“Misery! We have known each other,
Like a sister and a brother
Living in the same lone home
Many years – we must live some 
Hours or ages yet to come…

…Kiss me; - Oh! Thy lips are cold:
Round my neck thine arms enfold
They are soft, but chill and dead;
And thy tears burn upon my head
Burn like points of frozen lead.”

--Percy Bysshe Shelley
“Invocation To Misery”

The Hand Of Doom
~By Matthew Heilman

As with all great musical monarchies and legacies, the throne of Doom was first erected in England.  Where, in 1968, a band by the name of Earth sought to shake the very foundations upon which they tread with the darkest, most ominous melodic rumblings yet known.  They later donned the moniker Black Sabbath, and became the premier heavy metal band to inspire legions upon legions of faithful successors.  At a time when music was perfumed in flowers and emitting rays of optimistic sunshine, this quartet of Birmingham lads invoked an eclipse that has yet to be penetrated.  They spiraled into an abyss of depressive psychology, occultism, and fantasy, and indeed took political and anti-war stances with such classic gems as “War Pigs” “Electric Funeral” and “Children Of The Grave.”  Yet their message was not diluted with the faux optimism of the then contemporary rock bands, but rather imposed a sincere realism and pessimistic preparation for the worst.  The legitimacy of Sabbath’s approach was seen in their lyrics which intimately warned the dangers of hard substance abuse (“Hand Of Doom” and “Snowblind”) as well as a light-hearted tribute to the “sweet leaf.”

Sabbath were complex, outcasts, and shocking for their time.  Yet with the unholy wail of Osbourne paired with the consumptive walls of dense guitars and vibrato licks of Iommi set to the bass backbone of Geezer Butler and thunderous pound of drummer Bill Ward, the standards were etched in stone for the future of heavy metal.  Like contemporaries Led Zeppelin, Blue Cheer and Iron Butterfly before them, Sabbath took the meshing of hard rock with blues and stirred in another ingredient of decayed emotion.  Instead of upbeat rock n’ roll jam sessions, they churned out sluggish dirges, birthing something menacing and pungent with gloom to forge the darker, left-hand path of metal music. 

Sabbath lurched throughout the 70’s, self-destructing in 1979 to close the legendary chapter of the band with “Never Say Die,” the last mediocre album that Osbourne appeared on.  Sabbath and Ozzy parted ways, Sabbath to recruit Ronnie James Dio of Rainbow fame and Ozzy to pursue a monumental solo career.  The rest is history.

With that I take you through the late 70’s and early 80’s. Skipping over the important yet not particularly relevant topic of the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and treading over the thrash metal explosion led by Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax, to reach an important milestone in Doom metal history.  The aforementioned bands took metal to new heights as well, evoking epic grandeur while relying more on technicality and speed, yet their bastard miserable brothers were the bands that resisted that temptation and strove for the antithesis.  By way of stark minimalism, bands such as Candlemass, Celtic Frost, St. Vitus, and the latter 80’s/early 90’s bands like Solitude Aeternus and Cathedral, were more concerned with density, heaviness, and basic rhythmic structures.  Less flashy, painfully slow, and interested more so in the emotive potential of their music, these bands were arguably the first formalized acts accredited to the ‘doom’ metal genre.  Further expanding the boundaries of the music, Candlemass and Celtic Frost began to integrate orchestral elements to the music, with very subtle keyboards, rare female back up vocals, and an application of classical composition. 

It is rather presumptuous of me to really attempt to pigeonhole these bands as they all had their differences and went opposing directions from one another.  But one thing remains for certain; these bands foreshadowed and inspired what was to come, taking the work of Sabbath and contributing an even more unique quality to the music, and paved the way for the most striking metamorphosis of the genre.

 ‘Twas again in merry ol’ England (a pun?) where dark metal underwent a significant and drastic change.  The misty moors and rich literary history fostered the emergence of three bands that were to change the face and potential of doom metal forever.  In late 1989, Paradise Lost appeared first upon the scene, a quintet out of Halifax that took the sluggish pace and mood of doom metal, fused it with the vocal grunts and angst of death metal, and introduced a more elaborate use of symphonic keyboards and female back up vocals.  With their debut release “Lost Paradise” and the aptly titled follow up, “Gothic,” the band blew the doors of innovation wide open. 

Following shortly thereafter the second of the ‘big three’ arose, and the world was introduced to the mournful melodies of Anathema.  Perhaps the most intensely melancholic ‘crestfallen’ assemblage of dark metal material appears on the bands debut release “Serenades” and the succeeding EP “Crestfallen.”  Fueled by despondent twin guitar harmonies, loathsome death growls and lethargic clean vocal harmonies of Darren White, the band courted a destructive bleakness otherwise unknown to the average metal fan.  Depressive yet undeniably beautiful, Anathema was absolutely awe-inspiring at their emotional intensity.  Further experimenting, the band released “Pentecost III” which to this day is one of my own personal favourite CDs of all time.  Resplendent watery guitar arpeggios, woeful recitatives, and overwhelming ghosts of harmonized guitar swells made the CD an uneasy listen and an immortal milestone in sorrow-fueled music.  The album housed such tracks as “We, The Gods” and “Kingdom” and marked the last appearance of Darren White as vocalist. 

Backing up only a few years however, just at the same time as Anathema and Paradise Lost cast their shadows o’er England, a sextet of broken-hearted balladeers appeared, none other than My Dying Bride.  My Dying Bride could be regarded as the most ambitious of the big three, in terms of experimentation in some respects, in that their distinctive blend of blistering death metal and traditional doom was accentuated by the use of a live violinist.  In doing so, the symphonic element became more organic and genuine and added a blissful touch of avant-garde atmosphere, marked even further by the archaic, Shakespearean inspired prose housed within the lyrics.  Drawing from Epic Literature and mythology, vocalist and lyricist Aaron Stainthorpe defied the limitations of traditional death metal lyrics to evoke a more classical, tragic style on the debut “As The Flower Withers” and the two early EP’s “The Thrash of Naked Limbs” and “Symphonaire Infernus…” It is because of this, and the undeniably hypnotic mood of the music and the lyrics that earned the tag ‘Gothic metal.’ Not as many mistake as an influence from the punk/new wave ‘Gothic’ of the Sisters Of Mercy or Bauhaus (not yet anyway), but more from a literary standpoint.  The music of My Dying Bride and Anathema could easily serve as a score to the Gothic tales of 18th and 19th Century works of Matthew Lewis, Horace Walpole, Shelley, Byron, Coleridge, and others. The beautiful is wed to decay, the anguish of death personified in the monstrous vocals and the drafty mood evoked by the pale Romantic melodies.

My Dying Bride has once been quoted on their lyrics as saying: “It is one thing to write about chopping off someone’s head and playing football with it, but it is altogether different to write about picking up the pieces after death.”  The band achieved their first triumph with the second full-length “Turn Loose The Swans,” where all the elements that made up My Dying Bride were perhaps at their most piercing.  By volleying between both dark death growls and an unsteady lovelorn tenor, increasing the roles of piano and violin, and strengthening the fluid impact of the guitar work, My Dying Bride perfected their trademark sound and released an unparalleled CD that was instantly hailed a cult masterpiece. 

All three bands matured and ventured off into their own destined territories, never losing touch with the genuine emotion that fueled their music, but began to explore other ways to express their visions.  Their impact upon the dark music scene caused a veritable floodgate of creativity to burst throughout Europe.  Scores upon scores of bands picked up on their ideas and formulated their own unique interpretations of the ideas crafted by these bands and the atmospheric Gothic Doom Metal scene of today was born.  First with Sweden’s Tiamat, Finland’s Amorphis, Celestial Season, and The Gathering in the Netherlands, Moonspell in Portugal, and perhaps the most eloquent and extreme art to emerge was Norway’s Theatre Of Tragedy, a septet of epic orchestral grandeur and theatrical melodrama.   And on through the mid nineties, spearheaded as well by the semi-commercial success of Type O Negative in the US, and hosts of new blood by way of Katatonia, 3rd & The Mortal, Within Temptation, Tristania, Skepticism, Orphanage, Decoryah, Sadness, Morgion, and Crematory.

By now, the scene has exploded.  And though it is still rather controversial and hard for many to accept that any kind of heavy metal music could be considered romantically depressive, sad, or beautiful, there are many bands that are proving it is more than possible.  More and more bands are experimenting with melodies and symphonic elements, and many of the aforementioned bands, most notably Tiamat, Moonspell, and The Gathering, did in fact cull influences from traditional Gothic rock and contemporary Darkwave/Industrial music.  In fact, with these bands often acknowledging their Gothic influences, many metal heads were first introduced and learned to appreciate the works of Goth rock related bands such as Fields Of The Nephilim, Christian Death, Swans, Depeche Mode, Dead Can Dance, and the Sisters Of Mercy. 
Indeed, it is tedious and often extremely controversial to attempt to categorize, pigeonhole, or define these bands. And it is here that I will not to avoid bias that many bands did not catch the wave of Gothic inspiration.  Instead, fueled from Sabbath and St. Vitus’ groove oriented sound, a breed of ‘stoner’ metal branched off and is still widely successful today.  Bands such as Cathedral, Amorphis, and sadly Celestial Season took this cue and integrated a more 70’s prog rock feel to their music and abandoned the atmospheric trappings all together.

They, among many do not feel that Gothic/Symphonic elements belong in metal music, especially now as these themes have crossed over into the Black Metal scene largely due to success of the outrageous and controversial Cradle Of Filth.  Indeed, there are several bands that sprung up throughout the craze and were obviously jumping on a bandwagon, and churned out passionless drivel that mocked the integrity of the genre, but they faded and faded fast.  Regardless if all approve or enjoy the fusing of these styles, there are many that find an important amount of solace within this music, and a place to escape.  Leading record labels such as Century Media, Nuclear Blast, Relapse, Napalm, Peaceville, and Dark Symphonies recognized the success of these bands, and have consistently helped keep the experimental metal barge afloat.   Thus, atmospheric Gothic metal is accessible to legions of faithful and solitary fans on all continents, which embrace the genuine beauty of the music. 

And thankfully, this next generation is responding by producing their own original contributions to the longevity and expansion of the genre.

Mp3.com, the most widely used downloadable music Internet site, is perhaps the hottest source for the newest and most promising Gothic Metal bands.  Within the past month alone, I have accidentally stumbled across some of the most passionate, inspired, professional, and overwhelmingly gorgeous Gothic Metal bands I could ever hoped to imagine. In many ways, they seem to be grasping back to the origins of older Anathema, Paradise Lost, and My Dying Bride and picking up where they would have left off.  There is about a fifty/fifty split between these more traditional doom bands and those that have taken to the orchestral, symphonic tendencies.  However, both styles of bands use their gifts with restraint and eloquence. For more in-depth reviews of Gothic Doom metal releases, please see our CD REVIEW section, though for now I would like to turn the spotlight on the future leaders of the Gothic Doom metal scene.

The most strikingly pensive and bleak newcomers are without a doubt Virginia’s Necare.  Honourably inspired by Anathema, Saturnus, and Septic Flesh, the project began as an emotional outlet for principle songwriter Ryan Henry.  With themes inspired by unrequited romance, mutability, and the eloquence of Edwardian and Pre-Raphaelite art, Necare take abrasive early Gothic Doom and blend it with soothing guitar melodies.  Ryan paired up with drummer Greer Cawthon, a session viola player and back up female vocalist.  Gathering all the elements, with a steady focus on guitars and light on the symphonic touches, Necare recorded an EP entitled “Ophelia” late last year.  Having only recently been added to Mp3.com, the band has generated a number of hits and downloads, setting the Doom metal charts ablaze with preview tracks such as “The Mourner” and “Eleanor” from the debut full-length “Rite Of Shrouds,” which is due for release in late December or early January.  With their conviction and eloquent artistic presentation, it is certain that fans of dark metal will be hearing more from these guys in the near future.

Throughout the month of October, the number one Gothic Metal chart position has been dominated by Forest Of Shadows, a duo of musicians from Gothenburg, Sweden.  The music of Forest of Shadows, is not exactly the standard Gothenburg style, but rather a despondent brand of colossal Gothic Metal, compiling the stark romanticism of twin guitar harmonies, weeping violin passages, deep death vocals, and gorgeous vocal passages sung in a choir like fashion.   The multitude of acoustic guitar breaks, galloping power metallics and epic lengths of their tracks recall some of the higher points of Opeth yet the appearance of violin, overall mood, and lyrical content is certainly along the lines of My Dying Bride and the like. There is no question as to why the band has been reigning at the top of the charts, having made over $3,000 on Mp3.  Their music is majestic, absorbing, and painfully beautiful. Truly an awe-inspiring band!  Three short EP’s are available from the band, two of which are available as DAM CD’s at Mp3, and hopefully it will not be too long until they release a more concise and longer collection of both old and new material.

Cincinnati’s Thorns Of The Carrion have been recording music sine the mid nineties, and have just recently released a five song mini-CD entitled “Eve Songs.”  But it was their monumental 1997 release “The Scarlet Tapestry” that their niche in the Gothic Doom metal scene was carved.  Smothering the listener with woe, the 73 minute opus was a testament to forlorn Romanticism, as heard on such shining gems as “The Tragedy Of Melpomene” and “Bleak Thorns Laurels.”  TOTC pair the foreboding vocal styles and standard rhythmic elements of death/doom metal with exquisite melodies, acoustic guitars, harps, and flutes.  In doing so, the band triumphs in creating a sullen mood of rapturous bleakness.  Both the full-length CD and new EP are available directly from the band at their website.  Look for more information and reviews of Thorns Of The Carrion in future issues of Starvox, but until then, brave the descent into their world on your own!

Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, Season Of Mourning are yet another American band raising eyebrows in the dark metal underground.  A guitar driven seven-piece, capped by a somber male voice, sparse female vocals, and subtle violin, the band blends the groove-oriented elements of doom with ambience and flashes of traditional Gothic Rock.  Despite the absence of guttural vocals, the band’s crushing guitar crunch likens them to the heavier, less keyboard drenched bands of old.  Nonetheless, Season Of Mourning sport a strong blend of atmosphere with deathly doom metal. The occasional violin passages are done only when they seem most necessary and even the upbeat Sisters Of Mercy-esque “Blood Like Wine” still comes across as heavier such a comparison would suggest.  For Season Of Mourning, density is the key, and the thickness of their sludge is utterly remarkable.  The band handles and promotes their own material, and with one short EP “In Praise Of The Dark” under their belts, they have begun to earn a name in the eastern PA area for their reputed liver performances.  The debut EP is now available through the band’s official website.

Featured in Starvox this past Spring, another Virginia based band has been causing quite a stir in the progressive metal genre, the female fronted Rain Fell Within.  Signed to Dark Symphonies records early this year, the band has released the immaculate EP “Believe” which features perhaps the most feverish displays of operatic female vocal potential within the genre. Vocalist Dawn soars above majestic galloping guitar riffs and sweeping keyboards, for an uplifting charge of driving intensity.  The band is currently at work on their first full-length release, and have had several East Coast concert appearances over the past few months, as well as this past year’s Milwaukee Metalfest.

One of the more unique additions to the atmospheric metal roster are New England’s Maudlin Of The Well, a progressive and unpredictable cornucopia of sullen music.  Also featured in a Spring issue of Starvox, the band still hasn’t received the recognition I believe they deserve.  Head on collisions of thrash metal, space rock, progressive jazz, and of course Gothic doom help Maudlin stand apart upon their own sacred island in the dark metal world.  Their amazing track “Catharsis Of Dream Sleep” is simply breathtaking.  The nine-minute plus song yields some arresting guitar and clarinet arrangements that segue into a harsh old school death/doom break.  From their the song crests to reach a heart wrenching, sluggish finale.  This and many more tracks appear on their mp3 site and on their debut Dark Symphonies release “My Fruit Psychobells…A Seed Combustible”

Yet again, another surprise from the States by way of Novembers Doom.  Having formed in the mid nineties outside of Chicago, the band has released two full lengths and one EP, and they are just getting ready to unveil their latest opus through Dark Symphonies records, entitled “The Knowing.”   November’s Doom stands apart quite a bit from other doom acts, and it is almost hard to pinpoint exactly how.  Though the style of guitar playing and multiple dark Gothic/guttural voices and such are all pretty typical to the genre, all these elements are delivered in a very unique and unexpected way.  They are pure Gothic Doom from head to toe, but their brand of darkness is unlike any other.  Keyboards are not relied on to keep the band afloat, save for a few random interludes or intros to songs; rather dense atonal guitars carry the mood along atop shifting, complex rhythms and pounding drum dirges or swinging groove oriented breaks.  The band had promised that the newest release is to be their best and most diverse work yet, and that is without question an accurate prediction.  Dark metal fans can be assured that November’s Doom will be a force to reckon with in this genre for years to come.

Perhaps the most popular of acts stirring up buzz over the past few years are Norway’s Sins Of Thy Beloved, an overwhelmingly theatrical outfit. They may or may not need an introduction to some, but there are still many who are missing out on their brand of energetic Gothic Metal.  Similar in the duel male/female vocal trades of Theatre Of Tragedy, TSOTB stand out for a devilish and frenzied fiddle player, that fuses a Celtic and Classical virtuosity to the tightly woven guitar heavy drive of the band.  Their debut CD “Lake Of Sorrow” turned heads instantly with its fresh energy and approach, and further solidified its hold as leaders in the scene with their recent CD “Perpetual Desolation,” both of which are products of Napalm Records.

A brand new band has surfaced from Austria, also on Napalm Records, however not as grandiose in scope as label mates Tristania or Sins Of Thy Beloved.  Rather, Darkwell deliver a nice blend of power metal and somber Goth rock inspired ambience. Fans of traditional Goth music might want to note that Darkwell are barren of harsh male vocals, opting instead to push the soft, honeyed vocals of Alexandra Pittracher to the forefront.  Stirred up only by occasional spoken male parts and symphonic keyboard work, the band does still retain a mid-paced drive and genuine heaviness as the guitars make up the bulk of what you hear in the band’s sound.  A truly pleasant mix of styles, catchy hooks, and memorable melodies comprise the band’s debut “Suspiria,” which was just released this month by Napalm. 

From Spain, the outfit Growing Cells hearken to the heydays of traditional thrash and heavy metal, and wed it with female fronted power metal.  Melodic serenades are stirred by unexpected blast beats and raspy sandpaper screams, but a great concern for melody is not overlooked.  A self-titled demo debut appeared in 1998 and the band is currently at work on their next CD, which will further experiment with the styles and approaches they began to explore.

Hailing from Croatia, another great export comes by the way of Ashes You Leave.  A somewhat obscure band, though puzzling as their music is quite ambitious and distinctive, due mainly to deeper, brooding female lead vocals.  They also make use of the violin, and are most characterized by eerie harmonizations and plodding drums.  I haven’t heard much from the band, barring the title track from their last release “A Passage Back To Life.”  However, Ashes You Leave is one of those rare and special bands who deliver an inescapable claustrophobia that is irresistible, despite its tendency to unsettle.  But that is the beauty of doom metal though isn’t it?  Judging from the cut on Mp3.com, I do not think it is a one-shot deal with these guys.  Be on the look out for their newest release “The Inheritance Of Sin And Shame.”

The last of numerous US projects to be seduced by the romanticism of Gothic Doom metal is the Pennsylvania project, All Hope Lost.  Though still in the early developmental phases, All Hope Lost is quite an ambitious project with three full length CDs and one EP to their credit, and two more full-lengths slated for an early and mid 2001 release.  With a heavy lyrical focus on unrequited love, the project’s mini CD "The Glow" deals with the beauty and promise of love in its infancy ('the glow' of a new relationship) and then its gradual deterioration until its very bitter end.  Though limited in its home-recorded analogue production, the project is currently at work on improving the quality of sound and strengthening the impact of dueling male/female vocals.  It is quite possible that once graced with a more professional production, All Hope Lost may rank among the next wave of atmospheric Gothic Metal spearheaded by the dozen aforementioned bands featured above. 

Thus, with the creep of Winter chill and the Autumnal trees dying in beautiful colours along the landscapes the world over, rejoice in the isolation and despair offered by these hardworking new artists, as well as their forefathers if you have yet to experience their brooding symphonic metal mastery.

“In the mist of falling leaves in a garden of endless grief,
I yearn for thee my precious one.
Beneath the pale lit sky I dream of your embrace
How I wish I had you near.”


Black Sabbath:


Celtic Frost:

Solitude Aeternus:


Paradise Lost:


My Dying Bride:

Theatre Of Tragedy:




3rd & The Mortal:

Type O Negative:


Season Of Mourning:

Forest of Shadows:

Thorns Of The Carrion:

Novembers Doom:

Growing Cells:

Rain Fell Within:


Sins Of Thy Beloved:

Ashes You Leave:

All Hope Lost:

Nuclear Blast Records

Century Media Records:

Relapse Records:

Peaceville Records:

Napalm Records:

Dark Symphonies Records:

Hand of Doom Logo by Simon Marsden

All images are gracefully borrowed, and are copyright and property of the artists and the owners of their official respective websites.  Neglectful use is prohibited.