20 Modern Darkwave Releases

  • Posted on
  • 22.2.14

It might not be fair enough to describe the acts that are about to follow with the term “darkwave revival”, because darkwave never actually went away, it just for a while went aside, were it fits best, in the shadows of what we call “the music industry”. The movement which sprung out The Cure, The Sisters Of Mercy, Joy Division and Bauhaus, doesn’t have the same facade anymore, yet all its defining characteristics are there, all the darkness and the sorrow that crucially evolved modern rock in the late 70s, to peak throughout the 80s and develop to dozens of new genres, equally dark and sorrowful. It doesn’t matter if you’re an old soul, refusing to attach the “darkwave” term to these modern acts, whether they are “trve” or not, whether it’s darkwave or new wave or new darkwave or coldwave or post-punk or synthpop or shoegaze or electro-industrial or hipster hype or anything. It’s all dark, I give you that. Beyond that call it whatever suits you best.

Here’s the list of 20 contemporary dark releases for modern day vampires…

20. Winter Severity Index – Survival Rate (2013)

From Rome, Italy, Winter Severity Index were an all-girl band, formed in 2009. They have released two excellent EPs so far, one of which, Survival Rate, is a collaboration with the acclaimed experimental/ambient/shoegaze artist, Valentina Fanigliulo, a.k.a. Mushy, recorded just before they were about to disband. This release turned Winter Severity Index to a duo, with a possibly promising future.

19. Soft Kill – An Open Door (2011)

Tobias Grave of Blessure Grave formed this project in 2010 with his wife. Influences by The Chameleons, early Killing Joke and Wire are all over this one. A solid modern goth/post-punk debut.

18. Dream Affair – Endless Days (2011)

Dream Affair was the solo project of Void Vision’s Hayden Payne, until it became a proper three piece band, releasing their enchanting debut full-length, Endless Days in 2011. Get over the Joy Division influences, appreciate the European coldwave references and take pleasure in the 4AD ones. Keep in mind that all these ingredients are in there for your enjoyment.

17. Grave Babies – Crusher (2013)

If you’ve never heard of the term “lo-fi goth” so far, it’s probably because there aren’t many bands out there to represent it. Grave Babies from Seattle, is one that does, mixing melancholy with noisey absurdity. It’s one of the most unique sounding releases on the list.

16. Frank (Just Frank) – The Brutal Wave (2010)

Frank (Just Frank) are a coldwave/synthpop duo from Paris, France. The tracks on their only full-length album so far are split between French and English, making a very interesting variation. The language diversity isn’t the only interesting element in this one though. Just think of The Smiths with metal undertones. If that doesn’t convince you, just stay away from this uncommonly odd release.

15. Veil Of Light – Veil Of Light (2013)

Yet another European band, this time from Switzerland, Veil Of Light is a heavy-bassed, intensely synthed release that could get you dancing and crying at the same time. The band’s given the world only a couple of EPs so far and judging from those, the hopes for a brighter (or maybe gloomier) future are set high.

14. Der Noir – A Dead Summer (2012)

Der Noir formed in Rome, Italy in 2011. For their debut, A Dead Summer, the band used vintage machines and equipment to achieve the right sound for they wanted for the album, 80’s synths, drum machines, valve outboard signal processors. You can clearly hear on the result how this fixation of theirs and how selective they’ve been with their equipment, surely payed off.

13. Bestial Mouths – Bestial Mouths (2013)

This is as diverse as it gets. Bestial Mouths surround many different styles of electronic based music, minimal synths and industrial beats being the primary. It’s harsh music, grim enough to easily spot the black metal influences that lurk in there. This is the closest it could get, this list to metal.

12. Deathday – Deathday (2012)

Brothers Alex and Giovanni Guillen formed Deathday Party in L.A. in 2007, now plain Deathday. This is dark post-punk, cold wave and early industrial, together in one, backed by screaming guitars and bleak synthesizers, intentionally saturated to give to the sound a feeling of desparation and decay. Coincidentally, the last two bands on this list, Deathday and Bestial Mouths share a split release together, also worth one goth’s while.

11. Night Sins – New Grave (2012)

Night Sins formed in Philadelphia in 2010. Their first album, New Grave is mostly downtempo, yet often very energetic, combining layers of catchy post-punk guitar riffs with 80s darkwave ambience. All the traditional elements of the darkwave genre are present, perhaps shown from a different angle, that of a fresh, modern band, eager to play this kind of music and spread the darkness around furthermore.

10. Lust For Youth - Perfect View (2013)

More synth-pop than post-punk, Lust For Youth’s third full length album was maybe a bit more polished than the previous ones, yet it was (darkly) pleasant enough to stand out from the bunch of the darkwave releases in 2013. Dance-punk some they call it, Hannes Norrvide’s project seems to work better now as a band than it used to as a solo act. LFV get Sweden a place in the contemporary darkwave map.

9. The Hunt – The Hunt Begins (2013)

It may be that The Hunt Begins was released in 2013, but was recorded a while back, in 2009, just before the band disbanded, leaving the recordings on the shelf for four long years. Formed in New York in 2007, they were the band that kicked off the Sacred Bones Records catalogue with their first 7 inch. After they disbanded in 2009, their members went on to two equally great post punk/deathrock bands, Cult of Youth and Anasazi.

8. Lebanon Hanover – The World Is Getting Colder (2012)

Lebanon Hanover are lucky enough to get to call home two different and quite diverse cities, Berlin, Germany and Newcastle, UK. The modern romantic duo describe their own music as “dark, synthetic doom pop”. It won’t take very long to get yourself absorbed into their nihilistic bass lines, the echoing drum machine backdrops and those dreamlike female/male alternating, empty of all emotion vocals. Dream up the eeriness of The Creatures and Virgin Prunes, revamped to a present top class of darkwave act.

7. Blessure Grave – Unknown Blessures (2009)

Possibly the first entry in this list of a band, self-conscious enough to name their tape in honour of the band they’re supposed to be ripping off. Since this 2009 release, the band has dramatically evolved, getting their production and writing to a higher level, and put out quite a few noteworthy releases, but Unknown Blessures is so too damn good to disregard. That guy, Toby Graves is surely a talented fella. In Blessure Grave it’s easy to see potential for greater achievements, but their older stuff will always be special.

6. The KVB – Always Then (2012)

Closer to shoegaze than post-punk, the duo from the UK, The KVB, composite a hybrid of a colorful, dreamlike electronic sound, misty, gloomy enough to leave you staring at an empty wall for hours after listening. Imagine Jesus And Mary Chain drowned in heavy electronic production or the early Human League backed up by razor sharp guitar riffs. Then sit and stare the hell out of that wall, or most appropriately, your shoes.

5. A Place To Bury Strangers – Exploding Head (2009)

If I’d have to spare the introduction for only one of the bands in this list, that would have to be A Place To Bury Strangers, because they don’t need one, as they’re already huge. They’re considered to be one of the greatest live acts today in all music. Their wall of sound is mostly based on the dark side of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Jesus And Mary Chain, yet the psychedelic and space rock elements they also put in, are probably the reason why this band appeals to mainstream rock fans and music fans in general and not only the gloomy kids. Yeah, dark can be fun too, no foul in that.

4. Natural Assembly – Demo (2011)

Natural Assembly, from London, UK, are also among those cases which the band came on to create mighty fine releases after their demos, but that limited edition first cassette will always be exceptional in its own way. Cold, industrial synthesizers, echoing vocals and crushing drum machines to blow your brain off like there’s no tomorrow. Also worthy of your attention, another cassette of theirs, Nothing, Everything Hidden, a split release with Cremation Lily.

3. HTRK – Work (Work, Work) (2011)

The only entry originally from Australia in the list, HTRK, now based in London, may have lost one of their founding members, Sean Stewart, still they’re nothing but over. Concluded under the grievance over the passing of Stewart by the rest of the band, Work (Work, Work) came to be possibly their best work yet, an album “revolving around themes of submission, dysphoria, sentimentality, tech-noir, and corporate life”, as the band describe it themselves. Dark, atmospheric, minimal, suffocating at times, harsh and cold, this album has been a triumph for HTRK. By the way, it might be persuasive for some, it is pronounced “Hate Rock”.

2. Tropic Of Cancer – I Feel Nothing (2012)

After starting as a duo consisting of Camella Lobo and Juan Mendez, now Camella’s solo project, Tropic of Cancer, from Long Beach, CA, is safe to say that it is one of the best dark acts around today. Like in every other respectable new wave/darkwave act in this list (or not), there are layers of synths, guitars and beats, taking you along in a downfall of esoteric emotions, nihilism and romantiscism. Try to say out loud this EP’s title in your most emotional, cracked voice you can pitch. A paradox always makes thing interesting.

1. Cold Cave – Cherish The Light Years (2011)

Cold Cave’s supporters in amounts may be equal as their haters are and that’s understandable in a way. Surely some people get disturbed when they listen a contemporary act almost mimicking the way music was made in the 80s, but there is no crime in that. Wesley Eisold, the creative force behind Cold Cave, has taken part or formed quite a bunch of bands, varying from hardcore punk to noise indie rock to industrial, like American Nightmare, Some Girls, XO Skeletons, Ye Old Maids and Give Up The Ghost, with Cold Cave among them being the most significant and the most far-reaching one. Cherish The Light Years has the most colorful palette of all Cold Cave’s albums so far, but it’s also equally nostalgic, melancholic and angsty, combining every possible element the new wave genre in general uses, everything that has been mentioned in this article so far regarding post-punk, synth-pop or darkwave, is also present here. It’s catchy, it’s aggressive, it can be either uplifting or heavily dark within a split of a second. Definitely a dramatic change in style from the old darkest contents in the Cremations anthology, but there is nothing not to like and much to explore in the new Cold Cave, if you give it a chance.

There you go. Go sit in a corner by yourself and listen to those. The shadows are calling you…


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