What’s up with Goth-Metal?!
By Wil Forbis
April 1, 2002
(Let me start this out by admitting that my knowledge of Goth music is quite limited, so if I offend any of you pale faced Trenchcoat Mafiosos, just fly back to your cave and hang upside for 24 hours and everything should be all right.)
For reasons that escape me, I picked a copy of the Saigon Kick album, “Saigon Kick” recently. Perhaps it was because the cassette was selling for a quarter, or perhaps it stirred some dim memories of my yearlong stay in Hollywood (1990-91, Saigon Kick were probably experiencing their heyday around then.) Whatever the case, I laid down my two bits and returned, trophy in hand to my apartment. Upon playing the audio chronicle, I was somewhat surprised. I expected the music to be straight ahead hard rock of the AC/DC, Shotgun Messiah variety, (with perhaps less of a blues influence) and for the most part that’s what “Saigon Kick” is. However, one cannot help but detect another flavor floating around in the mix. It is true that Saigon Kick seemed to empathize darkness in their appearance, black hair, black leather, but it was a vague allusion to the sounds of The Church in their music, or even Dead Can Dance, that finally illuminated it for me: Saigon Kick were essentially a cross-genre group, combining elements of both eighties era Goth (The Church, Cure etc…) with the darker sides of eighties metal (Priest, Maiden, Post-Ozzy Sabbath)
“Hah!” I chuckled to myself. How ironic that two sub groups whom hated each other (batcavers and metalhedz) would create such offspring. Robert Smith must have been rolling over in his coffin and Ozzy Osbourne was probably choking on his daily bat head. I smirked at the irony.
However, at that point my 50 year old conspiracy theorist landlady took the time to enter my apartment and say, “Actually, Mr. Forbis, quite a few musical acts have successfully merged elements of gothic rock and heavy metal. The Cult, Gene Love Jezebel, Christian Death and even Faster PussyCat have successfully combined elements of both genres. Your sarcasm is unfounded and your rent is due!”
“Woman!” I fumed. “I pay you quite handsomely to insure that these sorts of intrusions do not occur. When your sexual services are required you shall be summoned!”
She was right of course. Every genre of music has at some point formed a collaboration with its nemesis. Obviously both metal and Goth have a certain love with death and emotional decay. It would be only natural that they would team up on both superficial (Faster Pussycat’s “we’re Goth to the point of dying our hair black”) and more substantial levels (Saigon Kick employed a great deal of angst ridden lyrics next to their Yngview solos.)
And who can forget the Cult. In my sophomore year of high school, the Cult were, as you say in America, “the shit.” We’re talking around the "Electric" album here, "Love Removal Machine," "Wild Flower" and all that. So popular they, that with my burgeoning interest in music I was forced to play two Cult songs just to be included in the local high school bands. At first I was reticent, preferring Devo and AC/DC, but eventually the songs grew on me.
The Cult’s rock side was easy to see. Most of their songs were watered down Bad Company riffs, sans keyboards, with a little more of a “Clash” fervor. And their Goth side was apparent in their themes of death and tribal imagery. Singer Ian Astbury was apparently fascinated by themes of Native American spiritualism. (Where have we heard that before? Cough… Jim Morrison… cough.) The band had started out with the darker sounding moniker, “The Southern Death Cult,” before wisely deciding that it sounded gay and switching to the more memorable “The Cult.” Even their name carried familiar Goth themes: control, mindlessness, evil. When the late eighties metal craze hit (Guns and Roses, Whitesnake, "Decline of Civilization pt. II") the Cult were more than admirably positioned to switch over to a more “rockin” style of music and open for Metallica. (However the greatest transformation of mid eighties alternative to hard rock was carried out by Gene Love Jezebel with their infinitely catchy single “Jealous.”
If I was to search out a point of intersection between Goth Rock and Hard Rock, it would not be hard to locate it: The dark one himself, Jim Morrison. (Indeed, the Cult’s Astbury was often accused of being a third rate Morrison without the Door’s lyricist’s gift for poetry (A gift, I might add, I’ve always found of dubious quality.)) Though I’ve never been a great Doors fan, I can’t deny the obvious impact he had on modern rock, leaving his scent on performers as varied as the Cure’s Robert Smith and G’n’R’s Axl Rose.
But what does it matter now. Both genres have had their heyday. 80’s style Metal has fallen to the grave, while most Goth artists can only be seen in VH1’s various “Where are they now” shows. It’s not like their influence can’t be felt today though, perhaps the most successful offspring of the Rock, Goth intercourse would be the preeminent symbol of evil today: Marilyn Manson. Combining one cup Goth, 2 cups Dark Metal and a teaspoon of Satan, MM seems to have captured the hearts of today’s youth.
Ahh, but who can understand the kids of today with their rap music and bi-sexuality. I’ll take a good Cult concert any day.
What do you think? Leave your comments on the Guestbook! Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
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