bahaus8. Bauhaus – In the Flat Field (1980)

In trying to convey the dark majesty of goth to a novice in 10 minutes or less, a person could do far worse than just putting the debut single from Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” on the stereo and leaning back to let the agitated guitar, prowling rhythm and narcoleptic horror host vocals do the job. When the band released full-length In the Flat Field about a year later, it ratified everything their first track (and the singles in between) promised. Produced by the band themselves since they insisted they were the only ones who truly understood how the album should sound, their debut is a collection of sharp, intensely focused elements that draws on the raw insurgency of punk but tugs it into a miasma of spooky wonders. It’s pressing out against the world, daring it to pass judgment and reveling in an arch, angry subculture that it’s creating, seemingly from scratch. – Dan Seeger

black-tape-remnants17. Black Tape for a Blue Girl – Remnants of a Deeper Purity (1996)

Of all the albums on this list, none are more fragile or beautiful than Black Tape for a Blue Girl’s Remnants of a Deeper Purity. Fronted by Sam Rosenthal, the record is home to a host of long, challenging songs, including 26 minute centerpiece “For You Will Burn Your Wings upon the Sun.” Blending synths with Vicki Richards’ violin and Mera Roberts’ cello, Rosenthal has created something more than rock music. If ethereal had a sound, Remnants would be it. Featuring Oscar Herrera and Lucian Casselman on vocals, these nine songs are goth to the core: they are darkly beautiful, aching and melancholy. By the time album closer “I Have No More Answers” comes to an end, you feel that Rosenthal has taken you on a journey, floating you through a realm of shadowy sadness and an electronic atmosphere that stretches out forever. – David Harris

mortal-coil-remnants16. This Mortal Coil – It’ll End in Tears (1984)

Give credit to 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell for this brilliant idea: construct a supergroup comprised of various members of his label’s roster of talent and give their trademark dark and dreamy sound to a few cover songs and collaborative originals. The project, known as This Mortal Coil, would put out three full-lengths amongst a number of other releases, but the first, It’ll End in Tears, is the standard by which the rest are judged. If songs by Big Star and Tim Buckley don’t exactly strike you as obvious picks for any eyeliner-traced teenager’s mixtape, it only serves to underscore the success of the project. Alex Chilton’s “Kangaroo” and “Holocaust” are given all the respect those emotional heavyweights deserve, but with arrangements that play to the strengths of the label. Meanwhile, the rendition of Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” here played by Robin Guthrie and Liz Fraser (in a rare intelligible vocal performance), threatens to become the standard, much as the younger Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” now eclipses even the original. Elsewhere, the album drifts through a collection of ethereal originals, perfect for ending a night at the Batcave alone in bed. – Peter A. Pompa

som-first-last-always15. The Sisters of Mercy – First and Last and Always (1985)

The Sisters of Mercy’s first album First and Last and Always includes classic goth favorites heard in nightclubs (bat caves?) around the world, such as “Black Planet,” “Marian” and “Walk Away.” It is exemplary of a solid goth rock album. Andrew Eldritch’s deep, baritone vocals are dark and vampiric.

“Black Planet” slowly plods along and features super-dark gothic lyrics “Run around in the radiation/ Run around in the acid rain.” The bass line in “Marian” moves you across the smoke-filled dance floor: the deepest rumble of lyrics creep above this wonderful, driving bass. Acoustic guitars add texture, and in the pre-chorus it seems that a mandolin is used as fairy dust to make the song that much prettier. When the key changes in the chorus, the cape comes off and you’re enveloped in rich, horrific darkness. “Walk Away” employs Arab-scale guitars with grey, wolf-like howling vocals. It drives you through the Carpathians in the back of a horse-drawn carriage. SOM is vampire rock, and it’s goth as all get out. The band employs stacks of instruments to build harmonics and melody. This allows the music to both breathe and be alluring. The lyrics are simple and can generally be sung along to, making SOM that much more club-friendly and anthem-like. Because, what’s better than a song that a Goth can sing and dance to? Not much. – Cedric Justice

clan-of-xymox24. Clan of Xymox – Clan of Xymox (1985)

Clan of Xymox’s self-titled debut pioneered the darkwave movement, setting the tone for a new genre of music. Xymox leverages the organic textures of acoustic guitars, intersperses synthetic and abstract sound effects and textures, foregoes acoustic drums in lieu of a drum machine and uses synthetic orchestral sounds to give this music a solid grounding in the ethereal/classical overtones of goth music. Even those of us who aren’t huge fans of electronic music can appreciate the synthetic orchestra over melodic and wandering bass and the silky-smooth voice of Ronny Moorings. The difference between goth and darkwave, though? Darkwave is easy to dance to. And Goths love to dance!

Of note, this is produced by 4AD co-founder (and This Mortal Coil’s inventor) Ivo Watts-Russell. 4AD is a record label laden with experimental and ethereal goth. The 4AD label produced Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and even the Pixies.

John Fryer engineered and remixed some songs; Fryer is famous for numerous bands in the genre, including Fields of the Nephilim, Cocteau Twins, Peter Murphy (of Bauhaus), Love and Rockets and This Mortal Coil. His resume is a litany of darker music and much of what Goths would enjoy. – Cedric Justice

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46 Comments

  1. Dan

    March 23, 2013 at 3:25 am

    it’s a nice general list, maybe it should have been larger or just left to albums that aren’t as obvious to those who might never have listened to a certain scene, subgenre, or band? with certain bands left out this could have been a nice list for those who don’t know to learn from, i can think of lots more that bridged the gap to other genres.

    Reply

  2. Gerry

    March 23, 2013 at 10:22 am

    No Play Dead? No Fields? No Red Lorry? Sorry, this is the Rolling Stones “greatest hits” goth list. Essential albums surely, but blisteringly and painfully obvious. Two SOM mentions, really?

    Kudos to the well-written descriptions all the same.

    Reply

  3. Daemon

    March 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    where are the fields of the nephilim?
    where is the nephilim? :/

    Reply

  4. Jeweliette

    March 23, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    …would have been interesting to see who else would have made it to the list if you’d kept to just one album per artist…

    Reply

  5. Muldfeld

    March 23, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    No offense to the people who put together the list, but I’m so sick of people thinking Joy Division is better than The Cure. There’s no way “Closer” beats those other two Cure albums. The best of Interpol is better than Joy Division, too!

    Reply

    • Alex

      September 29, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Too bad you can’t handle the truth. Joy Division’s ‘Closer’ is a monumental work that the Cure never matched. Deal with it. JD created a new sound that was theirs. The Cure never really did that. Nor did they have lyrics like Curtis came up with.

      Reply

      • Monkedelic

        February 19, 2016 at 1:57 am

        So whose sound, exactly, were The Cure copping on Pornography? Or Disintegration? Or on any of their albums for that matter? The Cure actually created SEVERAL sounds that are all distinctly their own. And you’re right, Robert Smith didn’t write lyrics like the ones Ian Curtis wrote- because he’s not Ian Curtis. They both wrote some incredibly dark and introspective lyrics, but Robert Smith survived his tormented youth to move past his nihilistic, hellish outlook that made Pornography one of the darkest albums ever recorded. I get that you like Joy Division better than The Cure- but that’s just like your opinion, man. Nothing more. Or can’t you handle the truth?

        Reply

      • Dean

        July 23, 2016 at 2:06 pm

        agreed Robert Smith will never match what Ian Curtis did in his short span

        Reply

      • Anonymous

        April 13, 2020 at 7:04 am

        yes

        Reply

    • Anonymous

      November 12, 2017 at 10:02 am

      Interpol, more like interBLOW!

      Reply

    • billy

      November 14, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      “The Eternal” beats, like, everything i’ve ever heard from The Cure. by anywhere from a decent margin, to, like, a fucking ton.

      Reply

  6. Betelgeuse

    March 24, 2013 at 4:58 am

    Una classifica dei migliori album gothic che non contenga i Fields of the Nephilim non vale nulla.

    Reply

  7. Lisa

    March 24, 2013 at 9:58 am

    this perhaps would be a nice introduction to those who are new to the goth scene, but it’s not comprehensive enough for the rest of us. i think christian death deserved more than an “honorable mention” and there are loads of other bands that should have been included. i very much agree with Jeweliette that it should have been limited to one album per artist.

    Reply

  8. Nemo

    December 4, 2013 at 1:34 am

    this staff doesn’t know goth music (sigh)

    Reply

  9. Chipmonkadidooda

    January 29, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Oh dear, how disappointed was I by this list. I know these lists are emotive, but there’s so much missing here it’s unreal…Fields of the Nephilim, Siouxsie & The Banshees – Peepshow, The Damned – Phantasmagoria (The best gothic album ever BTW), The Mission, The Jesus & Mary Chain – Darklands or Psycho Candy. I could go on…Hmm oh dear!

    Reply

    • Liverevil

      June 18, 2018 at 1:29 pm

      I don’t think the Jesus and Mary Chain are really goth…but then again neither is JD.

      Reply

  10. Alex

    September 29, 2015 at 10:22 am

    :Leaving off ‘Only Theater of Pain’ is just ridiculous. It’s better than the likes of at least 60% of this list.

    Reply

    • John

      July 23, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      Yes 🙂 Totally agree 😉

      Reply

  11. Harley

    October 1, 2015 at 10:39 am

    This list is bullocks. “Floodland”?? And why are the Cure on there twice? Medusa is a clearly superior album over the self titled Clan of Xymox. There is 0 love for Deathrock here as well and although it’s arguably not pure Gothic Rock, neither are the Post-Punk albums on this list. All together this is more of a favorites list than a well groomed best of.

    Reply

  12. IM

    October 19, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Type o Negative??? How can no one bring this band up??? Or are we are only talking avant garde sounds and noises that sound like a horror movie. I’ve yet to hear a better goth album than October Rust or World Coming Down.

    Reply

    • Porpoise

      June 18, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      It’s because they suck.

      Reply

    • Porpoise

      June 18, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      It’s because they suck. And they’re more metal.

      Reply

    • Blixa Skorieko

      February 4, 2020 at 10:25 am

      I disagree that Type o Negative is remotely goth. My apologies and with all due respect, but I chortle when people classify Type o Negative or Manson in the goth category. Its just not. Sorry not sorry.

      Reply

  13. jenny

    January 13, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I agree that Type o Negative must be included in this list, but I have to say that the album “Paris Kill” from the 69 eyes must be included too. Maybe the 69 eyes are not a goth band but that album, I mean “Paris Kill”, has some elements that we can consider as a gothic sound. Another bands that must be included are: the cult, theatre of tragedy, tristania.

    Reply

    • jenny

      January 13, 2016 at 10:02 am

      the mission, the frozen autumn and fields of the nephilim are also good goth bands. As you can see, I don’t listen gothic music as much as metal music but I like some bands of that kind of music.

      Reply

  14. Monkedelic

    February 19, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Judging by the comments, the goth crowd is almost unanimously unhappy with your list. Congratulations. Looks like you nailed it!

    Reply

  15. Bill

    July 23, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    No Christian Death or 45 Grave?

    Reply

  16. exit.shadows

    July 23, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    What of the March Violets?

    Reply

  17. maIek

    July 23, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    cmon!!!! wheres garlands cocteaw twins? viva … xmal deutchland ?

    Reply

  18. John

    July 23, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    The Cure is NOT Goth.

    Reply

    • Kevin

      May 9, 2017 at 1:42 am

      I would say they certainly were on Faith. If they weren’t, nobody is.

      Reply

  19. Daniel

    July 23, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    NIN – Pretty Hate Machine / Downword Spiral
    Suspiria – Dancefloor Tragedy
    Leather Strip – Solitary Confinment
    Tones On Tail – Pop
    Love & Rockets – Earth Sun Moon
    March Violets – Electric Shades
    Skinny Puppy – Back and Forth
    Die Form – Vicious Circle

    Reply

  20. Carljules

    November 24, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Siouxsie and The Banshees, last of the your list: you must be kidding, poor writers without no culture. Siouxsie and the Banshees are cited by PJ Harvey, Tricky, Massive Attack, Jeff Buckley. Poor dilettante, get a culture

    Reply

  21. Gloria J

    January 30, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    I just want to say The sisters of mercy shouldn´t have been included in this list because they are NOT a goth band. I do hate when people think they make that kind of music. I don’t like goth music because is so boring and it has a dead sound, but some of the bands which I listen are considered as a goth bands…. christian death? type o negative? the sisters of mercy? really?? Clearly, you don’t know about rock music, so you think a rock band which has a cold sound must be goth.

    Reply

    • Porpoise

      June 18, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      The Sisters of Mercy are one of the most famous goth bands ever. They helped define the movement. Sure, they resisted being labelled as goth, but pretty much every goth band has. Christian Death is considered a goth/deathrock band. In fact, they defined the word “deathrock.”
      Type O Negative just sucks in general, so its not important how their defined. What goth rock have you been listening to?

      Reply

  22. cp

    February 16, 2017 at 8:19 am

    LOVE that so many people hate this list…. almost the sole reason to make one! Of course, there are going to be albums not listed on any given day, but who cares. You’ve got the platform, go ahead and make lists to your black heart’s content.

    Nice little shout out to John Fryer, though. John and Blackwing Studios were really a part of so many seminal goth / new wave / etc albums back in the day. He even put out a few of his own (the recent moniker DarkDriveClinic being one that comes to mind) that aren’t bad.

    Reply

  23. Kevin

    May 9, 2017 at 1:40 am

    Nobody every mentions the 1st 4 albums of Public Image, Ltd – but they frayed the emotions and grimaced many a face in those days. Monumental work.

    Reply

  24. Punkoid

    July 4, 2017 at 3:05 am

    The Cure above the Sisters of Mercy, yeah right. The most important Goth albums from the first wave (early to mid 80s) were First and Last and Always and the Cults Love, I know they morphed into hard rock/metal with Electric but believe me Love was a bonafide classic goth album when it came out, I was there. This list isn’t complete without one Mission and one Fields of the Nephilim album on it.

    Reply

  25. Mark

    July 5, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Great list. Thanks. Mine is fairly similar.

    Reply

  26. Anonymouse

    June 18, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    I’m sick of people romanticizing Joy Division because of Ian Curtis’ suicide. It not only sends the wrong message to suicidal wanna-be musicians, it also doesn’t meaningfully improve the music.

    Reply

    • Jon Reade

      December 23, 2019 at 2:53 pm

      Agreed, personally I don’t think they were that good and would have been an unnoticed footnote in the annuls of definitely-not-goth-history had he not topped himself. I’d praise New Order first any time – at least what they wrote was catchy even if it was dance/pop.

      Reply

  27. Andi Gordon

    December 28, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Wtf…1 list of best goth albums without FIELDS OF THE NEPHiLIM?This must be a joke.

    Reply

  28. Lonny

    September 29, 2019 at 8:43 am

    2 Cure albums in the top three? This is by far the most accurate list I’ve ever scene

    Reply

  29. Jon Reade

    December 23, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    One word.
    Useless.
    WHAT A JOKE.
    Scott Walker ? You missed out Kylie and Jason too.
    Good grief, kudos for two Sisters albums on there, but remember FALAA was only made good by Wayne Hussey’s guitar work and songwriting (someone else was coked to the tits for the entire album), which blossomed in The Mission to surpass anything he did with the Sisters. Yet no Mission. No Fields of the Nephilim.
    As John McEnroe would say, You CANNOT be serious.
    Yet two Cure albums, who were always only ever on the fringe and only goth by looks, and Joy Division, who I still defy anyone to convince me are, were or ever will be goth. NO. Post punk? Yes. But NOT goth.
    Please go out and educate yourself before espousing this inaccurate drivel.

    Reply

  30. Lonny Schwiersch

    January 26, 2020 at 1:52 am

    I’m honestly just happy you put the cure in the top 3 although I highly disagree that closer is better than pornography

    Reply

  31. Blixa Skorieko

    February 4, 2020 at 10:49 am

    THIS WILL ALWAYS BE A SUBJECTIVE TOPIC! 😛
    MY personal TOP 11 LIST in no particular order
    The Cure: PORNOGRAPHY
    Christian Death: Catastrophe Ballet
    Sisters of Mercy First Last Always
    Death in June: Symbols Shatter
    Bauhaus: In the Flat Fields
    Xymox: Medusa
    Xmal: Tocsin
    Sex Gang Children: Song and Legend
    Siouxsie And The Banshees:Nocturne
    Die Form: Suspiria de profundis
    Skinny Puppy: Vivisect Vi

    Reply

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