20 Modern Darkwave Releases

It might not be very fair enough to describe all the acts that are about to follow with the term 'darkwave revival', because darkwave never actually went away, it just felt like it went aside for a while, were it fits best, in the shadows away from the mainstream. The movement which sprung out The Cure, The Sisters Of Mercy, Joy Division and Bauhaus, doesn’t have the same guise these days, yet, all its defining characteristics are there, all the darkness and the sorrow that crucially helped alternative rock evolve in the late seventies, to peak throughout the eighties, and then develop to dozens of new genres, equally dark and sorrowful. A few old souls often refuse 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 else, it all comes with a dark foundation. 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, aka. Mushy, recorded just before they were about to disband. This release turned Winter Severity Index to a duo, with an evidently promising future.

19. Soft Kill – An Open Door (2011)

Tobias Grave of Blessure Grave formed his project Soft Kill 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. The Joy Division influences are apparent, the European coldwave references too, and there also a pleasurable touch of  4AD.

17. Grave Babies – Crusher (2013)

Not so many bands represent the term lo-gi goth out there. Grave Babies from Seattle, is one great act that does so, mixing melancholy with noisy 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 notable element in this one though. The whole record gives off a vibe of The Smiths with metal undertones. If that doesn’t sound convincing, its overall oddness most likely will.

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

Yet another European band, this time from Switzerland, Veil Of Light is an intense sounding, based on heavy synths release that could make a solid backdrop for dancing and crying at the same time. The band has 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 were 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 what they wanted for the album, eighties synths, drum machines, valve outboard signal processors. It is clearly heard on the result how this fixation of theirs, and how their selectivity with their equipment payed off.

13. Bestial Mouths – Bestial Mouths (2013)

This is as diverse as it gets. Bestial Mouths embrace many different styles of electronic based music, minimal synths and industrial beats being the primary. It tends to often sound harsh, grim enough to easily spot the black metal influences that lurk in there.

12. Deathday – Deathday (2012)

Brothers Alex and Giovanni Guillen formed Deathday Party in L.A. in 2007, later changed to plain Deathday. This is dark post punk, coldwave and early industrial, together in one fine package, backed by screaming guitars and bleak synthesizers, intentionally saturated to provide their sound with feeling of desperation and decay. Coincidentally, Deathday and Bestial Mouths from the previous entry, share a split release, also much worth of a 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 energetic, combining layers of catchy post punk guitar riffs with eighties darkwave ambiance. 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 was maybe a bit more polished than the previous ones, yet it was darkly pleasant enough to stand out from most of the darkwave releases of 2013. Some call this dance punk, regardless of labels though, 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)

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 split up in 2009, their members went on to form 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 doesn't take very long to get absorbed into their nihilistic bass lines, the echoing drum machine backdrops and those dreamlike female/male alternating, empty of all emotion vocals. It's similar to the eeriness of The Creatures and Virgin Prunes, adjusted to a contemporary top class darkwave act.

7. Blessure Grave – Unknown Blessures (2009)

Bleesure Grave were 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 good to disregard. Toby Graves is surely a talented musician and in Unknown Blessures it’s very easy to see the potential for greater achievement.

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, perfect for staring at an empty wall for hours, even after listening. It's like Jesus And Mary Chain drowned in heavy electronic production, or the early Human League backed up by razor sharp guitar riffs. Gazing the hell out of that wall, or most appropriately, our shoes, has never been more fun.

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

A Place To Bury Strangers should be spared the introduction because they don’t need one, they’re already huge in the world of dark shoegaze. 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 are probably the reason why this band appeals to more mainstream rock fans as well, and not only the gloomy kids.

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 fry the brain like there’s no tomorrow. Also worthy of 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. It also may be persuasive for some that the band's name is pronounced “Hate Rock”.

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

After starting as a duo consisting of Camella Lobo and Juan Mendez, Tropic of Cancer is now Camella’s solo project. Hailing from Long Beach, CA, it is safe to say that this is one of the best dark acts around today. Layers of synths, guitars and beats culminate in a downfall of esoteric emotions, nihilism and romanticism.

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

At some point Cold Cave’s amount of supporters could have been equal to that of their haters. People often get upset when they meet a contemporary act parallel the ways and tropes of new wave music, and how things were done in the eighties, but there is no foul in what Cold Cave do. Wesley Eisold, the creative force behind Cold Cave, has been part of a number of bands, varying from hardcore punk to noise indie rock to industrial, such as American Nightmare (Give Up The Ghost), Some Girls, XO Skeletons and Ye Old Maids, with Cold Cave ultimately being the most popular one. Cherish The Light Years has the most colorful palette of all Cold Cave albums so far, but it’s also equally nostalgic, melancholic and anxious, combining many elements from the new wave vanguard. Every style that has been mentioned in this article so far; post punk, synthpop, darkwave, they're all 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, superbly dark contents of the anthology Cremations, but there is nothing not to like, and much to explore in the new Cold Cave, one of the best underground acts around.

The shadows are calling…

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