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Gothic metal

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Gothic metal

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Gothic Metal
Stylistic origins: Black metal, Death metal, Doom metal
Cultural origins: early 1990s, Europe
Typical instruments: Guitar - Bass - Drums - Keyboard
Mainstream popularity: Small, dedicated fanbases mainly focused in Europe
Fusion genres
Regional scenes
United States, United Kingdom, Scandinavia Germany

Gothic metal is a genre of heavy metal music that originated in the early 1990's in Europe as an outgrowth of doom-death, a subgenre of doom metal. The definition of gothic metal is commonly debated; older fans and musicians have a firm concept of the genre having been around through its growth and evolution, having strict ideas of what bands pertain to the genre and what bands don't. Newer fans reject this categorization as limiting, useless or wrong, often claiming bands are gothic metal that do not meet the criteria of the older fans.


Sounds, constructs and lyrics

Gothic metal is sometimes considered a loose genre in the way it sounds because the genre is defined by its composition of the music and its aesthetics, leaving individual bands to provide different interpretations. It also makes unique use of dual vocalists, keyboards and acoustic guitars, making it distinctive in comparison to other metal genres.

Gothic metal tends to refer to doom metal, black metal, and death metal for its composition, heavily synthesizing the styles of their melody and rhythm ideas in its guitar work, causing the music to be aggressive and fast paced. Acoustic guitars are sometimes present in gothic metal, and in bands that use two guitars, the second guitarist is often found playing a form of acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar is used in the same way as its electronic counterpart, and is normally found playing melodies that are as equally complex. The bass guitar in gothic metal usually plays lower tones akin to doom metal combined with the aggression of black and death metal, often being the main contributor to the atmosphere in songs.

Keyboards play a major role in gothic metal, often replacing the second guitarist in bands and taking on the role of either lead or rhythm. The keyboards are often used to imitate a variety of instruments, most often string and wind instruments. Keyboards tend to support the bass in setting the atmosphere and mood of songs.

The atmosphere is commonly tailored to fit the song; warm and energetic, empty and enclosing. The atmosphere rarely follows the deep morbidity of doom metal unlike its origin/offspring, doom-death/gothic-doom, or the upbeat nature of its sister genre, symphonic metal.

Lyrically, gothic metal is centered around romances and fantasy tales that end in tragedy for one or more parties involved. The setting for the lyrics are most often in the New Age or the Dark Ages, but can also be in Victorian, Edwardian, Roman, or modern eras. The romantic- and fantasy-themed lyrics often used in gothic metal cover many broad subjects and are intended as being themes and guides to the lyricist, rather than a complete prerequisite of the genre. Gothic Metal bands typically do not write their albums in the form of separate songs; they rather write concept albums in the form of books. This is so that each song acts as a part, or, chapter, inspiring people to listen to the whole album in order to hear the story, instead of just certain songs. Penumbra's Seclusion and Silentium's Sufferion - Hamartia of Prudence are two gothic metal albums that feature this style of lyrics.

Gothic metal bands normally have two vocalists, (also known as "Beauty and the Beast" vocals). One vocalist is typically male and uses vocals akin to black or death metal. The other vocalist is usually female, and often uses soprano vocals, or harmonic singing. Sometimes bands will use other forms of vocals included with the two prior vocalists, including (but not limited to) female death/black vocals, Gregorian chanting and male singing, but this tends to be limited to backing vocals and their use within the song


Origins (1983-1993)

The earliest stage of gothic metal can be traced to bands in the 1980s, who utilized the dark aethetics of gothic rock with aspects of composition akin to doom metal. Bands of this type are credited mainly for their later influence on the subgenres, doom-death and gothic-doom.

Although Glenn Danzig's Samhain made some attribution to this manner of composition, Death rock band Christian Death are regarded by some as the most influential to the founding of the subgenre. Thought the influence seems to come from the bands line up containing Valor Kand's version of "Christian Death", who themselves are considered to play a style of Heavy Metal, [1] unlike the original line up founded by Rozz Williams, who had a more punk influenced sound. [2] The current line up with Valor has featured members of metal bands such as Cradle Of Filth guesting on albums.[3]

Celtic Frost, although considered by many as an early black metal band, also played a semi-important role in the development of doom-death, due to their use of "gothic-sounding" atmospherics.

In the 1990s, a group of young bands in Northern England borrowed from the early gothic rock sound of the 1980s and incorporated it with the slow, down-tuned guitar dirges of Black Sabbath and similar doom metal bands. Doom-death, as it was known, was the first stage of the gothic-doom subgenre and the gothic-metal genre. Bands most notable for this style included Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema.

Although death metal and black metal were two of the larger genres of metal at this time, especially in the Scandinavian region, many bands who started in either genre had progressed more toward doom-death styles; two of these bands were Moonspell and Theatre of Tragedy.

While early doom-death bands Paradise Lost and Anathema used some female vocals in their music, the Netherland's The Gathering was the first doom-death band with a leading female singer, Marike Groot on the album Always... and then Martine Van Loon on Almost a Dance (both later replaced by another female singer, Anneke van Giersbergen). This set a pattern for gothic metal by adding the first implications of using two vocalists in the bands, which later became a signature of gothic metal as it was quickly imitated by bands including Tristania and Theatre of Tragedy.

Gothic Metal (1993-present)

Gothic metal originated in the early 1990's with bands such as Tristania and Therion taking the doom-death sound that had arisen and making romantically-themed music that borrowed from black metal's and death metal's guitar and vocal styles. These bands left behind some of the depressing nature and gothic rock elements of their origins to add more warm and classical elements into the music.

A softer genre known as symphonic metal had evolved in the mid- to late- 1990s from gothic metal bearing strong similarities to its predecessor, with bands led by female singers. During this time the divide between gothic metal and the new born symphonic metal became apparent; symphonic metal maintained a simpler approach, with more operatic and classical themes, while gothic metal incorporated more aggressive elements of death metal and black metal directly into the music, adding more technically complex melodies and rhythms into its music. Trail of Tears and Penumbra heading this last known progression in the music.

The gothic metal scene is currently very developed in Europe and Scandinavia, most notably in England, France, Norway and the Netherlands, and is growing rapidly in Germany. Much of the scene's core fan base has developed itself in England and France, with many of the bands coming from the Scandinavian region. Several groups of smaller bands are also emerging in eastern Europe and South America, struggling to gain a foothold where the scene is small.

Gothic Doom (1997-present)

In the late 1990's-2000 bands within the gothic metal genre had become somewhat prominent, and the genre symphonic metal had begun to emerge from it. At this point, several bands started to go the opposite path to symphonic metal for their, adding highly morbid themes, slowing down to a more slow-paced aggression akin to gothic metal, and began to abandon the Beauty And The Beast vocals that had become part of the gothic metal genre.

During this period, a boom of new bands occurred. These bands combined aspects directly from early 90s gothic metal with aspects of various forms of doom metal. Bands such as Chalice, Draconian, Even Vast, and Left Hand Soloution all released albums or produced demo's at this time. These bands used various elements of gothic metal and doom metal in varied and undefined methods. This included the romantic lyrics and instrument usage with morbid atmospheres and slow, droning guitar work. These bands also often found inspiration from doom-death bands, often utilizing the same gothic rock mannerisms found in doom-death almost subconsciously. These new bands, with their morbid sound and nature, and noticeable gothic metal elements, were often debated as being gothic metal or doom metal, before finally being settled on as being 'gothic-doom'.

In the early 2000's another boom happened, many bands that were now considered gothic-doom released their first or second albums, with many more bands producing demo's. This second rush of bands and albums now emphasized parts of doom metal and gothic metal by melding aspects of the genres together. Lyrical themes of the genres were melded together, as were the guitaring, keyboarding, and atmoshperic styles of the genres.

Currently, gothic-doom is a widespread scene, with no centralized fan base or origins of bands. Gothic-doom's fanbase mostly tends to be fans heavily into gothic metal and/or doom metal, and currently lacks any major recognition beyond its borrowed stardom.

Gothic doom

Gothic-doom (also sometimes called Goth Metal due to its gothic rock influence) is best described as a subgenre of both doom metal and gothic metal. Throughout its existence, gothic doom has combined aspects of both doom metal and gothic metal in varying quantities, and the often melding of two aspects together.

Early bands in the subgenre used varying quantities and aspects of doom metal with aspects of gothic metal, taking heavily influence from doom-death bands. The music often used one element from gothic metal, with an element of doom metal, ie: The lyrical theme and instrumental usage of gothic metal, with doom metal atmospherics and vocal styles.

The sound became more defined as it evolved to combine traits of gothic metal and doom metal directly with their counterparts. Later Gothic doom bands often write music that is typical of either genre, then meld the aspects of that genre directly with the aspects found in the other. Lyrics tend to meld the romantic and fantasy themes of gothic metal, with the morbid and depressive themes of doom metal, creating storys that focus heavily on romance induced misery. Bands have also tended to adapt the synthesising nature of gothic metal. Guitars synthesising aspects of death metal's chugging and techinal nature and gothic rock, with the slow, heavily downtuned aspects of doom metal, similar to what doom-death bands originally did. The instrument usage of gothic metal has also met adaption into doom metal styles, the instruments roles remaining the same within the band, yet played with the same slow, downcast nature of most doom metal.

Some gothic doom bands such as Type O Negative and The Wounded have more atoned to following the trend of the first batch of gothic doom. These bands tend to place heavy emphasis on each part of their music, making each individual aspect highly distinguished from another, rather than letting them all blend into one conjoined sound. These bands also take some influence directly from gothic rock, incorporating minor characteristics of the genre directly into their music.

Gothic doom bands are overall characterised by their often equal, but highly mixed use of elements of gothic metal, doom metal and occasional elements of gothic rock, whether they are synthesised, melded together, or emphasised. As such, bands are sometimes debated upon as to whether they are doom metal, gothic metal, or neither. Other instances of debate are over whether the original doom-death bands could be considered gothic-doom due to their similarities, or are a separate subform due to their place in the timeline of origins.

Other gothic metal fusions

Other fusions of gothic metal similar to gothic doom have also started to become more noticeable. This has often been noticed by bands within the black metal, death metal and symphonic metal genres that have started using elements of gothic metal in the bands music.

Within death metal and black metal this has included the non-defining use of dual vocalists, sub-romantic themes and the writing of concept albums mixed with the traditional sound of the genre. These genre fusions include bands such as Dark Lunacy, Cradle of Filth (later albums), and Eternal Tears of Sorrow.

Some symphonic metal bands have also started to use more gothic metal elements. This is mainly noticeable by the more downbeat, aggressive and complex structures to songs. Bands such as the Netherlands' Autumn and Russia's Offertorium are both notable for this.

Common misconceptions

Although the style has seen much more controversy than other metal genres - and remarkably, the most instances of debate - some arguments have gone on in regards to bands that have sported a gothic "image" in the eyes of the media versus those with direct musical connections to the gothic metal genre. This has included bands that have shown imagery akin to morbidity, religious themes, gothic fashion, vampirism, and satanism and bands that have played alongside gothic metal bands at concerts.

Bands are also often mistaken for being gothic metal, as people considered goths will attend the performance of a band, and the media takes to believing the band is part of the gothic metal genre due to the people who attend their concerts.

Many debates have gone on as to whether bands rooted in one genre that use gothic metal aspects within their music are themselves gothic metal, or are themselves creating fusion like subgenres such as gothic doom. Because of these debates, sometimes bands such as these are listed amongst gothic metal bands as well as bands in the genre they are rooted from, often causing more debate and more confusion on the issue.

Many people assume that gothic metal's name implies that it is the same as goth rock, but with metal based composition, and so misinterpret a wide range of bands as being gothic metal on that basis. This misconception is furthered by the use of the term 'goth metal', which implies the music has to do with goths. The genre actually got its name from the imagery and themes within the lyrics, and the atmospherics it uses, which are quite different to those of the similarly named goth rock. While both use the term "gothic" in reference to the forboding sense of doom popularized by the Gothic novel, gothic rock developed out of punk rock in the late 1970s and, aside from some heavier bands like Christian Death, has no connection to heavy metal.

Derogatory usage of the term faggoth by some fans of other metal genres, especially those of black metal, has led to the term being associated with gothic metal. The term is actually used as an insult to the less extreme natures of gothic metal, symphonic metal and Goth Music. Due to the word 'goth' being part of the term however, it is easily mistaken to mean that all music it is used derogatorily towards is goth music.

List of Bands

Gothic metal bands

Forever Slave
Labores Somnium
Lacuna Coil
Mortal Love
Trail of Tears

Gothic-Doom metal bands

Ashes You Leave
Cryptal Darkness
For My Pain
Forest of Shadows
Lacrimas Profundere
Mourning Beloveth
Paradise Lost
Theatre Des Vampires
The Sins Of Thy Beloved
The Wounded
Type O Negative
Visceral Evisceration

See also

Heavy metal
Black metal - Death metal - Doom metal - Folk metal - Glam metal - Gothic metal - Grindcore - Industrial metal - Neo-classical metal - Power metal - Progressive metal - Symphonic metal - Thrash metal
Other topics
Fashion - History

External links

Metal databases

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

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