Gothic music, or Goth, in its final form we think of today, spiraled out of the insanity of punk-rock and the somber austerity of post-punk. The term came to prominence describing chilly, funereal performances from Siouxsie & The Banshees and the withdrawn catharsis of Joy Division. It was originally attached to doom 'n gloom rock 'n roll bands like The Doors and The Velvet Underground.

These four bands describe Goth's recombinant DNA - romantic turn-of-the-century literature, religious iconography, mythology, occultist, extreme sex, and avant-garde and transgressive art. Here is a music for End Times, embracing fin-de-siecle mystical hedonism and obscure art, all laced with thick, inky shadows and spiked with sandalwood incense.

Goth, Gothic, also describes an art movement and style, from the awe-inspiring flying spires of Gothic cathedrals and the florid elegance of Gothic typesets.

More so than perhaps any other musical style or movement, Goth is a style and an attitude. It transforms every day into the miraculous, via elegant design and high style. It is an echo of Gothic architecture's sublimity, trembling and shaking in the face of something much larger than yourself.

It's hard to say exactly what Goth is, especially here in the 21st Century. Compiling the Greatest Goth singles of all time was probably much simpler when its practitioners were all smeared with kohl black eyeliner, smelling of cloves and wearing black lace. These days, there's a Goth for everything. Mall Goth, Industrial Goth, Gothic Metal, Beach Goth - it just goes to show you don't have to wear all black to be depressed as hell.

Heaven knows we've got enough to be depressed about. Every day, it seems the principles we take for granted, on which our freedom is based - namely, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and that all people are created equal - are burning like witches at the stake. Yet Goth has never been about nihilism. Gothic culture tends to emerge during more religious cycles when the chaos and confusion of day-to-day living become too much to bear. There is an inherent hope in table-rapping seances and midnight picnics in graveyards. It's a sign of searching and seeking to understand.

Gothic culture, as a whole, understands how little we understand, and finds a peace in that. We go peering through the gloom, walking where Angels fear to tread, in search of real wisdom. All with a keen sense of style and wit. If we're dancing in the ashes, we might as well look like a million dollars.

So let us peer through the gloom and take a walk through the past, present, and future of Goth music. These are the Best Goth Songs of All Time picked by a few of today's new generation of goth influencers and artists.



“This is "Sad Bitch" by our Russian friends IC3PEAK .. It's just death on wheels basically. They just released a new album and we are touring with them in February along with Pictureplane. This is what you listen to as you speed away after burning an entire city to the ground.” - Jeremy and Ariel, MXMS 



“MXMS latest single “Gravedigger” is a dizzying high wire act. A sonic Ghost Rider if you will, living in a world between worlds.let’s taken a moment to appreciate how “Everyone wants pretty girls they say, no one knows pretty girl makes graves,” is both a tremendous The Smiths’ reference and a warning to future ill-suited lovers.” - Calvin Paradise, We Are: The Guard



“Aside from the obvious goth appeal about this song, like its shadowy music video, or the fact that it has lines like "playing dead and sweet submission," or how Siouxsie Sioux is generally the queen of darkness, it's just so strange and interesting and fun to listen to. No somber goth here. This song was released when I was a baby, but it still feels so fresh with all those string stabs and accordions and who knows what. Look, I'm not saying I won't do a cover of it at some point.” -  Lola Blanc.



“My pick would be Temple of Love by Sisters of Mercy, not very original, but still one of the best songs ever. Temple of Love may seem repetitive and the lyrics may be seen as "over-the-top" but it is so nicely crafted that it is just a pure hit. It makes you wanna dance while being full of despair at the same time! “- Gothic blogger Blood Is The New Black



“With poetic-lyrical nostalgia, 'Reckless Heart' pulls on the strings on the memory of unrequited love that soothes and warms my black little heart.” - @materialmemorie



If Elvira fronted a band; goth, camp, guitars, what else do you need. If you're not smudging black eye-liner while you're listening, you're doing it wrong. @materialmemoire



"The first track of Siouxie and the Banshees' marvelous album A Kiss in the Dreamhouse and moreover the first song I ever heard by the band. The mix of melancholia and colorfulness of the music made for instant love. I guess you can say that I was SPELLBOUND" - @CoalCandy



“The melancholia strikes again, but not for long.  For me, it is amazing how strongly music can affect the feelings of the listener, and for me, this song is a perfect example of this. The vibe of this song progressively changes and takes the listener through a vast range of feelings, from melancholia and dejection to power and hopefulness." -  @CoalCandy



“"The bats are in the belfry/The victims have been bled, bled, bled." If you're going to talk about Goth, you might as well start towards the beginning. Bauhaus' chilling funerary post-punk is still death rock, but dipped in romantic Horror imagery, like ball bearings wrapped in black velvet. Plus, a young Bauhaus perform "Bela Lugosi's Dead" in The Hunger, the dead sexiest vampire movie ever made, featuring a young David Bowie and Susan Sarandon.” - J Simpson



“In the wake of pastel goth, it's nearly impossible to say what is or isn't Goth. That being said, Lana Del Rey's pop-noir has always been shrouded in somber hues, reflecting on mortality and heartbreak with a slackened, drugged gaze. "Born To Die" is for beach goths staring out at an endless gray ocean, for Tumblrists writing existential quotes on their shoes, and for the post-club comedown.” - J Simpson

Like nearly everything in the 21st Century, there's no telling what goth will look or sound like in 10 years. Pastel goth and gothic Lolita proved that cute and creepy need not be exclusive. Beach goth took goth's black-clad miserablism to the ocean and got it high. Older, more traditional goth styles - death rock and post-punk, most notably - have been blowing up the last 10 years and show no signs of slowing. These traditional styles are being exported to far-flung corners of the globe, resulting in previously unimagined (perhaps unimaginable) combinations. What might Cambodian goth sound like? What about Chinese goth music? Can we get a gothic gamelan, please?

As we learn more and more about the world we're living in and the societies that make it up, the need for Gothic culture will only become more severe. We certainly realize the immensity of various systems we're up against. Whether we fall to our knees in surrender and awe, like the old gothic cathedral, or we go dancing in the ashes, like Paris in the 1890s, remains to be seen. At least we'll look fabulous and have great taste while it goes down.

For more dark sounds check out MXMS’s Funeral Pop playlist on Spotify.

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J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.