Current 93 is an experimental neofolk band that has been actively recording since 1982. At the helm is David Tibet (né Bunting), who was born in Malaysia from English parents and immigrated to England in his childhood. Originally releasing harrowing Industrial
music, Tibet transitioned to a vein of Neofolk known as Apocalyptic Folk by 1988. He has worked with members of Death In June
and Throbbing Gristle
, as well as Thomas Ligotti
, Tiny Tim
and Shirley Collins. Steven Stapleton of Nurse with Wound
was also a regular collaborator, appearing on nearly every Current 93 release until The New '10s
, when his bandmate Andrew Liles stepped in (and Tibet also regularly appears on Nurse with Wound releases.) Recurring themes of his work include religion (primarily esoteric offshoots of Christianity), mythology, philosophy and nihilism.
Tropes present in his works include:
- And I Must Scream: Discussed frequently during the '90s, usually in relation to Patripassianism (which is the perspective that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are aspects of one entity, whose eternal fate is this.)
- Animal Motif: Many, but the foremost is cats, which were the motif of one of his favorite artists (Louis Wain) and an object of worship in ancient Egypt.
- Apocalypse How: Most of his works play with this trope in some way or another. Some, like Nature Unveiled and Black Ships Ate the Sky deal with demons and Eldritch Abominations; others like The Inmost Light refer to a personal, yet still very much real and full-scale apocalypse. "The Seven Seals Are Revealed at the End of Time as Seven Bows: The Bloodbow, the Pissbow, the Painbow, the Faminebow, the Deathbow, the Angerbow, the Hohohobow" details a Gnostic interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelation.
- Apocalypse Wow: His end-of-the-world scenarios can get particularly bizarre or spectacular, from reality-destroying, malevolent boats to surrealistic displays brought about by angry deities.
- The Inmost Light trilogy portrays the loss of childhood innocence and wonder as its own, very real apocalypse, in glorious and disturbing detail.
- Arc Words: "Black Ships", "Menstrual night", "Imperium", "Arise arise, full of eyes, of eyes", "Baalstorm, sing Omega", "Theinmostlight"... loads of them, really, both arcs within albums and arcs linking albums.
- Berserk Button: David Tibet strongly resents being identified with the Goth scene.
- Call-Back: This occurs all over the place due to Tibet's Worldbuilding, but Or Ruine or Some Blazing Starre is one of the most noteworthy examples for referencing: both In Menstrual Night by name and by repeating its concept "where dreams go to, when they die" verbatim in the final stanza; "The Blue Gates of Death"; "Great Black Time"; and more.
- All the Pretty Little Horses opens with a small recap of its preceding conceptual EP, Where the Long Shadows Fall.
- The Cameo: Björk(!) provides backing vocals on the song "Falling."
- Thomas Ligotti shows up at the very end of All the Pretty Little Horses, reading a passage from his story "Les Fleures".
- Shirley Collins speaks a few lines to kick off Thunder-Perfect Mind.
- Black Ships Ate The Sky: Each version of "Idumaea" is this for the singers, save for Anhoni's (she gets another solo later in the album) and of course David's.
- Careful with That Axe: From him and a few of his guests, including Lilith Stapleton, who was at most eight years old at the time. "She Took Us to the Place Where the Sun Sets" is a particularly horrific example.
- Cats Are Magic: A recurring motif in his lyrics.
- Catapult Nightmare: "This Autistic Imperium Is Nihil Reich"
- Child Hater: His work consistently characterizes God as such—in fact, "The Seahorse Rears to Oblivion" suggests the first three things God made were children's crying, a Creepy Doll and a similarly unsettling rocking horse.
- Concept Album: Most of them. Each one has a page of text dedicated to its concept. Many of them are about how the Apocalypse will occur, or Gnostic interpretations of Biblical scripture.
- In Menstrual Night: Where dreams go to when they die.
- Thunder Perfect Mind is based on the Gnostic poem The Thunder, Perfect Mind, an extended monologue by a deity describing their contradictory nature.
- The Inmost Light trilogy deals with maturing from childhood and adulthood and losing the senses of innocence and wonder in the process, portraying such loss as though it were the end of the world.
- Sleep Has His House is David Tibet processing his father's death in near-real time.
- In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land is based on four thematically linked Thomas Ligotti stories, one of several collaborations David Tibet has done with the author.
- Creation Myth: More than a few.
- Creepy Children Singing: From the beginning Tibet has used this to evoke a particular uncomfortable mood. His earliest use, the epic "Falling Back in Fields of Rape", featured a child yelling an insanely creepy poem. It still continues to this day, to a certain extent.
"Mothers, babies, bleeding! You stand there laughing! Unquestionable; unconfronted! Poetic lines on the art of dying! Falling back in fields of rape! Falling back in fields of rape!!"
- Cryptic Conversation: A recurring theme, and a recurring source of inspiration.
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: He takes this a bit more literally than most. Promotional releases of Aleph At Hallucinatory Mountain even opened with the following announcement:
This is a promotional CD. Anyone illegally selling, copying, uploading or downloading this material is condemned to eternal hellfire. Happy listening, God is love.
- He would later go on to say that he was only half-joking.
- Dream Team: Quite a few:
- Swastikas For Noddy features Jhonn Balance, Douglas Pearce, Rose McDowall, and Boyd Rice.
- Thunder-Perfect Mind features all of the above except for Boyd, but it does feature Shirley Collins and Edward Ka-Spel.
- The Inmost Light features Shirley Collins, Jhonn Balance, Nick Cave, and Thomas Ligotti.
- Black Ships Ate the Sky features William Basinski, Marc Almond, Anhoni, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Chris & Cosey, and Shirley Collins.
- I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell features Ossian Brown, Tony McPhee, Jack Barnett, Reiner Van Houdt, Nick Cave, Anhoni, and John Zorn.
- Attila Csihar, of Mayhem and Sunn O))), has also provided vocals for him live.
- Drone of Dread: Present in a lot of his stuff. Dogs Blood Rising and Nature Unveiled are built mainly around this, and it still pops up frequently in his folk material. "Twilight Twilight Nihil Nihil" is an especially unnerving example.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Black Ships. Also, possibly, The Inmost Light.
- Epic Rocking/Miniscule Rocking: It's not uncommon for both to take place on the same album.
- Everything Is an Instrument/Bizarre Instrument: Jerry-rigged Speak-n-toy on I Have A Special Plan For This World.
- Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: "Inerrant Infallible (Black Ships At Nineveh Or Edom)" uses bagpipes.
- Fake Guest Star: Steven Stapleton, Michael Cashmore, and others.
- Genre Roulette: While most of his career has been gothic folk music, his early industrial drones have crept back periodically into his work. He's also experimented with new age, synth pop and even metal every so often.
- God Is Evil: Frequently played with through references to Gnosticism.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Many. Of note: quite a few of them are dead languages, associated with old religious texts or, more recently, fallen empires.
- Growing Up Sucks: Exaggerated: The Inmost Light and The Light is Leaving Us All portray it as the end of the world.
- Harsh Vocals: Very rare, but "She Took Us to the Places Where the Suns Set" uses this trope to terrifying effect.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Occurs prominently on a few occasions, usually as the result of quoting old poetry.
- "Falling Back in Fields Of Rape" does this rather deliberately—"rape" is also an archaic shorthand for rapeseed.
- Hot as Hell: He believes that Satan manifests as beauty of all forms, which is why the concept tends to be a recurring motif in his art and music.
- I Am the Band: David Tibet is Current 93, though he has a fairly regular cast of collaborators.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: Tibet is obsessed with Noddy and its nursery rhyme influence is present in all of Tibet's folk work.
- Jump Scare: "She Took Us To The Place Where The Sun Sets" starts with a minute or so of tolling clocks and elegant classical piano, before suddenly exploding into David Tibet's incredibly distorted Harsh Vocals shouting in a Voice of the Legion. He even gets one last line in after the song has already ended.
- Kids Rock: For the times when this isn't scary as all hell, it ventures into softer singalong or backing vocal territory.
- Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Beyond making them a recurring theme in his work, he's kept several of his own at any given time. He even posts pictures of them to the band's Facebook page. Aww.
- Last Note Nightmare: Has appeared in several songs over the course of his career—even ones that were already soul-crushingly terrifying.
- Leitmotif: Many albums have one, from chord progressions or instrument parts to lyrics, or even entire songs. Black Ships Ate The Sky is the most prominent case, featuring nine different renditions of the Methodist hymn "Idumaea."
- Long Title: The Seven Seals Are Revealed At The End Of Time As Seven Bows: The Bloodbow, The Pissbow, The Painbow, The Faminebow, The Deathbow, The Angerbow, The Hohohobow certainly qualifies.
- Looped Lyrics: Common, and in multiple instances, overlapped with BSoD Song or Madness Mantra.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Rather common—"Misery Farm," "The Beautiful Dancing Dust," "The Frolic," among others.
- Madness Mantra: "MALDOROR IS DEAD" and "JESUS WEPT" were two that were repeated several times early in his career.
- Christ and the Pale Queens Mighty in Sorrow featured the titular phrase across 25 full minutes of the album. The record then concluded with a 3-second section of the backing track from the 20 minute title song looping for another 18-and-a-half minutes.
- Mad Oracle: He even describes himself as one during "Black Ships Were Sinking Into Idumaea":
And if I make no sense to you
Well, I make no sense to me
The dreams I have are sticky as dreams
That leave trails of words
That will mean churches' fall!
- Mood Whiplash: Frequent and extreme. The Inmost Light is notable for swinging back and forth between hauntingly beautiful neofolk and terrifying industrial drones with very little warning.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: As a folk singer—he primarily does English or Celtic folk, but will link it together with such things as drone, noise rock and industrial.
- New Sound Album: Imperium transformed Current 93's harrowing drones into psychedelic free-form jams and solidified Tibet's signature Spoken Word in Music vocal delivery style. It also introduced Current 93's signature neofolk sound, which wasn't embraced fully until Swastikas for Noddy, two albums afterward.
- Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: A few cases, but the liner notes for Black Ships Ate the Sky stand out for featuring actual childrens' drawings.
- Not Christian Rock: Despite the dark and sometimes iconoclastic nature of his art, David Tibet identifies as Christian, and there are certain C93 lyrics which make this plainly evident. Whether or not one is aware of this can affect how the meanings of some songs are interpreted. That said, his themes tend to be concerned with the more esoteric aspects of Christianity and other religions, and he does not attempt to preach or proselytize. It seems safe to say that Current 93 enjoys significantly more renown among the occult-adjacent goth/industrial fanbase than among the Christian rock fanbase.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: A recurring motif, most prominent in his first two albums and The Inmost Light.
- Piss Take Rap: Crowleymass, done in conjunction with HÖH, pulls this off with remarkable aplomb.
"Don't give us no sass, or we'll kick your ass
For we're the heralds of Crowleymass!"
- Precision F-Strike: Tibet doesn't often swear, once or twice per album at most, but it sticks out quite clearly when he does.
- Punny Name: Looney Runes. He even played this up by having a pastiche of a Golden Age character on the cover, with the back reading Merry Malaise.
- Real Dreams Are Weirder: Tends to pop up on occasion, since Tibet's beliefs profess that all dreams, even ones that fall under this category, are the soul's way of communing with God.
- Rearrange the Song: Reworkings and alternate mixes are a very common practice, be they individual songs (some of which get mashed up live) or entire albums (as was the case with Swastikas For Noddy, Sleep Has His House, and Black Ships Ate The Sky, among others), to say nothing of Like Swallowing Eclipses, in which Andrew Liles remixed five of his albums and two of his E Ps.
- Religious Horror: Many of Tibet's works fall under this; it helps that the religion in question is Gnosticism,
- Rule of Three: In both his music and his nonmusical writings, he often repeats a single word, phrase, or sentence three times over.
- Sampling: Possibly in homage to his friend Steven Stapleton, "Great Black Time" spontaneously includes a lengthy sample of "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & the Papas.
- Sanity Slippage: A recurring theme.
- Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Alternatingly inverted and averted. His music can be panic inducing at times, but the guy himself is a polite and friendly man who adores cats.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: In an interesting take on this trope, Tibet's multiple vocal takes are usually entirely different and do not match up perfectly when heard side by side.
- Shout-Out: Everything from old children's rhymes to the works of Louis Wain.
- Spoken Word in Music: Quite a bit, usually from guest performers. Tibet himself borders on this most of the time.
- Stars Are Souls
- Surreal Horror: Many, many examples, among them the Black Ships. Current 93's music in general carries a hallucinatory, dreamlike feeling, to the point where most of the band's work can be summed up as this trope.
- Take That!: "A Gothic Love Song" points its barbs at goths and their pretenses.
I see all too clearly now why you could be discarded.
And though I could pray for you, I probably shan't,
Having had my cup filled up
With your lies and your makeup.
You were nothing thinking you're something.
- The Stars Are Going Out: A recurring topic, be it in songs ("The Starres Are Marching Sadly Home"; "The Seahorse Rears to Oblivion") or in albums (Black Ships Ate the Sky.)
- Viewers Are Geniuses: His work will make a lot more sense if you have a robust knowledge of various occult and esoteric topics.
- Villain Song: His are some of the strangest. One notable example is "The Frolic", which is from the perspective of John Doe, the villain in the Thomas Ligotti story the song is named after.
- We All Die Someday: Considering Tibet's predilection for apocalypse scenarios and Christian mysticism, this trope is entirely inevitable. There's even a song called, "Anyway, People Die".
- The Wild Hunt: The climax of Tamlin involves a human ambushing them to take him away.
- World of Symbolism: Pretty much all of his lyrics.