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When Grunge hit the mainstream in the early 90’s, it took over the alternative music genre. So much so that Goth groups, which had crossed over into the worlds of college rock and alternative that gained them airplay on college radio and MTV’s ‘120 Minutes’ fell out of favor.
But the genre refused to die, instead gaining sustenance and longevity in the shadows and surviving thanks to rabid followers who stuck by their genre of choice, current tastes be damned.
With that in mind, let’s look at several groups who took up the mantle in the 90’s.
By combining gothic textures with doom metal riffs, Type O Negative forged a unique sound that appealed to metalheads, Goths and alternative music lovers.
Featuring the guttural vocals of imposing frontman Peter Steele, the group mixed ominous content with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, showing the influence of Goth heavyweights like Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy and Joy Division.
Sadly, despite brief popularity (thanks to hits like ‘Christian Woman’ and ‘Black. No.1’) Type O Negative’s momentum would stall due to Steele’s drug abuse: he tragically died of heart failure in 2010.
Essential Albums: ‘Bloody Kisses’ (1993), ‘October Rust’ (1996), ‘World Coming Down’ (1999)
Essential Songs: Christian Woman (1993), Black No.1 (1993), Cinnamon Girl (1993), My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend (1996), Love You To Death (1996), Everyone I Love Is Dead (1999).
This San Francisco based group forged a unique mix of traditional Goth with elements of Trip-Hop, techno, neo-classical and progressive rock thanks to the inventive minds of composer Susan Wallace and vocalist Tina Root.
Their grand, cinematic sound set them apart for their minimalistic peers, with resulting in brooding anthems like ‘Clown’, ‘Dissolve’ and ‘Wrecking Yard.’ As oft is the case with groundbreakers, Switchblade Symphony was more of an obscurity than a massive success and they called it a day in 1999.
Essential Albums: ‘Serpentine Gallery’ (1995), ‘Scrapbook’ (1997), ‘The Three Calamities’ (1999)
Essential Tracks: ‘Clown’ (1995), ‘Drool’ (, ‘Dissolve’ (1995), ‘Wrecking Yard’ (1995), ‘Gutter Glitter’ (1995), ‘Wallflower’ (1995).
This British collective rose into the Goth subculture in the mid-80’s thanks to exposure from established groups like The Mission UK who they opened for early in their career.
Combining traditional Goth atmospherics with electronic and alternative elements they gained a small but loyal following thanks to hypnotic tracks like ‘The Witch’ and ‘Adrenaline.’
The group soldiered on until the late 90’s, when frontman Porl King decided to indulge in his love of techno and industrial by striking out as an in-demand producer while focusing on solo projects like miserylab and Death It Ends.
Essential Albums: ‘An Eye For The Main Chance ‘ (1991), ‘The Tyranny of Inaction’ (1995), ‘Chemical Emissions’ (1998)
Essential Tracks: ‘Adrenaline’ (1991), ‘Leave Me For Dead’ (1991), ‘The Witch’ (1992), ‘Nothing’ (1995).
This little known Goth supergroup featured Siouxsie and The Banshee guitarist John Valentine Carruthers, Killing Joke drummer Big Paul Ferguson, and vocalist Michael Bramon (later to be replaced by Frederick Schreck, who performed on their sole album ‘Crush’).
Crafting a muscular brand that straddled the line between Goth, industrial, psychedelia and alternative, they cranked out sturdy anthems, most notable the minor hit ‘(I Can’t Stop) The Rain.’
Unfortunately the group’s shelf life was short and band members left for other projects. But they left a solid, catchy album behind just waiting to be rediscovered.
Essential Albums: ‘Crush’ (1993)
Essential Tracks: ‘(I Can’t Stop) The Rain’ (1993), ‘Oblivion Scream’ (1993), ‘Please Your Head’ (1993).
Cranes crafted one of the most unusual sounds in the history of Goth, with vocalist Allison Shaw’s eerie, childlike croon adrift over harrowing and haunting cinematic soundscapes.
Stark and minimalist, yet overflowing with texture and atmosphere, Cranes’ sound impressed the likes of Robert Smith of The Cure who gave them wider exposure as tour openers. But despite that, they remain an acquired taste that never broke through the mainstream.
Luckily they’re still going at it, albeit at a slower pace: their last studio release was 2008’s self-titled ‘Cranes’.
Essential Albums: ‘Wings of Joy’ (1991), ‘Forever’ (1993), ‘Loved’ (1994), ‘Future Songs’ (2001).
Essential Tracks: ‘Tomorrow’s Tears’ (1991), ‘Starblood’ (1991), ‘Jewel’ (1993), ‘Cloudless’ (1993), ‘Hopes Are High’ (1991), ‘Paris and Rome’ (1994), ‘Shining Road’ (1994), ‘Lilies’ (1994), ‘Beautiful Friend’ (1994).
By the mid-90’s, Grunge was dying and Britpop and post-grunge had taken over. While Goth still hid in the shadows, the burgeoning popularity of Type O Negative, Marilyn Manson, and Nine Inch Nails still kept elements of the brooding genre in their music.
Likewise, iconic groups like The Cure and Bauhaus still toured successfully. In truth, Goth rock is just too powerful and oddly timeless to ever go away. It’s one of the most resilient sub-genres of rock, still going strong in the 21st century.
So that wraps up my list of the best Goth acts from 1990-1995! What bands would you add to the conversation? Please tell me in the comments, and be sure to check our itcher lists of good Goth music from 1980-1985, and 1985-1990 along with the honorable mentions below.
Honorable mentions: Faith and The Muse, H.I.M., Theater of Tragedy, Lacuna Coils