Colorado goth band, Plague Garden formed just over three years ago, with members Fernando Altonaga and Angelo Atencio, and in that time, rather impressively, have released an album a year. The latest was unleashed on Halloween of 2022, named Blue Captain on the label Bleeding Light Music.

The bass conjures thoughts of The Damned or The Cure, as the album starts off with “Tonight” and breaks into a cool barrage of post-punk jangling guitar. The vocals echoing in the beautiful shadows of nightfall with a drum machine punctuating the thick air. The serpentine winding of “Land Of The Free” is a commentary that not everyone is so free in a land where money and privilege can buy you everything. The single “Blue Captain” has the tendrils of The Cure’s Pornography curling all over it from the curt beats to the wandering guitar that graces your ears, and it almost seems you can hear the waves of all hope lost, washing up onto shore. So we descend into the depths, with tones of early 80s Sisters Of Mercy in the intro, to be “Bathed In Fire“, a holy baptism by flame. The rhythm pickups in the mood ridden “We Will Be Forgotten” with it’s fusion of gothic roc\k with electronics, which is perfect to set up the last track “Cry” in its sorrowful lament, though you cannot truly be so sad when you hear that twisting guitar.

You can’t deny hearing the musical influences for these two gentlemen but at the same time they are not trying to be those bands, rather paying homage and building their own music from what they love. Plague Garden have gone for creating beauty from simple good writing and that always gives the music more heart. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue…. this is Blue Captain.

https://plaguegarden.bandcamp.com/album/blue-captain-2

http://www.facebook.com/Plague-Garden-361762094541437/

Always exciting to see a band releasing their debut single and hearing their style. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, is the darkwave duo Now After Nothing, with the single “Sick Fix“, out on the 27th of January. Vocalist Matt Spatial and drummer Michael Allen are Now After Nothing and they are joined by the guitar virtuoso, Mark Gemini Thwaite (MGT). Just as impressively is the having the mixing done by Carl Glanville, who has worked with U2 and Joan Jett, and the mastering by John Davis, with names like Placebo, Jesus & Mary Chain and Suede under his belt.

A deluge of guitar and bass hits your ears, both raucous and refined at the same time. It is a punk like fevour that grips and further enforced with the vocals from Spatial, MGT’s guitar work and the synths moving together in a sinuous dance, fluid and whirling in a controlled tempest, while Allen gives us the drumbeats that keep this thunderous rhythm gracing our ears.

I was at one of the lowest points of my life and without a musical outlet. I was damaged, defeated, and deflated. One day in New York City, riding through Central Park with earbuds in place, I rediscovered a band that didn’t initially resonate with me. Hearing them this time was different though – I felt the spark. That emotional connection to a newly-discovered piece of music was the proverbial kick-in-the-ass I needed to ‘crawl out of cracks below.’ When I arrived home, I dusted of my studio gear and opened up files of previously unfinished song ideas, one of which was a rather bare recording of just a single bass line. It caught my ear and by the day’s end, Sick Fix was complete from start to finish. Listening back to it, I felt alive again. I felt the same spark I had felt that day in Central Park that inspired me and reminded me I had more music inside of me. I wasn’t going to let myself wither away. Though the band name came later, Now After Nothing was really born on that day, which is why Sick Fix undoubtedly needed to be our first
single
.”- Matt Spatial

So, there is great energy in this track and yes there is definitely a hat firmly tipped towards the old school post-punk such as Bauhaus, but I also hear strains of Alien Sex Fiend and Virgin Prunes in that maelstrom. Yes, originally I believed these guys were actually British going on sound alone, with their wonderful synergy and enthusiasm but don’t think you are getting some old rehash. “Sick Fix” is a wonderfully modern track and I am eager to see what Now After Nothing bring to the table next.

https://nowafternothing.bandcamp.com/track/sick-fix

https://www.facebook.com/nowafternothing/?mibextid=ZbWKwL

People that know me well, will tell you….I don’t much like Christmas tunes. Might be a leftover from being made to listen to the Chipmunks (I blame my brother for that one) and that I only really endure the classical ones. UK bunch, In Isolation told me about their cover of a Greg Lake festive classic called “I Believe In Father Christmas” just in time for the crinkly season. I am guessing Greg Lake was a member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer but this song is completely new for me. After research, the single was originally released in 1975, highest chartings at Number 2 in the UK, 17 in Ireland and 98 in Australia.

Photo by Simon Parfrement

I hear the sleigh bells ringing and I wonder what I’m getting myself into…. actually the guitar work is really beautiful and of course the vocals aren’t cheesy. As bright as the music is, there is something of a sad quality to the lyrics. There is also the Matt Pop mix you can check out, which is an electronic version, that is sure to warm the cockles or you folk that like their synth music.

Trust these guys to pick a song that they could rock out to a bit but also has a much darker meaning. Even with the bells and explosive orchestration, the lyrics actually talk about that loss of childhood belief. Okay I’m not reviled by this track, and in fact could listen to it a few more times as it isn’t the normal Christmas fare. Still not sure if “I Believe In Father Christmas” but I believe In Isolation.

I Believe In Father Christmas | In Isolation (bandcamp.com)

https://www.facebook.com/inisolationofficial?mibextid=ZbWKwL

Parisian, ManuH’s darkwave project, Distance H, has released the next single, “Reason To Rush“. In line with their previous singles, which feature a female singer, this time they have Cuban born and French based Liset Alea, gracing their track.

Alea’s dulcet tones are warm and inviting, like a lover’s breath, skipping over bare skin, drawing you into promise of more. The electronics are running there, besides the vocals, with the electric guitar breaking through, respectfully and even hauntingly in the background.

This is definitely music to zone out with, escaping the humdrum of regular life. Alea’s voice and lyrics are both soothing and inviting, coupled with ManuH’s music, it all becomes sensuous and a “Reason To Rush“.

https://distanceh.bandcamp.com/track/reason-to-rush-feat-liset-alea

https://www.facebook.com/DistanceH?mibextid=ZbWKwL

It seems The Bellwether Syndicate, lead by William Faith and Sarah Rose Faith, is teasing us again with another single off the soon to be released debut album, Vestige & Vigil. “Beacons” was released on the 2nd of December, on the Sett Records / Nexilis Records labels.

PHOTO BY DAVID STAUDACHER

Stabbing, deathrock styled guitars, combined with the low tidal tow tone of William Faith‘s singing and surging swells of vocals in the chorus, make for a rollicking track of nautical proportions.

In times long past, one’s kith and kin would create bonfires to lead you safely home in the worst weather. It is that premise that loved ones, family and friends are the “Beacons” guiding us to our safe havens…. even in the darkest of times when nothing else makes sense. It is truly a lovely sentiment, wrapped up in a majestic gothic guitar laden track of mercurial proportions, from The Bellwether Syndicate.

Beacons | The Bellwether Syndicate (bandcamp.com)

http://thebellwethersyndicate.com/

Covid decimated the music festival scene, around the world for 2020, 2021 and a good chunk of 2022. Things are coming back to normal and in fact, you can add a new festival to endeavour to attend. Dark Force Fest will kick off in 2023, over three days, March 31st to April 2nd, in New Jersey, USA.

The event is being run by VampireFreaks, at the Sheraton Hotel, in Parsippany and this is not the first time the venue has been used by the VF crew. The hotel was built like a castle, including crenulations (just in case you find yourself in a siege situation with all those goths).

There will be over 100 vendors, to buy things that make your little dark heart happy, clubs, costume competitions and sideshow performances. However, the most important thing is the music… there will be 30 plus bands/artists ranging from darkwave through to industrial. A chance to see pioneers such as Das Ich and Suicide Commando, big hitters Combichrist, Solar Fake, HEALTH, Empathy Test and ACTORS plus brilliant acts like MORIS BLAK, Third Realm, Bootsblack and Rabbit Junk.

That is a whole lot of music and an amazing line up, so you are spoilt for choice. As the inaugural show, you want to be able to say you were there for the first ever…. unlike myself, stuck in another country, half way around the world, who will have to live vicariously through others, and the buckets of fun they are having. (Insert gothic weeping).

Home

https://m.facebook.com/darkforcefest/

https://vampirefreaks.com/

Brisbane based, gothic band, Sacred Hearts have been gaining a solid following, and released the newest single “Catholic Guilt“. The Meanjin (Brisbane) trio, however, doing something a little different. Two singles, same track but done in two different styles. Nice to see Jed A. Walters (Chiffon Magnifique) doing their production as well as the talented Kyle Hallam (Doggie Heaven) .

Whom does the bells toll for? That drum machine just pops and the guitars kind of roll in light noisy motes that drown your ears in beautiful chiming. The vocals are so vibrant and in a way angelic, amidst the churning, jangling guitars.

Version two is far more what is on the slab in the laboratory style of deathrock with those hazed out guitars. The angst oozes forward, staining the air, the vocals venomous in their disgust. The Lord’s Prayer that they have used, has become a cultish chant for the disenchanted.

I get where lead singer, June, is coming from, having been in the Catholic school system. They use the religion to scare you and control you. You are being judged, if not worthy then you will go to Hell and I remember at school, being told sex was for procreation only and not for enjoyment. Yeah, let’s not even get into the creepy stuff with the priests. At some point you either stay with that stuff or you walk away. Maybe that just added to the way we turned out but it makes for interesting conversation and, indeed, topic for a single, where Sacred Hearts are stretching those dark wings and pushing their sound into new and varied territory. I think they are only going to get better and “Catholic Guilt 1 & II” are pretty damn hot.

Catholic Guilt | Sacred Hearts (bandcamp.com)

Catholic Guilt II | Sacred Hearts (bandcamp.com)

Sacred Hearts | Facebook

The Precious Ones” sounds like it could be from Lord Of The Rings, however, it is the single that deathgaze rockers, VAZUM, dropped on the 18th of November. Emily Sturm and Zach Pliska are gearing up for an album drop next year, called V Sessions, but in the meantime you can listen to the new single with it’s complimentary two b-sides.

Pliska is the main vocalist this time for “The Precious Ones” and venomously spits out the lyrics, while the guitars are violently loud, rolling like thunder in their discontent and the drums emphatic. Sturm’s vocals wind around the chorus almost stealing it. “Actor” really slides into deathrock mode with the buzzing guitar work, that occasionally breaks out then returns to the fold. The way the rhythm moves is very snake like. The last track sees both the vocalists sharing the duties, screaming out guitars and what feels like intense pressure in the build up for “Skooge“.

I actually had to look up “Skooge” and it was in the urban dictionary as basically describing an idiot. These tracks definitely have a common theme running through all of them…..pretty much go fuck yourself and go fucking die. I mean I could be wrong but I don’t think I am. “The Precious Ones” is a dig at a scene that often is constantly looking backwards at what has been, rather than the new music there is now. Many, many moons ago, I used to run a club and if you played all the classics, you were guaranteed a full dance floor. Introduce something new but great, suddenly the floor was clear. If I go out, I still hear all the same music….it is boring and like going back in a time machine. Plus, I guess there are probably certain musicians today that will have everyone pandering to them, while others will miss out on coverage even though they deserve to be heard. In the meantime, the single and extra tracks are fantastic. I love the furious guitars and VAZUM being all prickly has made this all the more interesting. Watch out for “The Precious Ones“…….

The Precious Ones | VAZUM (bandcamp.com)

https://www.facebook.com/VAZUMROCKS/

https://www.instagram.com/vazum_/

In the City of Ekaterinburg, you will find gothic rockers, Raven Said, and October saw their new EP, Chants To Dissolve released by Moon Coil Media, plus they had the very talented Pete Burns (Kill Shelter) on mastering. Raven Said are Andrey Agapitov (vocals, guitar, bass, acoustic guitar) and Maria Agapitova (piano, synth, percussion).

The first track has a very interesting pulsating marrying of almost techno beats and gothic rock. There are sparkling synths with flourishing jangly guitar in “A Flowering And A Flattering“.”Transparent Sorrow” features the beautifully sensual vocals of Aeleth Kaven from La Scaltra, so very light and angelic in stark contrast to Agapitov’s deeper tones. This track reminded me of the bands coming out in the second goth wave of the early 90s.

Really amazing bass lines wander through “Except My Love For Her (Cold Desire Version)“. I dare you to forget the chorus as it pretty unique and a very sweet way to admit to being very much in love…..in a very goth way. There is such a violent life to “Srendi Vashtar“, from the guitar and the voracious electronics, to the urgently lowkey vocals spurred on by the smashing percussion. The last track is the shimmering “Immersive Waves” with the haunting guitars and vocals. The guitar work is simply delightful, tinkling like broken glass, over and over again.

Music brings us together like virtually nothing else on the planet. It can feed our souls and connect us on such a primal level. Raven Said are creating dark gothic rock that really is like broken glass, fragile and shinny but if you try to take them into your heart, you might slowly die from the way they cut you up…. or not. It is about depths you feel this style of music in your psyche. New and yet familiar to those of us that live our lives in black. Now there are Chants To Dissolve with, so the Raven Said.

Chants to Dissolve | Raven Said (bandcamp.com)

Raven Said | Yekaterinburg | Facebook

Raven Said (@ravensaidband) • Instagram photos and videos

Need an injection of gothic rock to perk up your dark soul? Then the debut track “Darkened Eyes” from st///ll might stoke the fires. The three members are scattered between the UK and Ireland but have the common love for the post-punk genre.

The drum machine starts pistoning away, joined by the chiming out guitar, before the Ian Curtis like vocals invade your concious. Then you are plunged into a sonic sweetness, due to the bass being there, ramping up the tension and dueling the lead guitar. It’s a bit like being transported back to the early 80s.

I think there is not only a love here for Joy Division but I can also hear Pink Turns Blue, which is tangible in both the vocals and guitar. Given a chance, “Darkened Eyes” could easily become a gothic dance floor anthem. There is no excuse for not popping off to Bandcamp to secure this little beauty as it is name your price, for a seriously strong debut track from st///ll.

https://still6.bandcamp.com/track/darkened-eyes

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100083423207378