5 Dark Scene Bands to Watch

The goth and industrial scene is wide ranging and ever evolving. Though there will always be the big-name headliners and standbys that we have grown to love, sometimes it is good to branch out a little.

Almost all of the following bands have made their way through the Twin Cities recently; one is local, and the last is a side project of two well-known musicians. While they may not all be right for your particular taste, you may find one that does or discover something you’d never even considered. They are in no particular order, and each of the artists interviewed were asked essentially the same questions, but in a few cases the conversation went beyond the main topics and brought an extra depth of feeling and context to their music. This list is my own—please continue the conversation in the comments and let us know who your favorite band to watch is!

Autumn

Autumn is one of those bands that doesn’t adhere to a specific genre—it transforms itself for the listener in a way rarely heard. For some it is goth rock, for others electro, light industrial, or even just general rock. Vocalist Julie Plante feels the goth-rock label is limiting and may discourage some fans. Regardless of how you label the group, it is not only a suburb studio band spanning more than 20 years but also an amazingly talented live act.

Autumn is based out of the Twin Cities, and I was recently able to speak with Plante. Her bandmates, Neil McKay and Jeff Leyda, started the group right out of high school, and after several attempts to find just the right singer, they put out an ad looking for one. Plante had been going to music school for her talent as a pianist but began having panic attacks that affected her ability to do juried performances, which resulted in her withdrawing. Years later she was struggling with mental illness, longing for music as an outlet, and she and a friend saw the ad that Neil and Jeff had put out. She grabbed it but didn’t think about it again until later on at a party, when her friend reminded her of it and dared her to call them. She called, auditioned, and became the voice of Autumn in 1995.

Julie Plante, Jeff Leyda, and Neil McKay. Courtesy of Autumn

The band’s first album was released through Test Records in 1996, produced by William Faith of Christian Death as well as Faith and the Muse. Autumn toured extensively and developed a strong fan base, especially here in the Twin Cities, where they played frequently at Ground Zero and Hard Mondays. Their second album came together in 2001, but by that point Plante admits they were “coming apart at the seams, and I was unwell and there was a lot of fighting and tension.” They decided to break up in 2008, playing a final show at Ground Zero with Faith and the Muse, and went their own ways. From there they all “got through our own shit individually and then as friends,” and now Plante and Leyda are a couple. The three started playing again and working together, and after a 10-year hiatus they created their recent album, Chandelier, on Sett Records and have been touring to promote it. Plante finds that it is easier now to sing songs that were written during difficult periods and gets so much joy in learning that there are fans from Autumn’s original days that still love them and make a point to come and see them now, as well as meeting new fans all over the country. They are hoping to make a tour to Europe happen and they are already working on songs for another album.

You can find all of Autumn’s music on Bandcamp.

for all the emptiness

Based out of Toronto, Ontario, for all the emptiness (the lack of capitalization is intentional) started in 2010 as a project by Jonathan Kaplan. It’s a dark electroindustrial band offering a lyrical catalog that “responds to anti-reason,” themes of atheism, the plague of corruption, and the rise of fascism; Kaplan provides a soundtrack to the feelings of anger against oppressors and does so with a distinct vocal tracking that rises above the music. For some it seems as though the vocals are too prominent, but that is intentional—a single voice calling out against something can be powerful, even if it’s set against a dark electro beat. Having previously reviewed the project’s first album, Axioms (2011), for ebm-radio.com, I first met Kaplan after seeing for all the emptiness live in 2012 where he was on tour with Deviant UK (whose tour keyboardist is also on this list) and Carved Souls hitting up the Triple Rock (RIP). I recently had the chance to speak with him again following his tour stop at the Red Sea supporting Cyanotic, Kanga, and Amelia Arsenic.

Courtesy of Jonathan Kaplan

Kaplan says the idea for the band was “always there. I always wanted to do music and had lots of ideas all through high school and after, so around 2010 I just decided I’m going to do a CD and I don’t care. I was looking for people to work with and ended up working with Yone Dudas of Decoded Feedback.” However, he notes that the thing that truly pushed him to create was seeing a video of Apoptygma Berserk playing live in which the singer, Stephan Groth, noticed two guys fighting in the crowd and he yelled out, “Hey that’s not what this is all about!” Groth later on went into the crowd, talked to the guys, and got them to hug it out, finally yelling out, “This is what it’s all about!”

Kaplan gauges his successes simply: “I just want to go play a city and have just one person show up to see me. That makes me happy.” His second album, Second Order, was released in 2012, and after that he spent time doing EPs and remixes and prepping his third and most recent album, Circus of Gods. On top of all of that, he recently worked with Claus Larsen of Leaether Strip and a number of other bands to create a compilation album called Heaerts Combine, whose proceeds funded Claus’s husband’s medical bills.

All of for all the emptiness’s music can be found on Bandcamp as well as the Hearts Combine album.

Voicecoil

Voicecoil identifies as alternative electronic and was born as a side project in 2012 when artist Mark Sousa decided he wanted to do “a project all by myself—all the production, all the mixing, all the writing, as an exercise in songwriting.” Shortly after, a friend suggested he start shopping for record labels; he was subsequently picked up by Juggernaut Records in the UK and put out his first album, Awakened, in 2014. Despite being a solo act, Sousa is joined by Patrick Hogan of Hexheart and Noel Johannes when touring; as Sousa puts it, being on tour is “the most fun you’ll have being really, really uncomfortable.” Prior to Voicecoil, he worked with a number of different bands in a variety of capacities, including playing keyboards for the above-mentioned Deviant UK when they toured the US in 2012. Voicecoil’s most recent album, Inertial Fault, was released in 2016. Touring extensively through the United States and Canada as well as around the United Kingdom has provided some fantastic opportunities to explore and experience the world.

Voicecoil performing at the Red Sea Bar. Vanessa Feilan

What can be challenging, however, is that Sousa has a visual impairment, which can create certain pitfalls when touring and creating digital music. He uses a number of accessibility features on his computers in order to make sure the music he creates comes out the way he wants it, and he has a wonderful crew that works with him to figure out stage perimeters, using reflective tape and strategically placed lights and monitors to make sure he “doesn’t fall off the damn stage,” as he puts it. Sousa is happy with his success, limited as it can be in this genre, and has no delusions about what he wants out of Voicecoil: “I just want to keep doing it and to play with bucket-list bands, of which I’ve played with all but one now.” He is very positive and attributes a lot of his success to pushing himself to “always move forward.” He is currently working on a third album, which should be released in spring 2019. He leaves me with these parting thoughts: “Go to shows, buy the music, and the only way this music gets financed is by purchasing . . . [T]he music scene and industry has changed drastically and rapidly . . . it is really important to support people that you like. Don’t say ‘I’ll catch them next time,’ because there might not be a next time. Many people don’t realize how close to the edge artists live.”

You can find Voicecoil’s music and some merchandise on Bandcamp and the Voicecoil website.

Lorelei Dreaming

Lorelei Dreaming (Laura Bienz) hails out of Chicago and offers up a dark electronic dance vibe with bits of noise and industrial thrown in for extra flair. Her debut album, Banshee, which she produced with Angelspit’s Zoog, not only is a beautifully done studio record but has a sound that translates to the live stage with her presence and authenticity. She is utterly delightful and happy to chat and meet with her fans between sets, which is a crucial element in cultivating fans in this genre. Lorelei had spent years working on other musical projects before setting out with her own, and there are elements of both her first band, St. Griselda—“what we called emotional electronic”—and her time with Angelspit in her current work. Banshee could be categorized as future pop, but she feels dystopian future pop is more accurate. She notes she has really enjoyed touring; among the places she’s played, she was surprised by how impressive Salt Lake City is, with its close mountains and modern cityscape all together.

Lorelei Dreaming at the Red Sea Bar. Vanessa Feilan

Lorelai finds her successes in being able to “inspire someone else to do music, or inspire them in their art and lives in general,” and she would love to see more women and minorities on stage. Mostly, though, it’s just helping fans have an awesome night out and building a connection with the audience. She is already working on her next record but is currently unsure whether it will be a full album or two EPs. There will also be a release of her first music video for “Parachute of Gold” coming out soon. She hopes to continue expanding her audience and get out and tour more. “Most of the songs will continue to aim for the dance floor, but not all of them,” she says. “Sometimes the music takes us in unexpected directions.”

“It is easy to feel overwhelmed and alone right now. But dance and music has created and held together communities in the past, and it will now too. We strive to create safe places for freaks and geeks to celebrate and be celebrated, whether through our music or the events we produce locally [in Chicago] though our community production company, Carnivorous Garden.”

Lorelei Dreaming’s debut album can be found on Bandcamp.

Helix

Helix is probably the best known of all of the bands listed here simply because it is a side project of two already well-known artists: Tom Shear of Assemblage 23 and Mari Kattmann of Day Twelve and Mari and the Ghost. According to Kattman, the two met in 2012 when she contacted Shear about mixing a track for Day Twelve. “Later Tom reached out to me to put vocals on a track he was working on for iVardensphere called Society of Dogs. After many years of talking and working on various collaborations together we decided to try a project of our own.” That resulted in their recent debut album, Twin.

Mari Kattman and Tom Shear

Courtesy of Helix

Helix certainly offers a certain amount of future pop and even some classic synthpop sound along with Kattman’s beautiful and clear voice, which would be just as at home in a goth-rock band. Shear says, “When we started this, the idea was to just sort of do whatever we wanted and see how the project would take shape . . . I think that despite the fact that there are a lot of different styles represented here, it still sounds cohesive and unified. One thing I didn’t want to do was simply to create Assemblage 23 with a female vocalist, because what would be the point?”

For Kattman, music is “something that I have been compelled to do since I was young; it’s like a pestering feeling that I must always try and create something new.” As for Shear, he notes, “Mari and I created something together that we’re both really proud of and happy with. Anything beyond that is just gravy.” Although you can hear similarities between Helix and their previous works, it comes together in an entirely new and unique way that is stunning to hear and impeccably put together. The duo would be amazing to see live, and they will be announcing tour dates soon. They are also currently working on a “mystery cover” that will be coming out with the Twin remix album later this year. Both are looking forward to seeing where Helix goes in the future and hope it takes them “everywhere.” Tom sends his thanks to “everyone who has supported the album so far. I hope more people will check us out and like what they hear!”

You can find the new Helix album on Bandcamp and on Assemblage 23’s website.


So, did you find something new to enjoy? If not, what bands should people know about? Let us know in the comments!

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