Gothic Rock: An Overview of Music and Movement

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Many alternative subcultures that have been popular in the past decades, such as punk, metal and goth have faced a new age ‘revitalisation’ of sorts. However, this revitalisation for goth specifically, has been less of a revamp and more of a misrepresentation of the true meaning of the subculture. 

While the ‘true’ meaning of goth or more specifically what qualifies as goth, varies from person to person, the general consensus is that, at a minimum, it’s a music based subculture – something which established itself when the scene started in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s in England after the punk scene had made waves in music and politics. It may be slightly contrary to belief, but goth music, particularly gothic rock isn’t metal music. Gothic rock stemmed from the post-punk scene in the 70’s and was a darker yet romantic sound, with synthetic guitars and dramatic key sounds. It also had a strong thematic meaning; delving into supernatural and occult themes, topics of existentialism and nihilism and literary romanticisation of death. These ideas presented themselves as metaphors for real world issues at the time. However, not at all artists used their music to represent anything in particular – more so musical representations of mysticism. 

Some notable bands of the post-punk movement include Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, The Cure and Bauhaus. Post-punk created even more genres within itself at the time, one of the first being Dark Wave and New Wave music which consisted of older artists in the scene and slightly newer ones like Killing Joke. The scene expanded internationally with American artists like Clan of Xymox and Inkubus Sukkubus forming and all across Europe, with Germany still being home to a large goth scene to this day.

Good Charlotte at the Nova Rock 2017 Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Goth was (and still is) deeply about theatrics. From the artist’s music, to their own presentation; with big hair, adrogynous heavy makeup worn by both men and women, chunky boots, shredded fishnets and distinct clothing styles inspired by punk and more romantic movements like Victorian dress. These abstract visuals extended to their listeners to, who often followed suit – mimicking makeup and visual appeal of artists, a common one being the look of Siouxie Sioux. The goth scene also had an immensely popular club movement, with many clubs opening during the time. One of the most notable being the Batcave in Soho, London, which opened in 1982. These clubs were where the underground trends were set, with even more mainstream clubs overseas in the U.S hosting goth and industrial nights. However, very few of these clubs exist today and those specific nights are rare occurrences.

There’s so many intricacies to goth from the music to the fashion that’s unfortunately being forgotten today, whether this be due to the emergence of newer alternative scenes of rapid fire pace in which information (or misinformation) is being spread. For groups like punk and goth, the past is valued as it was the building block for what it’s become today and for many, this past is integral and is something that needs to be known to be accepted into these groups.