is great; depending on the song, one can hear straight-up L.A. deathrock making its impression, or more subtle British postpunk overtones. Live, the 4-piece band will sometimes do covers of Christian Death’s “Dogs” and/or Killing Joke’s “Kings and Queens” — a band that is also an influence on the band’s sound.
Guilty Strangers hail from San Antonio, and although they’ve released stuff since Oracle, this LP is the best place to start. The track below, “Strange,” is one of my favorites by them, and was included in my “Deathrock 2013 Mixtape Part Two” here on CVLT Nation. It’s tempting to call Guilty Strangers Texas’ only proper gothic rock band. 🙂
The follow up to their 2011 Love Was Born to an Early Death LP, Deathcharge’s new EP, “Bad Dream Forever,” shows them traveling further along the arc of sonic transformation toward straight up gothic rock. The Portland band of course began as a thrashy d-beat band in the 1990s and has evolved in a goth-punk juggernaut over the years. The first recorded evidence of this was the band’s “Hangman/New Dark Age” EP in 2005, although in my interview with singer Adam Nauseam, the band reveals that in actuality they had started exploring deathrock sounds before even that.
“Bad Dream Forever” is a mostly mid-tempo goth-punk slugger; bands like Daucus Karota and Shadow Project, as well as the early Sisters of Mercy, hover in the background, making their presence felt. As far as the DIY hardcore/punk scene’s recent fascination with deathrock goes, Deathcharge, like their fellow PDX-ians in The Estranged, were well ahead of the curve. “Bad Dream Forever” is an essential document in the ongoing evolution of dark punk and underground postpunk.
Ferox is essentially a side-project (or perhaps successor) band to Internal Autonomy, one of the longest-running anarcho-punk bands around that stitch together the modern anarcho scene to that of the British 80s’ scene. Internal Autonomy have always had a strong Siouxsie/Rubella Ballet/Blood and Roses influence, and that is no less true of their most recent material. Internal Autonomy’s LP last year, Ferox, was a tour-de-force of deathrock, postpunk, and anarchist punk rock. Nix’s vocals sound at turns like Eva O’s but also like Eve Libertine’s of Crass. I interviewed the band about what it’s like to have been around for so long and still communicate with and make music for those in the anarchist and deathrock scenes today.
The new project, Ferox is obviously named after the most recent Internal Autonomy LP. Nix’s vocals are as powerful as ever, and Al’s guitar maintains a crispy crunch that sometimes betrays a slight metal influence. The EP can be heard for free at the Bandcamp page (see below, or see here). The opening track, “Anarchy X,” is a crushingly powerful indictment of modern governments. “Life’s too complicated to stay within the law.”