History of Gothic Metal
Gothic metal or goth metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal music that combines the aggression of doom metal with the dark melancholy of . The music of gothic metal is diverse with bands known to adopt the gothic approach to different styles of heavy metal music. The genre originated during the early 1990s in Europe originally as an outgrowth of doom/death, a fusion of death metal and doom metal. Lyrics are generally melodramatic and mournful with inspiration from gothic fiction as well as personal experiences.
Common themes are religion, mythology, horror, pain, hopeless love and death. Traditionally the genre is closely related to the vampirism and nihilism movements but only on the surface. The dress is similar to the traditional movement featuring dark clothes and makeup and religious symbols but as always there are notable exceptions. Goths are not as many believe linked to violence but are actually pacifists by and large. The music is dark and looming for with complex elements of progressive and heavy metal and hard roughshod guitars from the thrash and doom genre with introspective and thoughtful lyrics which draw from many musical and non musical genres combined in the tradition of gothic rock music.
Pioneers of gothic metal include Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema, all from the north of England. Other pioneers from the first half of the 1990s include Type O Negative from the United States, Tiamat from Sweden, and The Gathering from the Netherlands. Norwegian band Theatre of Tragedy developed the “beauty and the beast” aesthetic of combining aggressive male vocals with clean female vocals, a contrast that has since been adopted by many gothic metal groups. During the mid-1990s, Moonspell, Theatres des Vampires and Cradle of Filth brought the gothic approach to black metal. By the end of the decade, a symphonic metal variant of gothic metal had been developed by Tristania and Within Temptation .
The music of gothic metal is generally characterised by its dark atmospheres. The adjective “dark” is commonly used to describe gothic music in general while other terms that are less frequently used include deep, depressing, romantic, passionate and intense. Gothic metal has also been described as “a combination of the darkness and melancholy of goth rock with heavy metal”.All music defines the genre as a fusion of “the bleak, icy atmospherics of goth rock with the loud guitars and aggression of heavy metal” and further notes that “true goth metal is always directly influenced by goth rock – ethereal synths and spooky textures are just as important as guitar riffs, if not moreso”. Gothic metal is a varied genre with bands pursuing many different directions, from “slow and crushing variations” to “orchestral and bombastic”.
There is also a diverse range of vocal styles in gothic metal. Male singers in the genre range from the guttural growls and black metal shrieks of Dani Filth and Morten Veland to the clean counter-tenor vocals of Østen Bergøy and the bass range of Peter Steele. For the female singers, the different vocal styles includes the screams and growls of Cadaveria, the “poppy” vocals of Tanja Lainio from Lullacry and the operatic soprano style of Vibeke Stene from Tristania. There are more female singers in gothic metal than there are in any other heavy metal subgenres but female vocals are neither necessary nor synonymous with the genre. Liv Kristine of Theatre of Tragedy and Leaves’ Eyes notes that the gothic tag is often misinterpreted and points out that “not every band with female vocals is a gothic band”. The genre is also known to attract more female fans relative to other subgenres of heavy metal music.
The lyrics of gothic metal are known to be “epic and melodramatic”. For the three English bands that helped to pioneer the genre, their sorrowful and depressive lyrics reflect their background in doom metal. The music of My Dying Bride has been noted as “dripping with treachery and pain” from a “lyrical fascination with deceit and transgressions of every variety”. Lyrics that focus on suicide and the meaninglessness of life can be found in Anathema while Paradise Lost too has “never lost their depressive edge”.
Gothic fiction, a literary genre that blends and romance, has been a source of inspiration for the lyrics of many gothic metal bands like Cadaveria, Cradle of Filth, Moonspell, Theatres des Vampires, Xandria Critic Eduardo Rivadavia of All music identifies drama and mournful beauty as requisite elements of the genre. For My Dying Bride, the subjects of “death and misery and lost love and romance” has been approached repeatedly from different angles.The common gothic theme of lost love is a subject that has been tackled by such gothic metal bands as Theatre of Tragedy and Leaves’ Eyes.
Lyrics based on personal experiences is another common feature of many gothic metal bands such as Anathema,Elis,Tiamat Midnattsol and The Old Dead Tree. Graveworm moved away from fantasy stories in favor of personal lyrics after finding them more suitable for their style of music. The lyrics of fellow Italians Lacuna Coil also do not feature any “fantasy stuff or something that you cannot find in reality” as their co-vocalist Cristina Scabbia finds it desirable that people can relate themselves to her band’s lyrics. Similarly, the band Lullacry features lyrics on the subjects of “love, hate, passion and pain” because a person “can easily connect to a song” with lyrics “about human relationships”.