Emphasis on the dirty. Dallas has quietly been cranking out quite a few gothic rock, deathrock, and dark postpunk bands in the past few years. This is a guide to a few — BUT NOT ALL — of them, and it’s why Dallas might just be the sleeper capital of traditional gothic rock not just in Texas, but in the larger US southwest region.
A few caveats: The following list is by no means exhaustive. It’s meant as more of a starting point for your own discoveries. I’m always interested in things I have overlooked; email me.
Lastly, a qualification of terms: By “gothic rock,” I mean gothic rock rooted in the traditional guitar-driven, human-on-a-drum-kit, punk-was-our-foundation style of gothic rock, and not post-1990s dark dance club music that calls itself “EBM” and “industrial” and which many people confusingly also call “goth” these days. There are very divergent trends in the 30+ years that saw the birth of bands like UK Decay and Sisters of Mercy, with some acts since the 1990s using dark imagery to accompany slick dance music mainly meant for djs to play in clubs to pack the dance floor (Faderhead, et al), versus others exploring and rediscovering the actual punk/postpunk roots of the genre (Night Sins, Crimson Scarlet, Belgrado, Lost Tribe).
With that caveat out of the way, here are some –but not all — of the best current North Texas goth bands:
1) GARDEN OF MARY
As of this writing, Dallas’ Garden of Mary have a cassette-only release, The Agony in Memory, on Funeral Party Records. (Note that Funeral Party Records is not related to the Funeral Party goth/postpunk event that used to occur in Dallas at the Beauty Bar and at The Church.) Ryan’s vocals are downright narcotic, and Noah’s bass pins the music down — gives it its anchor — in true trad gothic rock style, a la the Sisters of Mercy. There are elements of dreamy shoegaze and hallucinatory 80s UK dark underground stuff at play in the mix, too.
As this blog post goes to, uhm, “press,” Garden of Mary will play their first show at my friends’ event, Mutant Wave, on Wednesday, September 21st. They will also play when Soft Kill return to Dallas in December, at a Wardance event. Look out for this band in the future.
2) AZTEC DEATH
This Dallas three-piece plays a clean but somber style of early Factory Records-inspired music that is refreshing and crisp. Singer Chris Ortega’s vocals are up front and center – unlike many current darker bands that tend to bury their vocals beneath waves of dark sludge – and are clearly enunciated. (You can understand them without a lyric sheet.) And, yes, while there is a hint of the almighty Ian Curtis in the vocal delivery, the band’s overall darker tones also recall the deeper spectrum of the original postpunk explosion – namely, oft-overlooked pioneering bands like Positive Noise and early The Opposition, or Glorious Din from San Francisco. But Aztec Death also cite influences from the shoegaze genre.
Aztec Death have been playing out a lot in Dallas — some promoters might say too much — but they are worth catching if you haven’t seen them yet. They win p(o)ints with me by featuring more smoke than a Cheech and Chong movie, and more atmosphere than a Maya Deren film. One of my personal favorite band in Texas. Or anywhere. They blew folks away that caught them at the recent San La Muerte III dark punk fest down in San Antonio in August. Check out their Facebook page.