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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.
  • 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 4. 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.

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.

Post-Punk Predecessors

First Wave Goth Rock

  • Bauhaus (Trope Codifier with "Bela Lugosi's Dead")
  • Blood And Roses
  • The Cure - Their first album was something akin to Pop Punk or early New Wave, but the three albums following it grew progressively towards Goth Rock. Seventeen Seconds began the trend as a pure Post-Punk album, Faith followed it with strong Joy Division influences, and the third in the "trilogy" Pornography, was pure Goth Rock. After Pornography, they moved more towards New Wave for many years (and most of the rest of their career), with a few exceptions such as the theatrical second wave goth of Disintegration. They never fully abandoned Goth; each of their post Pornography albums contain a few Goth Rock songs or pop songs with some Goth Rock textures.
  • The Danse Society
  • Depeche Mode - Their first four albums were closer to New Wave (although with a slight Industrial bent). Then Black Celebration and Music for the Masses took them into full on Goth Rock. They are closer to Dark Wave or Alternative Dance in general.
  • Flesh For Lulu
  • Gene Loves Jezebel
  • Lords of the New Church (had members of The Damned)

Second Wave Goth Rock and Batcave

Third Wave Goth Rock

Contemporary Goth Rock

  • The Birthday Massacre (also Dark Wave)
  • The Divine Madness
  • Lebanon Hanover
  • Midnight Resistance (also Dark Wave)
  • Mono Inc.
  • Queen Adreena
  • She Past Away
  • Chelsea Wolfe (mixed with neofolk, industrial, and Doom Metal)
  • Violet UK
  • X Japan is tending to move in this direction in their post-1996 work. See Violet UK above for why.
    • hide - X Japan's lead guitarist. His solo career definitely had a few goth rock songs, most notably "Pink Spider". He also liked wearing clothes that fit the goth look, and later started wearing more colourful 'futuristic' outfits which almost certainly influenced the Cyber Goth style.
    • Heath - The band's bassist. His solo material was by far the closest to goth rock out of all the members, and he was also the first one to really adopt the goth look, which he's kept ever since 1993.

Deathrock / Horror Punk

Dark Cabaret

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

Tropes Common in Goth Rock:


Example of: