Every single year there is a recurring problem. We get a truckload of promo’s and press releases in our mailbox and we can’t give all of those and others the attention they deserve. So this time around we’re doing something new in which we take a look still at some of the releases we missed out on covering earlier and would hope you don’t miss out either. In this article we’ve gathered some of the best and most interesting Gothic-tinged metal and rock releases the year of 2020 brought us.
Draconian – Under A Godless Veil
(30/10 – Napalm Records)
While perhaps not the most innovative of bands, the Swedish doomsters of Draconian have always consistently put out great records within the realm of gothic doom death. Even the loss of their original singer has not swayed their devotion to their trade. Therefore, ‘Under a Godless Veil’, the second outing with new vocalist Heike Langhans, has proven to be an excellent exercise in sweet melancholy.
Sinisthra – The Broad and Beaten Way
(15/5 – Rockshots Records)
15 years after the release of the debut full-length by the Finnish Gothic act Sinisthra, they are finally back with the sophomore effort. Featuring some illustrious names from the Finnish metal scene, like Tomi Joutsen from Amorphis, the outfit produces intricate and soothing dark music and aren’t offering anything less on this album. It’s great to hear Tomi‘s clean singing voice on yet another release, seeing how much passion and emotion that dude can put into it. And while the tracks can be seemingly a bit too long, repetitive and winding at times, if you can put in the patience to sit down, put on some headphones, close your eyes and let you be taken away by the absolutely gorgeous music, you’re in for quite the trip.
Nachtblut – Vanitas
(2/10 – Napalm Records)
Nachtblut is one of those Gothic/black metal-tinged bands somewhat similar in sound as bands like Cradle of Filth for instance. Somehow these guys have flown mostly under my radar besides the occasional passing by of the band’s name. But with ‘Vanitas’ they really stepped it up quite a bit and managed to catch my attention properly. While overall, the tracks have that similar dark and Goth sound throughout, but there is a surprising wide diversity to be found. Going from more industrial on ‘Schmerz & Leid‘ featuring Chris Harms from Lord of the Lost to a stronger black metal sound on ‘Meine Grausamkeit Kennt Keine Grenzen’ or even an almost folk metal track with ‘Leierkinder’, it’s really refreshing to hear that many different styles. Add to that the album being built around the “Vanitas” art concept which shows the transience of life, futility of pleasure and certainty of death and you get an impressive dark piece of music.
Ascension of the Watchers – Apocrypha
(9/10 – Dissonance Productions)
Ever since I heard the first music, 15 years back, of Burton C. Bell‘s new project after some troubles in Fear Factory, I fell in love with Ascension of the Watchers. The quality of the music combined with Bell‘s very distinct clean vocals made their first release back then a very captivating and atmospheric adventure. In 2020 he and his co-conspirator John Bechdel, freshly joined by Jayce Lewis, released the sophomore full-length and yet again it was a work of beautiful darkness. Gothic rock a la Killing Joke with an atmospheric and proggy nature reminiscent of Deftones with massive melodies. If these guys manage to hammer down their craft even more solidly on future releases, this project will become a big player.
The Medea Project – Sisyphus
(20/3 – independent)
Probably the heaviest of the bunch here, and the most intriguing to me personally. Stemming from the tiny and close-knit DIY alternative scene of South Africa, you can somehow hear in The Medea Project‘s music that they’re different than most bands out there. Pauline Silver and Brett Minnie have molded doom/sludge metal with a Gothic aesthetic and atmosphere into a steaming, all-devouring, sluggish dark tribal monster. While not everything works perfectly on this record, the variety of elements added to their tracks, the massive track ‘The Ghosts of St. Augustine’ and single ‘To Know Us Is To Fear Us’, with the added lines in Afrikaans, are more than enough to make us interested in what this independent outfit still holds in the future!
Then Comes Silence – Machine
(13/3 – Oblivion)
A couple of years back we caught the Swedish post-punk/Gothic rock outfit Then Comes Silence at a show in Helsinki, not knowing much about them and leaving as a fan (read the report here). So when a brand new full-length hit the shelves in 2020, we were pretty excited. And with ‘Machine‘ they pretty much solidified to us how great these guys are. There is not a single track on the album that doesn’t hold up strong and it’s definitely hard to pick out favorites. It’s literally all you’d want from a classic post-punk or Gothic rock sounding band, while not sounding outdated for a moment. If our hands would be forced, we’d have to pick ‘Ritual‘ as the one that stands out even more than the rest, just for its high dance-factor and the addition of guest vocals by Karolina Engdahl (True Moon) that offer a perfect counter to Alex Svenson‘s deep voice. A truly solid release that we can’t get enough of!
Inno – The Rain Under
(28/2 – Time To Kill Records)
From Italy comes another interesting debut that bolsters some dark themes that have some Gothic inclinations. Inno is a brand new band compiled out of experienced musicians from bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse, Stormlord, Hour of Penance and Novembre. Their debut full-length ‘The Rain Under‘ promises us a sound akin to outfits like Katatonia and The Gathering, and to be honest, those references are not just for show. While at times the music seems a bit too dense or overworked, most of the songs are really captivating and well-written. Elisabetta Marchetti‘s voice often reaches the same pleasing range from former The Gathering vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen and the dark tones of the music that back those up create that doomy Gothic atmosphere you’re looking for. There are acoustic bits, piano and other elements that add to the atmosphere, while at the same time Cristiano Trionfera delivers on some crunchy riffs that are a strong centerpiece in the music. And added to that the sometimes atypical rhythms from the rhythm section bring in the more progressive nature of the band. All in all, a lovely and emotional debut album that promises a great future for these talented musicians.
Bleakheart – Dream Griever
(23/10 – Sailor Records)
I’ve heard of (and am a big fan of) blackgaze where they mix the cold and relentless nature of black metal with a captivating shoegaze wall of sound. Apparently doomgaze is now a thing as well and BleakHeart‘s debut full-length ‘Dream Griever’ gave us a gorgeous example of what that is supposed to sound like. This is not music that’ll get you all pumped up and ready to go, but will take you on a soft and smooth trip towards a dark and vulnerable yet soothing realm of calmness and contemplation. A very atmospheric and ambient style of Gothic-tinged doom flows your way and the mix of gorgeously crafted music with keyboards, acoustic parts and tempered heavy bits with almost ethereal vocals is absolutely excellent. All this beauty on a debut release tells me there might be a lot of magic coming our way still from this quartet and I’m all ready for it, this is one to watch!