Thursday, 9 December 2010

Styles of Goth fashion: Deathrocker

Deathrock, like cyber, is one of the subgenres of Goth that combines both a fashion style and a specific type of dark alternative music.

Source: Tumblr
Deathrock, both as a fashion and music genre, has been described as the American counterpart to the British Goth and punk scenes, and the 'missing link' between Goth and punk. As a music subgenre, it's a combination of punk rock, Gothic rock and post-punk with the occasional twist of glam-rock, heavy on horror elements and dripping in extra-spooky, B-movie cliches, with a clear influence from the horror-themed rock'n'roll acts of the 50s, such as Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages.

It is interesting that deathrock nowadays fits under the Goth umbrella, as it emerged independently, beginning in America in the late 1970s, around the same time as those big four post-punk acts started to emerge in the UK. It was originally an offshoot of the punk scene combined with the Los Angeles hardcore music scene, and was first thought of as simply a darker take on punk, rather than a new genre of its own.

When the famous and influential Batcave club opened in London in 1983, internationally renowned as the world's first Goth club and 'home' of the Goth scene, the two main bands that debuted and performed there - namely Specimen and Alien Sex Fiend - were set apart from the rest of the post-punk scene in England by their strongly horror-influenced sound, the first recogniseable instance of deathrock beginning to emerge in the UK. Wikipedia says that, with the opening of the Batcave, and with UK bands such as Christian Death and The Gun Club starting to tour America, "the European Gothic rock scene and the American deathrock scene were now able to directly influence one another."

By 1984, when the UK scene (the Batcave bands, and fresh blood such as The Sisters of Mercy and The March Violets) had banded together under the label 'Gothic rock', the merger began when American deathrock band Kommunity FK toured with English Goth band Sex Gang Children, and for a while the terms 'Goth' and 'deathrock' were used interchangeably.

Nowadays, again like cyber, deathrock is both a subgenre of Goth and a genre in its own right, able to thrive within the Goth scene and still hold its own, subgenre-specific clubs and events (such as the Drop Dead Festival in New York).

Visually (after all, this was supposed to be a fashion post, not a lesson in music history...), deathrock incorporates some key elements from punk and trad Goth, such as ripped and patched clothing, badges and safety-pins galore, shredded tights, and big, big hair. Accessories are generally piled on by the dozen - layers of belts, chokers and chains, fishnet gloves and spiked wristbands. Clothing is generally as distressed as possible, sometimes even dusty or dirty - aiming for a 'just crawled out of the grave, and still ready to rock, ya bastards!' appearance.

Make-up is usually dramatic, often with strong horror influences - cheeks can be given a 'hollow' appearance with black or purple eyeshadow, and outfits may even be splattered with fake blood (although it takes a certain je ne sais quoi to pull this off). Deathrock can often be one of the more colourful Goth looks - bright colours, sometimes clashing combinations such as green and pink or green and purple, are used to accent all the black - and the same can hold true for make-up.

Stereotypically, deathrockers enjoy old horror movies - the cheesier and gorier, the better - and have a black, ironic sense of humour. The spooky, gory, horror-inspired side of deathrock fashion and music may seem shocking or offensive to the mainstream, but in the scene it's often regarded as playful or somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
Source: Tumblr
Deathrock bands? Other than the aforementioned, you can find your friendly neighbourhood deathrocker 'grabbing the bat' whilst listening to Tragic Black, Cinema Strange, 45 Grave, The Cemetery Girlz, Scarlet's Remains, Radio Werewolf, Samhain, Gargoyle Sox, The Naked and the Dead, Burning Image, Eat Your Make-Up, Deadchovsky, Corpus Delicti, Miguel and the Living Dead, and Antiworld.


Thorn said...

Love the peyot (sidelocks) on those deathrockers! And here I thought I couldn't create auniquely Jewish/Gothic look. These deathies have given me new hope!

Hmm...of course, you are aware that radio werewolf was perhaps the first openly antisemitic band in the underground right? It was their leader who later went on to head the church of Satan (yet another one of our mal-appropriated figures) and was the first to successfully blend LaVeyan philosophy with Nazism. "Radio Werewolf" was, of course, a WW2 german radio station.

Wonder if the deathies that listen to them realize that. If not...well, Lashon HaRa and all that.

Anonymous said...

I've been getting more into deathrock music lately, listening to bands such as Cinema Strange, Eat Your Makeup, Specimen, and a trying out 13 Bats, Acid Bats, and Strange Doll Cult. This is some wonderfully dark music! I miss your sub-subculture posts. Do you think you could make a post regarding Goth bands that have lyrics in different languages (i.e. Spanish, German, Japanese, French, Italian, etc.) That would be awesome!

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