BY CHRIS GRAY AND JEF WITH ONE F
Even at this late stage of the game, "goth" is a loaded word. Years and years of bad emo bands in too much eyeliner and corsets on sale at Hot Topics coast to coast will do that.
Some even doubt the existence of goth as its own genre anymore, which seems strange considering the success of groups like the xx and Passion Pit -- though no doubt neither one would openly describe themselves as goth, they might be protesting a little too much -- and that pop culture is in the middle of an EDM mania that has at least something to do with all those people fiddling with synthesizers and drum machines a generation ago. Take a bow, Doktor Avalanche.
But goth is much more than that, so hard to pin down that, admittedly, sometimes it's been more of a flavoring than its own discrete style of music. But it's always there. So in this season of reaping, we decided to rank the Top 20 goth albums of all time. The order was assembled by Rocks Off's own esteemed Gothic Council, and we saw no reason to object to their choices. CHRIS GRAY
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)
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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)
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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
Come back for the Top 10 tomorrow, you ghouls.