The 20 Greatest Goth Albums: The Complete List


20. Marilyn Manson Antichrist Superstar (Interscope, 1996)

So squalid and deeply unpleasant it's mesmerizing, Antichrist Superstar is such an intricate dissection of how to become a "rock star" it could have come from a biology lab. Then 24 or 25, Manson gets so far under the skin of his idols he might as well be Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Even the blatant Ministry rips ("Little Horn," "1996") and leavings from Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral (Trent Reznor co-produced) are instructional, because the second Manson blasts into "The Beautiful People," Antichrist Superstar becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. "Wormboy" suggests that even at this early stage of the game, he's totally in on the joke, too. CHRIS GRAY

19. VNV Nation Empires (Metropolis, 1999)

Though VNV Nation is more industrial than goth, you'll find plenty of spooky kids at their excellent, high energy concerts. Empires is not Ronan and Mark's best album, that would be Automatic, but it is definitely the primer for their whole amazing philosophic approach to electronica that they utilize. You build from Empires, especially "Kingdom," and it opens your mind to endless possibilities. JEF WITH ONE F

18. Type O Negative Bloody Kisses (Roadrunner, 1993)

There simply has not been perfect gothic metal since we lost Peter Steele. Type O Negative embodied the goth aesthetic while harnessing the raw brutality of heavy metal. It's truly sad that we never got a baritone sing-off between Peter Murphy and Steele. It would've made the most amazing sequel to "Christian Woman." JEF WITH ONE F

17. Cruxshadows Mystery of the Whisper (Dancing Ferret Discs, 1999)

At times Cruxshadows is just plain eye-rolling. I've seen them read Poe from the stage for goth's sake. You can't take anything away from their beeping baroque approach to music though. Mystery of the Whisper is damn near a template for the perfect dark dance record, and it belongs in every iPod. JEF WITH ONE F

16. Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye (Warner Bros./Noble Riot, 1988)

Poor Danielle has been all but forgotten these days, but I have never been at a goth club and not heard "Big Hollow Man" at least once in the evening. She combined a pixie voice with buzzing experimental guitars and solid disco beats to craft a beautiful set of unbeatable and memorable tunes. JEF WITH ONE F

15. :wumpscut Wreath of Barbs (Metropolis, 2001)

When you have absolutely got to hear the best in angry German stompy music, accept no substitutes. "Christ Fuck" plays like the overture to a blood orgy, and the title track is unabashed blasphemy given free rein. In a world that doesn't seem to have any music to frighten parents with anymore, you'd be hard-pressed to get something better than Wreath of Barbs. JEF WITH ONE F

14. Angels of Liberty Black Madonna (self-released, 2011)

Easily the best modern goth act to break out recently, the Angels are the best parts of deathrock all rolled up into one. Sometimes goth feels like a dead-end genre because it's so focused on what's come before and not what's coming up, but just download the Black Madonna EP and you will see that there are still a lot of people out there with the blood thirst necessary to continue the scene. JEF WITH ONE F

13. Rasputina Cabin Fever (Instinct/Instinct, 2002)

Between Rasputina, Zoe Keating, and Emilie Autumn there's a really solid goth classical movement going on, but Melora and her brood do it the best. Cabin Fever has some of their greatest work, like the industrial classic "State Fair" and the softer sounds of "Sweet Water Kill." It's "Our Lies" that you'll be listening to on repeat for its trademark black humor and cabaret feel, though. JEF WITH ONE F

12. The Mission Carved In Sand (Mercury, 1990)

Here are a few things you'll find on Carved In Sand: A sinister father doing unspeakable things to his daughter ("Amelia"), "a singing dwarf on the streets of New York" ("Into the Blue"), enough angel/Arthurian/Victorian imagery to make two SyFy miniseries, and one ode to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Good grief, but still. A very good Echo & the Bunnymen album at a point when Ian McCulloch et al. had stopped making them, Carved In Sand has a warm, rich hothouse tone, sturdy acoustic-guitar/synthesizer foundation, and just enough Eastern flavoring ("Sea of Love") to make it feel a little exotic. And then once or twice ("Deliverance," "Hungry as the Hunter") it grows beyond that into something truly epic. When it's bad, it beggars belief, but when it's good, Carved In Sand is incredible. CHRIS GRAY

11. Virgin Prunes If I Die, I Die (Mute, 1982)

The members of the Virgin Prunes were all childhood friends of Bono who escaped dreary Dublin life with music and fantasy. The original lineup only crafted one album before the whole thing began to fall apart, but man what a great, freakin' album it was. More post-punk than actual goth, the record still rings with a primal emptiness. "Decline and Fall" alone is worth the buy for its pagan rhythms and black-mass atmosphere. JEF WITH ONE F

10. Rosetta Stone The Tyranny of Inaction (Cleopatra, 1995)

In 1995, Porl Young used a nice-sized record advance to purchase a multitrack digital recorder that changed Rosetta Stone's sound considerably more towards the industrial. That awesome guitar work is still there, though, and it really brings the pain on tunes like "One Angel." JEF WITH ONE F

9. The Damned Phantasmagoria (MCA/PolyGram, 1985)

The Damned is a band that is easy to forget was just completely freakin' genius. Phantasmagoria focused a lot on heavy, deep vocals that give it a devilish, crooning quality on tracks like "Shadow of Love." It's the comparatively bright "Is It a Dream" that really stands out because it's about as poppy as goth gets. JEF WITH ONE F

8. Bauhaus Mask (Beggar's Banquet, 1981)

Bauhaus answered the question of how they would follow "Bela Lugosi's Dead" with an album that is consistently baffling but nowhere near as funereal as that landmark goth single. Instead Bauhaus' fascination with roleplaying -- and, to a lesser extent, reggae and dub -- comes to the fore in a set of songs that can be catchy ("Kick In the Eye") or spooky ("The Man With the X-Ray Eyes"), but are seldom dull. You're on your own with the title track and the song that takes each member's name as the title, though. CHRIS GRAY

7. Joy Division Closer (Factory, 1980)

Even more than 30 years later, this is one grim listen. One might expect that from a record that starts with a song called "Atrocity Exhibition" that promises "see mass murder on a scale you've never seen." Next comes "Isolation," whose dramatic synth swells make it kinda the cheeriest song on here. In their campaign of unrelenting dread, Joy Division's nearly airless music has a dogged determination that acts as a kind of armor or insulation against the horrors Ian Curtis is describing. This music may last a thousand years. CHRIS GRAY

6. Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral (Interscope, 1994)

By leaving the question of who he hated more -- himself or everybody else -- as a toss-up, Trent Reznor made his masterpiece. Feral and damaged, but shockingly tender at times, The Downward Spiral uses every industrial/electronic weapon in Reznor's arsenal to tackle the themes of dehumanization, objectification and abuse of power. When he was done, even before Johnny Cash's autumnal version of "Hurt" took on a life of its own, he had made one of the most important records both of the '90s and in alternative-rock history. CHRIS GRAY

5. Christian Death Catastrophe Ballet (Cleopatra, 1984)

Only Theatre of Pain was a great album, don't get me wrong, but Catastrophe Ballet is where Rozz Williams stopped trying to be some kind of beat poet and showed that he really could do some awesome singing. He was also doing a lot of mushrooms and getting in Dada when he wrote it, so it's deliciously surreal. Warning, this album is basically a gothic aphrodisiac. Don't put it on if you don't want to knock boots. JEF WITH ONE F

4. Siouxsie & the Banshees Kaleidoscope (Geffen, 1980)

Like Closer, released the same year, the aptly named Kaleidoscope helped set goth apart as something different besides strictly post-punk rock, with the added benefit of being a lot more fun to listen to. Singles "Happy House" and "Christine" showed the Banshees' growing command of popcraft, but with plenty of darker nooks and crannies ("Tenant") and odd instrumental touches -- the clicking camera shutter of "Red Light," wheezing accordion of "Skin" -- to go along with it. Elegant and mysterious. CHRIS GRAY

3. The Cure Disintegration (Elektra, 1989)

Somehow the Cure managed to secrete two of their best pop songs (and biggest hits) into the forest of despondent keyboards and guitars that is Disintegration. But strangely enough, lengthier meditations like "Fascination Street" and "Pictures of You" are just as melodic and captivating as "Lovesong" and "Lullaby." Eventually Disintegration drifts off into, well, "The Same Deep Water as You" and songs that grow to seven, eight and even nine minutes, but before that happens, the Cure has already made a record of stunning beauty and haunting sadness. Stick around to the end and it gets sadder. CHRIS GRAY

2. Alien Sex Fiend Drive My Rocket (Cleopatra, 1994)

So much of Alien Sex Fiend's work came to us in singles that your best bet with them is a compilation album. There's simply no other way you'll get to have massive Numbers hits like "I Walk the Line" and "Now I'm Feeling Zombified" on one record. Drive my Rocket is one of the easier ones to find (In physical form), has the best mix of tunes, and gets its name from one of their greatest songs to boot. Sadly, it's not on iTunes, so if that's your preferred method, go with The Best of Alien Sex Fiend instead. JEF WITH ONE F

1. Sisters of Mercy First and Last and Always (Elektra, 1985)

How could it be anything else? Actually, both authors are partial to 1987 follow-up Floodland -- by which point everyone but Sisters mastermind Andrew Eldritch had split acrimoniously -- but First and Last and Always will not be denied. Eldritch begins with the befouled world of "Black Planet" and drives on from there, down a long and lonesome highway full of abandonment and despair ("Walk Away," "Marian"). Eldritch's foreboding baritone makes him sound like a prophet of doom throughout the album, but the true piece de resistance is closer "Some Kind of Stranger," which stretches past seven minutes of baroque, exquisite anguish that drips off lines like "I'd settle anytime for unknown footsteps in the hall outside." CHRIS GRAY

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