Goth – that dark, romantic, and elegant tradition of music – is a many-faceted genre that found its roots centuries ago in the Romantic era of classical music. It has given birth to a great number of related genres, like synthpop, gothic industrial, and goth rock. Here, we'll take a chronological look at the birth and evolution of goth music.
The Romantic Era
The Romantic era of music was filled with emotionality, as well as beautiful melodies, extensive experimentation with instruments, and intense lyrical content. Hallmarked by the symphonies of Berlioz and the lieder of Schubert, the Romantic era laid the foundation for musical traits that would later be explored by gothic artists. The Romantic era of music did not officially conclude until the early twentieth century.
American and British Rock
Skipping forward sixty or seventy years, the melancholy and emotion of the Romantic era had been extensively explored through various mediums, including literature and art. In the sixties, gothic rock bands – including, technically, The Doors – had begun to emerge, and American and British rock gave birth to a number of post-punk and gothic acts, including some of the best-known acts of the genre like Bauhaus, Siouxie and the Banshees, and The Cure. As the eighties emerged, goth was a thriving genre that a number of musicians plugged into, including David Bowie and Joy Division. Although this “golden age” of gothic music was perceived to be relatively short-lived in comparison with other musical genres, goth continued to evolve.
The Synthpop Era
As the nineties boomed, a number of synthpop bands – bands that used almost entirely electronic means of producing music to produce dark, emotional, and even spooky sounds – emerged. Covenant, VNV Nation, The Cruxshadows, and many others became some of the best-known faces of the gothic music movement, and in addition to some of their predecessors, these bands are still performing and producing into the twenty-first century. Synthpop became a dance floor standard in goth clubs around the world, with its driven beats and sonorous melodies creating an energetic – if sometimes sorrowful – mood.
Twenty-First Century Goth
As goth has continued to evolve, synthpop, industrial, darkwave, gothic industrial and even post-goth renewal has made the rounds, with different subscenes under the gothic umbrella creating a uniqe cultural exchange that few other genres of music have given birth to. In modern gothic clubs around the world, one can hear everything from the original parents of goth, like Siouxsie, to modern industrial and aggrotech bands like Centhron or darkwave standards like Blutengel and Assemblage 23. The goth movement has also influenced other genres lyrically and musically, like symphonic metal (Nightwish, Epica) and hellbilly rock (Rob Zombie).
The goth movement, rather than dying out, has continued to evolve and expand into a wide body of music that we can hear today – whether in the clubs or even on the radio. Even if Bela Lugosi is dead, goth definitely isn't – and its influence will be felt for a long time yet.