The term “Southern Gothic” usually refers to a genre of literature that to paraphrase Wikipedia, “uses the macabre, and ironic events to explore the values of the American South.” William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams are two of the best known authors in this style. However, the term as I am going to write about it here will refer to bands in the southern United States making gothic music, hence “Southern Gothic Music.”
What is “Gothic Music?” (Goth for short.) Goth evolved out of a combination of post-punk rock and “glam rock” (popularized by Garry Glitter, T-Rex, and even David Bowie.) Goth rock or “death rock” as it is sometimes called, in its “original” form, usually has the following characteritics:
The band is usually a standard bass, drums, guitar, and singer outfit. The vocals are sung solo and usually sung in low baritone for males, and alto for females. If the vocals do go higher, they typically “soar” for dramatic effect and to create dynamic tension or release during the song. Effects on the guitar, like delay, chourus, and reverb are applied liberally to create atmosphere. The guitar often does not star in the meat of the song as it does in many other styles. The bass is not overly complicated, but does carry the rhythm while also being the rock solid bottom of the song. The drums are also not overly complicated and you won’t hear any mega-fills or raging cymbals in most gothic music.
Over the years, other styles of music and variations on the theme have evolved from these basic elements. Some styles get grouped together with goth because many fans of goth music are also fans of the other more broadly termed, “darkwave” genres. Among them is industrial, so you will often see and hear the term “goth/industrial.”
Musically, industrial is somewhat the polar opposite of goth. Being largely machine-driven and with the heavy use of sequencing, sometimes one person can “be” an entire band! It features heavy, driving dance grooves, and liberal use of noise samples as instrumentation. While notable 90′s acts, Nine Inch Nails, Gravity Kills, and Machines of Loving Grace, sang their vocals, modern “underground” industrial artists often use heavily effected vocals that are more chanted than sung.
What does this have to do with the south? Glad you asked! There are bands in the southern United States that play these styles of music and you might find them at a festival or venue near you! You can get a good cross-section of the genre spectrum by checking out each of the following bands:
Ending the Vicious Cycle, Sapphire Rebellion, Prognosis, and SINthetik Messiah. You can get a free song (actually two) from Sapphire Rebellion by entering your name and email in that box at the top right of this page and clicking “Send My Track.” You might find it’s something new that suites you. So there you have it, the south’s contribution to goth/industrial music! Or, Southern Gothic Music!