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Goth Rock

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Primary Stylistic Influences:
Secondary Stylistic Influences:

Goth Rock is an evolution of Post-Punk.

Unsurprisingly, this is one of the primary genres associated with Goths, along with Industrial, Dark Wave, and Post-Punk.

The basic musical features of the genre are having monotone and gloomy vocals, dark subject matter, melodies carried by the bass guitar, the electric guitar being used often as "just another instrument" rather than the dominant instrument, sparse percussion, and (often) use of synthesizers.


As an evolution of Post-Punk, Goth Rock's essential features were codified by the Post-Punk artists. What differentiates Goth from Post-Punk is a more theatrical style (and arguably more Glam Rock influence) and (most of the time) more elaborate songs with more frequent use of electronics. The theatrical style, with its connotations of artificiality, resulted in a situation where most of the bands closely identified with Goth vehemently denied being Goth bands, notably The Cure and The Sisters of Mercy. Sister genres include Deathrock (which is characterized by a much greater rock influence and a more theatrical presentation that often takes heavy influence from '50s kitsch; there is occasionally some overlap with psychobilly or industrial rock in later acts) and Gothic Country (which is essentially Alternative Country mixed with Gothic Rock and frequently Gospel and Folk as well; the more experimental acts tend to overlap with Neofolk).


The Trope Namer was Rob Gretton, manager of the band Joy Division, when he described their music as gothic to the music press (much to the band's consternation).

Arguably, the Trope Codifier for the genre is one specific song: "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus. All the primary elements of Goth Rock are there: Sparse drumming, guitars used for texture rather than being the dominant instrument, the bass guitar carrying the melody, dark lyrics, monotone vocals, and lots of reverb on everything.

See also: Dark Wave and Cyber Goth.


Notable Artists:

Pre-Punk Predecessors

  • David Bowie - His vocal stylings and darkly theatrical music and aesthetics were a massive influence on virtually all aspects of gothic music and fashion.
  • Marc Bolan: Like Bowie, he was a major vocal, musical, and aesthetic influence.
  • Iggy Pop - Especially The Idiot due to that album's sound as well as the vocal style used by Iggy. Furthermore, Iggy's physical appearance at this time resembled that of an emaciated vampire.
    • The Stooges - "We Will Fall" from their first album is an epic, dark and downright disturbing song that definitely contains some early goth elements.
  • Leonard Cohen - He'd always had a darker edge to his lyrics and Songs of Love and Hate definitely had the kind of spooky, and downright chilling atmosphere you'd hear in Goth Rock. His image could also be considered somewhat vampiric as he had dark hair and often wore dark suits to go with it.
  • Alice Cooper - Some music journalists have pointed to him as influential on the genre due to his theatrics and dark humor.
  • The Doors - The term "Gothic Rock" was first used to describe their sound (in 1967!). Jim Morrison's vocal style influenced many Gothic Rock singers
  • Nico - The Marble Index proved to be influential due to its dark sound and Nico's change in her appearance.
  • Roy Orbison - Another aesthetic influence, and his knack for dramatic, theatrical, and often gloomy and melancholic songwriting and lyricism also struck a chord with many goths.
  • Van der Graaf Generator - Known for being Darker and Edgier than other Progressive Rock bands. Peter Hammill's vocal style has been described as a "male Nico".
  • Velvet Underground
  • Screamin' Jay Hawkins - He used a horror themed gimmick for his entire career and was also probably the main influence for Shock Rock.
  • Scott Walker - Just listen to Scott 3. It's like the soundtrack of a horror movie. His gloomy baritone vocals certainly helped add to the creepiness, too. His later work definitely fits this trope. The Drift basically is a horror movie in audio form.
    • The Walker Brothers - Their last album Nite Flights is very dark and gothic Art Rock bordering on Goth Rock.
  • Arthur Brown - Similarly to Alice Cooper, Brown was known for his theatrics and also wore ghostly white face paint during all his performances. He also added quite a lot of occult themes into his gimmick.
  • The Electric Prunes - Their debut album was very dark and eerie sounding, with "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)" being the standout example.
  • Suicide - Known for minimalistic song arrangements that consisted of electronic droning and a single, repeated drum beat and also Alan Vega's gloomy (and sometimes terrifying) rockabilly-styled vocal delivery. "Frankie Teardrop" is probably the best example of their work. It's also worth noting that they were an influence for Joy Division, and also on Bruce Springsteen for Nebraska.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska, with its sparse arrangements, extremely dark lyrical content and hopeless and at times apocalyptic feel, and stripped-down, raw production, was a definite influence on a lot of gothic country and neofolk artists.
  • Roxy Music - Their second album For Your Pleasure absolutely counts. The song "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" in particular has a creepy and chilling atmosphere throughout thanks to the repetitive guitars and Brian Eno's synths. Furthermore, Bryan Ferry was a major vocal influence for many singers in the genre.
    • Brian Eno - His early solo work contained goth elements. Notable examples include "Here Come The Warm Jets" and "Third Uncle".
  • Buffy Sainte-Marie - One of the earliest female predecessors to the genre, her album Illuminations is generally considered to be a precursor to the genre with its psychedelic and spectral atmosphere and dreary, spiritual lyricism.
  • Nina Simone - Probably the earliest female predecessor to goth. Any song she covered was virtually guaranteed to be Darker and Edgier than the original (most notably her covers of "I Put A Spell On You" and "Sinnerman") and her vocal delivery gave the songs that darker touch that they wouldn't sound out of place in a horror film.

Punk Predecessors

  • The Damned - Helped pave the way with a theatrical vampire lead singer and the name of the band itself. Mixed gothic stylings with Hard Rock and then later became a full-on Goth Rock band themselves.
  • Gloria Mundi - A rather obscure Ur-Example. Known for being ahead of their time with their dark stage imagery. Also reportedly inspired Bauhaus to alter their image.
  • The Cramps - Similarly dark and theatrical, but with a distinct '50s kitsch feel.
  • The Gun Club - They bordered on post-punk and were closer to punk blues and cowpunk than gothic rock musically, but their aesthetics were very much in line with the gothic rock scene, while they were also a major musical influence on psychobilly and/or an arguable Ur-Example.
  • Devo - Much more well known as a New Wave group, but the early material found on their Hardcore compilations certainly displays gothic elements with the crunchier guitars, droning keyboards and Mark Mothersbaugh's much gloomier vocals.

Post-Punk Predecessors

First Wave Goth Rock

Second Wave Goth Rock and Batcave

Third Wave Goth Rock

Contemporary Goth Rock

Deathrock / Horror Punk

Dark Cabaret

Goth Americana / Gothabilly (i.e. Goth Rock mixed with Alternative Country)

Tropes Common in Goth Rock:

  • Lead Bassist: Lots and lots of Type D examples, owing to the inverted roles of guitar and bass (bass is usually a lead instrument, guitar's role is generally textural).
  • Misblamed: The genre (and the Goth scene as a whole) is often blamed for things like school shootings — never mind that most school shooters haven't been known to listen to the genre (the oft blamed so-called "Goth" bands, such as Rammstein or Marilyn Manson, generally are not actual Goth Rock artists), or that which music they listen to is largely irrelevant anyways.
  • Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: Usually on the higher end of things here, though not always. Some bands have a satirical bent to take into account, as well (Alien Sex Fiend, for example).
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Typically in the 3-5 range, but songs that are lower are not uncommon, and songs that go up to 6 occur from time to time as well (usually in so-called "Deathrock" bands like Christian Death or 45 Grave).
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Usually averted — the bass is often quite important to the overall atmosphere of the genre, and bassists like Simon Gallup, Steve Severin, and David J are both well known by fans of the genre and highly regarded.
  • Post-Punk: Originated as a subgenre of this, before gaining a life of its own around the time Post-Punk as a whole began to decline (mid-'80s).
  • Spin-Off: To Post-Punk. And Dark Wave is a Spin-Off to it.


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