In a discussion group on Facebook their was some debate on “what is Goth”? Some people applied very tight definitions requiring that one be a fan of “Goth music” (which is fine so far as it goes) but then very narrowly defines the Goth music itself. Others were more inclusive.
I fall into the latter category. As far as music goes Goth, Symphonic/Gothic metal, Dark wave, etc. It’s all good. I tend to be rather basic in my own adoption of Gothic style (although trying to make Viking Goth a thing) but can appreciate a wide variety of styles that fall within Goth. Literature, film, art what much the same. What brings it together is finding beauty in darkness and in its interplay with the light–kind of an emotional chiaroscuro.
So what, then, is Goth.
First, the there’s the basic of what, in general terms, is Goth and where did it come from?
Well, first there’s this video that provides a reasonable overview of the history.
The key things to me that make Goth are the dark themes, usually coupled with moody dissonant music. I’m not really very good at pinpointing musical “styles”; I just don’t have that discriminating an ear. You know the old “but I know what I like…” bit.
The thing is, even within the culture there is serious disagreement on what is and is not “Goth”. On the one hand, I had Souxie Soux and the Banshees recommended to me as a Goth band. And yet I saw Souxie in an interview swearing up and down that she wasn’t Goth. The Sisters of Mercy is another major Goth Rock band and yet I have seen their lead singer, Andrew Eldritch, make the “We’re not Goth” claim.
So I’m not too worried on whether some particular individual includes something or someone as “Goth” or not. I see myself as Goth, or at least around the edges of Goth culture. And while I don’t particularly care for Bauhaus (they’re okay, but not really more than that for my taste), the band that is generally considered to have “founded” Goth with their debut single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, I enjoy other groups like The Sisters of Mercey and The 69 Eyes. Mostly I follow Gothic Metal: Within Temptation, Nightwish, Xandria, Evanescence, and others.
Which brings up another issue. Some people seem to have a problem with any group attaining commercial and mainstream success. I’ve seen this before in other things that have a cult following. There is a certain segment that being part of a small, “select” group is as important as the thing itself. I have seen this with musicians who, after years with a small but loyal following (emphasis on “small”), they produce a “breakout hit.” It’s not particularly different from their previous work but for some reason it strikes a chord and people, lots of people, buy and listen to it. The old time fans? Are they happy that what they loved is now appreciated by many more? Nope. The new cry is “selling out” and “it’s just pop now.” And they go looking for something else to swoon over.
Dark themes, melodic vocals, and skilled use of dissonance (it must be skilled–used well it adds mood and tension; used poorly it’s just noise), those are what make up what I think of as “Goth” music. If other people like it, that’s great. If they don’t? Well, I like what I like and they are more than welcome to like what they do.
So, here’s some Music to close with
Sisters of Mercy, Marian (fan video it looks like):
And Evanescence, Breath No More (another fan video):