Dark wave

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For the 1956 documentary film, see The Dark Wave.

Dark wave or darkwave is a music genre that began in the late 1970s, coinciding with the popularity of new wave and post-punk. Building on those basic principles,[1] dark wave added dark, introspective lyrics and an undertone of sorrow for some bands. In the 1980s, a subculture developed alongside dark wave music, whose members were called "wavers"[2][3] or "dark wavers".[4][5]



The term was coined in Europe in the 1980s to describe a dark and melancholy variant of new wave and post-punk music, such as gothic rock and dark synthpop, and was first applied to musicians such as Bauhaus,[6] Joy Division,[7][8][9] The Sisters of Mercy, Cocteau Twins, The Cure,[8][10] Siouxsie and the Banshees,[8] and The Chameleons.[8]

The movement spread internationally, spawning such developments as French coldwave. Coldwave described groups such as KaS Product,[11] Martin Dupont, Asylum Party, Norma Loy, Pavillon 7B, Résistance, Clair Obscur, Opera Multi Steel, Museum of Devotion, The Breath of Life, and Trisomie 21. Subsequently, different dark wave genres merged and influenced each other, e.g. electronic new wave music (also called "electro wave" in Germany) with gothic rock, or used elements of ambient and post-industrial music. Attrition,[12] In The Nursery and Pink Industry (UK), Clan of Xymox (Netherlands), Mittageisen (Switzerland), [13] Parálisis Permanente and Los Monaguillosh (Spain), Die Form (France), and Psyche (Canada) played this music in the 1980s. German dark wave groups of the 1980s were associated with the Neue Deutsche Welle, and included Asmodi Bizarr, II. Invasion, Unlimited Systems, Mask For, Moloko †, Maerchenbraut[14] and Xmal Deutschland.


After the new wave and post-punk movements faded in the mid-1980s, dark wave was renewed as an underground movement by German bands such as Girls Under Glass, Deine Lakaien,[14][15] Love Is Colder Than Death, early Love Like Blood,[16] and Diary of Dreams,[17] as well as Project Pitchfork along with its offshoot Aurora Sutra,[14] and Wolfsheim.[18] The Italians The Frozen Autumn, Ataraxia, and Nadezhda,[19] the South African band The Awakening and the French Corpus Delicti, also practiced the style. All of these bands followed a path based on the new wave and post-punk movements of the 1980s. At the same time, a number of German artists, including Das Ich,[14][17] Relatives Menschsein and Lacrimosa, developed a more theatrical style, interspersed with German poetic and metaphorical lyrics, called Neue Deutsche Todeskunst (New German Death Art). Other bands, such as Silke Bischoff, In My Rosary and Engelsstaub mingled dark synthpop or goth rock with elements of the neofolk or neoclassical genres.[17]

After 1993, in the United States, the term dark wave (as the one-word variant 'darkwave') became associated with the Projekt Records label, because it was the name of their printed catalog, and was used to market German artists like Project Pitchfork in the U.S. Projekt features bands such as Lycia, Black Tape for a Blue Girl and Love Spirals Downwards, most of these characterized by ethereal female vocals.[20] This style took cues from 1980s bands, like Cocteau Twins. This music is often referred to as ethereal dark wave.[21] The label has also had a long association with Attrition, who appeared on the label's earliest compilations. Another American label in this vein was Tess Records, which featured This Ascension and Faith and the Muse.[22] Clan of Xymox, who had returned to their 1980s sound, following almost a decade as the more synthpop Xymox, also signed to Tess in 1997.

Joshua Gunn, a professor of communication studies at Louisiana University, described American dark wave as

The 2000s and 'wave'-divergence[edit]

A number of other U.S. bands mixed elements of dark wave and ethereal wave with later developments in electronic music.[citation needed] Love Spirals Downwards, Collide, Deleyaman and Switchblade Symphony incorporated trip-hop. In the 2000s, many artists in the genre displayed wave-atypical influences. Abney Park (which began as a darkwave/goth rock band), synthesised worldbeat elements and gravitated to a more exotic/anachronistic sound, underpinning their evolving steampunk trajectory. Bella Morte (whose initial darkwave output was more akin to electropop), incorporated deathrock/heavy metal elements. Meanwhile, The Crüxshadows combined contemporary EDM elements in their relatively synthrock-oriented music.[citation needed]

Throughout the mid/late-2000s, especially in the U.S., darkwave was largely associated with The Crüxshadows and their then-Dancing Ferret labelmates (1998–2009), including: ThouShaltNot, Ego Likeness and The Last Dance – all of whom similarly displayed wave-disparities. Also, somewhat ambiguously, a 'darkwave' designation was (and remains), occasionally used to describe darkly-themed synthrock artists that, while not necessarily related in musical style or stylistic origins to established darkwave acts, employ a gothesque commercial image and/or lyrics: The Birthday Massacre, for example, is a band that is a well-known appropriator of the term.[citation needed] The term was also used erroneously in the television show The IT Crowd to refer to the nu-metal band Cradle of Filth, possibly as an in-joke.

Darkwave in the 2010s[edit]

Thereafter, in the late 2000s and early 2010s, a number of darkwave, darksynth and dark electronic bands and artists from outside of the goth music scene (with which darkwave as a genre is typically identified) have also emerged, including Cold Cave, Trust (Canadian band), Light Asylum, Night Sins, Gatekeeper, and Zola Jesus. However, these bands and artists are more commonly associated with the hipster subculture and with indie music, in spite of their dark musical style and lyrical content. There is currently a debate concerning whether these artists are part of the darkwave genre, as their sound includes distinct new wave influences, but differs from traditional conceptions of darkwave. This debate is, in large part, because these artists do not typically actively associate themselves with the pre-existing darkwave scene, as well as because these artists tend to garner substantially more attention from the mainstream music press than most previous darkwave acts. In general, these artists' sound is relatively close to 1980s-era synthpop as well as early 2010s-era minimal wave, or, in the case of Zola Jesus, to shoegaze. These artists have sometimes been termed darkwave revival acts, though this is controversial, especially among long-time darkwave fans: darkwave did not at any point cease to exist as a genre, which the idea of a revival would imply, and several well-established darkwave acts have continued to perform and record music well into the early 2010s. A few new acts did emerge from the pre-existing Darkwave scene, however, such as Seeming, fronted by Alex Reed from ThouShaltNot. While not denying his darkwave roots, Alex Reed has termed the new recording act post-goth. In addition to these debates over contemporary darkwave music, there is also an existing debate over whether witch house can be considered related to darkwave in style or intent. There has existed some blurring between the two genres, as with the band Aaimon, whose work draws on both witch house and darkwave influence.


Mercer, Mick. Hex Files: The Goth Bible. New York: The Overlook Press, 1997.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arvid Dittmann · Artificial Tribes · Jugendliche Stammeskulturen in Deutschland · Page 139 · 2001 · ISBN 3-933773-11-3
  2. ^ Klaus Farin · Die Gothics · Interview with Eric Burton from the German music group Catastrophe Ballet · Page 60 · 2001 · ISBN 3-933773-09-1
  3. ^ Peter Matzke / Tobias Seeliger · Gothic! · Interview with Bruno Kramm from the German music group Das Ich · Page 217 · 2000 · ISBN 3-89602-332-2
  4. ^ Glasnost Wave-Magazin · Heft-Nr. 21 · Interview with the music group Girls Under Glass · Page 8 · May 1990
  5. ^ Glasnost Wave-Magazin · Heft-Nr. 31 · Review for an album of the music group Calling Dead Red Roses · Page 34 · January/February 1992
  6. ^ Peter Matzke / Tobias Seeliger · Das Gothic- und Dark-Wave-Lexikon · Page 39 · 2002 · ISBN 3-89602-277-6
  7. ^ New Life Soundmagazine · Issue No. 38 · Description of the single "Love Will Tear Us Apart“ · Page 10 · November 1988
  8. ^ a b c d Kirsten Wallraff · Die Gothics · Musik und Tanz · Page 47 · 2001 · ISBN 3-933773-09-1
  9. ^ Peter Jandreus, The Encyclopedia of Swedish Punk 1977-1987, Stockholm: Premium Publishing, 2008, p. 11.
  10. ^ Ingo Weidenkaff · Jugendkulturen in Thüringen · Die Gothics · Page 41 · 1999 · ISBN 3-933773-25-3
  11. ^ Mick Mercer, Gothic Rock, Los Angeles: Cleopatra Records, p. 112.
  12. ^ "Composing noises". Sorted magAZine. 1999. 
  13. ^ Donnacha DeLong (1999). "Sordid Reviews February 1999". Sorted magAZine. 
  14. ^ a b c d Kilpatrick, Nancy. The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2004, ISBN 0-312-30696-2, p. 85.
  15. ^ "Deine Lakaien – “From new wave followers to dark wave icons” - interview at SIDE-LINE". Side-line.com. 2005-07-07. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  16. ^ Glasnost Wave-Magazin · Issue No. 23 · Interview with the German music group Love Like Blood · Page 13 · September 1990
  17. ^ a b c Mercer, p. 34-46.
  18. ^ Theo Kavadias. "Spectators - Wolfsheim | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  19. ^ Mercer, p. 55-61
  20. ^ Mercer, p. 136-144.
  21. ^ Glasnost Wave-Magazin · Issue No. 42 · Description of the bands Trance to the Sun, This Ascension and others · Pages 32/34 · Germany · April 1994
  22. ^ a b Kilpatrick, Nancy. The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2004, ISBN 0-312-30696-2, p. 90.

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