Gothic metal as a genre

Gothic metal or – a musical genre that is a type of metal, combining the heaviness and aggression of metal with the dark melancholy of gothic rock. Gothic metal originated as an offshoot of death/doom metal in the early 1990s. The main characteristics of the genre are low tempo, gloomy guitar parts, “atmospheric” keyboard parts; the use of female vocals or female-male duet “Beauty and the Beast” is common.

Gothic metal artists celebrate a dark, romantic and “gothic” aesthetic. The exact characteristics of the genre remain elusive because the term “gothic metal” is often mistakenly applied to bands with a wide variety of sounds, sometimes based solely on the musicians’ image or their lyrics.

Genre characteristics

The genre is characterized by a medium or low pace, less heaviness and a gloomy, melancholy mood. Rich keyboard and/or orchestral arrangements make this genre related to symphonic metal. Gothic metal is characterized by the use of female vocals, both academic and pop; very often there is a duet “Beauty and the Beast” – a high female voice and brutal male growling.

It was introduced into the Theater of Tragedy fashion and subsequently used by various other bands, including Epica, After Forever, etc. Clean male vocals are not uncommon (Lacrimosa, Charon, Lake of Tears).

Early gothic metal bands – Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, the Gathering, Darkseed – started out as doom metal bands and were a major influence on the genre. However, subsequent bands have expanded the scope of the genre in other directions and crossovers.

Cradle of Filth brought gothic elements to black metal, Trail of Tears to death metal, After Forever and Epica combined it with symphonic metal, Lacrimosa with darkwave, and L’Ame Immortelle and Umbra et Imago with industrial.

A subgenre of alternative rock. The first musical groups playing in this genre were closely associated with English punk rock and post-punk. In the early 1980s, the genre became a separate direction. The music is dominated by dark themes and intellectual trends such as romanticism, nihilism, as well as the gothic trend in the art of modern times.

The best examples of goth rock bands are Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy and The Mission. Gothic rock became the basis for the goth subculture, which subsequently expanded significantly.


Gothic metal lyrics tend to be depressed and melancholy, borrowed from doom metal. Emotional experiences, sadness, negative emotions, disappointment in life and death often became the theme of the songs of Paradise Lost, Anathema and other groups. The most common theme is lost love, which has been addressed by Theater of Tragedy, Draconian and Leaves’ Eyes.

Other sources of inspiration for lyrics in gothic metal are gothic romance, fantasy, horror romance, and mysticism. Often the mystical element in the lyrics of gothic metal bands acts as an allegory for expressing the feelings of a lyrical hero. According to Christina Scabbia, vocalist of the gothic band Lacuna Coil, “The listener can better understand the song if it is about human relationships.”

Genre distortion

In the 2000s, many gothic metal artists achieved critical acclaim and commercial success. Moonspell won the 2006 MTV European Music Awards for “Best Band in Portugal”. A year later, Within Temptation were awarded the same award in 2007 as “best band in Holland and Belgium”. Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil have sold the most of their albums.

Many bands playing in other genres have shown noticeable gothic influences in recent years. So, for example, Cradle of Filth, who performed symphonic black metal, on her later albums recorded a number of compositions with a slow tempo and the beauty and the beast duet. Some gothic metal bands, such as Paradise Lost (in 1997, with the release of One Second) and Tiamat (on later albums), even moved from gothic metal to more traditional gothic rock at a certain period of their work (however, Paradise Lost subsequently returned to gothic metal).

The frequent use of the term in the press and goth fandom has led to the concept of “gothic metal” becoming highly misrepresented. Sometimes musicians who perform music in other genres, but have a “gothic” image, or corresponding lyrics (for example, Marilyn Manson) are mistakenly attributed to this genre. However, as Allmusic notes, “the only true gothic metal is that which is associated with gothic rock.”