Dark wave

For the 1956 documentary film, see The Dark Wave.

Dark wave or darkwave is a musical term used for dark, usually gothic rock-influenced music that incorporates synthesizers, or elements of new wave and synthpop, although the term is also applied to post-punk bands that produce a dark atmosphere. The label began to appear in the late 1970s in German music media, coinciding with the popularity of new wave and post-punk. Building on those basic principles,[1] dark wave is used to describe dark, introspective lyrics and an undertone of sorrow for some bands. In the 1980s, a subculture developed primarily in Europe alongside dark wave music, whose members were called "wavers"[2][3] or "dark wavers".[4][5]



The term was coined in Germany in the 1980s to describe a dark and melancholy variant of new wave and post-punk music, such as gothic rock and synthwave (i.e. electronic new wave music), and was first applied to musicians such as Bauhaus,[6] Joy Division,[7][8][9] The Sisters of Mercy, Tears for Fears, Cocteau Twins, The Cure,[8][10] Siouxsie and the Banshees,[8] The Chameleons,[8] Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, and Anne Clark.[11]

The movement spread internationally, spawning such developments as French coldwave. Coldwave described groups such as KaS Product,[12] 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. synthwave (also referred to as "electro-wave" in Germany) with gothic rock, or used elements of post-industrial music. Attrition,[13] In The Nursery, Party Day[14] and Pink Industry (UK), Clan of Xymox (Netherlands), Mittageisen (Switzerland),[15] 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[16] and Xmal Deutschland. In the United States, Eleven Pond were the most prominent darkwave act, releasing just one album, Bas Relief, in 1986.[17]


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,[16][18] Love Is Colder Than Death, early Love Like Blood,[19] and Diary of Dreams,[20] as well as Project Pitchfork along with its offshoot Aurora Sutra,[16] and Wolfsheim.[21] The Italians The Frozen Autumn, Kirlian Camera, Ataraxia, and Nadezhda,[22] 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,[16][20] 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 synthwave or goth rock with elements of the neofolk or neoclassical genres.[20]

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 female vocals.[23] This style took cues from 1980s bands like Cocteau Twins. 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.[24] Clan of Xymox, who had returned to their 1980s sound, following almost a decade as the more dance-pop Xymox, also signed to Tess in 1997.

Joshua Gunn, a professor of communication studies at Louisiana University, described the U.S. type of dark wave music as

an expansion of the rather limited gothic repertoire into electronica and, in a way, the US answer to the 'ethereal' subgenre that developed in Europe (e.g. Dead Can Dance). Anchored by Sam Rosenthal's now New York-based label Projekt, dark wave music is less rock and more roll, supporting bands who tend to emphasize folk songcraft, hushed vocals, ambient experimentation, and synthesized sounds more akin to the brief 'shoegaze' movement in alternative rock than the punk styles of early gothic music. [...] Projekt bands like Love Spirals Downward and Lycia are the most popular of this subgenre.[24]

The 2000s and 'wave'-divergence

Faith & The Muse (Monica Richards and Marzia Rangel of Christ vs. Warhol and Scarlet's Remains)

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many artists in the genre displayed wave-atypical influences, especially electronic dance and downtempo music. Acts such as Love Spirals Downwards, Collide, Deleyaman and Switchblade Symphony incorporated trip hop and drum & bass rhythms. Abney Park (which began as a dark wave/goth rock band), synthesized worldbeat elements and gravitated to a more exotic/anachronistic sound, underpinning their evolving steampunk trajectory. Bella Morte (whose initial dark wave output was more akin to electropop), incorporated deathrock/heavy metal elements, while Faith & The Muse combined dark wave with shoegazing.

Meanwhile, The Crüxshadows, who had begun in the 1990s as a synthrock-oriented dark new wave group, added elements of techno/trance and dance pop to their electronic rock-oriented music. Throughout the mid/late-2000s, especially in the U.S., the term 'dark wave' was frequently associated with the band and their Dancing Ferret labelmates (1998–2009), including ThouShaltNot, Ego Likeness and The Last Dance.

Darkwave in the 2010s

More recent darkwave acts have included dark electronic artists such as Cold Cave[25] and TR/ST, who, while not actively associated with earlier darkwave artists, actively combine electronic music with dark aesthetics and themes. Others, such as Seeming (fronted by ThouShaltNot's Alex Reed), represent a direct evolution and continuation of earlier trends in darkwave music. Additionally, the decade also saw a revival of an early, post-punk infused dark wave sound embodied by artists such as Light Asylum and Drab Majesty. Melanie Martinez's debut album Cry Baby saw her rise to prominence in 2015 and is an example of dark wave music in the alternative genre.


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

See also


  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. 1 2 3 4 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. Isabella van Elferen: Nostalgia Or Perversion?, p.127, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, August 2007, ISBN 184718247X
  12. Mick Mercer, Gothic Rock, Los Angeles: Cleopatra Records, p. 112.
  13. "Composing noises". Sorted magAZine. 1999.
  14. "Playlist 2003, Shadow Play Radio".
  15. Donnacha DeLong (1999). "Sordid Reviews February 1999". Sorted magAZine.
  16. 1 2 3 4 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.
  17. "Eleven Pond - Angular Recording Corporation".
  18. "Deine Lakaien – "From new wave followers to dark wave icons" – interview at SIDE-LINE". Side-line.com. 7 July 2005. Retrieved 2014-03-08.
  19. Glasnost Wave-Magazin · Issue No. 23 · Interview with the German music group Love Like Blood · Page 13 · September 1990
  20. 1 2 3 Mercer, p. 34-46.
  21. Theo Kavadias. "Spectators – Wolfsheim | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-03-08.
  22. Mercer, p. 55-61
  23. Mercer, p. 136-144.
  24. 1 2 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.
  25. "Cold Cave's "Nausea, the Earth and Me" Is a Darkwave Banger".

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