The Goth and industrial bands from Denver enjoyed a kind of heyday in the '90s in Denver, with several active bands playing live. There was even a high-profile festival for a handful of years: the Denver Dark Arts Festival (later Tte Colorado Dark Arts Festival). When the momentum behind any unity in that scene ran out of steam a handful of years ago, you could still meet up with fellow appreciators of that music at dance nights at the Church and various other venues including now at Milk on Saturdays and the last Monday of the month at the hi-diive. But with the rediscovery of Goth and industrial music by a new generation of listeners it seems like it is now a kind of renaissance. Until that gets into full swing here are some photos of that scene as it was and to some extent is now.
One of the longest continuously running industrial/dark wave bands from Denver, Blackcell (or Black Cell) set a high bar for a modern version of old school EBM with its 2013 album Songs In the Key of Black.
Before reinventing itself later in the decade as a progressive metal act, Born In Winter tried its hand as a Goth-industrial band. Singer Michelle Huerd now lends her considerable vocal talent to Glass Delirium.
The guys in Caustic Soul were the godfathers of the Goth scene in Denver in the early-to-mid 2000s taking leadership roles in bringing together the Denver Dark Arts festival and encouraging like-minded artists like Kubix and Noise 626. Pictured here the band performs at the CD release of its final, and best, album, An Absence of Warmth, a brilliant concept album about World War I.
Like Caustic Soul, Dark Orchid (along with eROTic) were signed to David Goff's excellent independent label, Gestalt. Fronted by Tonja Yelton (then Nolan), Dark Orchid didn't fit neatly in with the Goth scene because it was more like Concrete Blonde, but a lot of the band's friends were in that world and it had enough songs that were moody and dark at a time when that was all but synonymous with Goth.
Coming more from the worlds of hardcore and experimental garage rock, Echo Beds has become effectively the shining example of industrial music in Denver and one of the best in the nation. More like Einsturzende Neubauten and Test Department than Skinny Puppy, Echo Beds is impossible to ignore and forget. Pictured in this line-up are current members Keith Curts and Tom Nelsen as well as ex-singer/percussionist/saxophonist, David Mead.
Faces Under The Mirror was active more than ten years ago and then seemed to more or less disappear for going on a decade. Something like a cross between an industrial rock band and an EBM act, Faces was and is one of the better local bands coming from that realm of the Goth-Industrial spectrum. Here the group opens for Christian Death.
One of the true stars of the Goth scene in Denver in the 1990s, Fiction 8 explored a variety of sounds including what might be better called post-punk or dream pop. This rare late-era live performance happened at Vendetta Festival in 2009. David Devoe of The New Ben Franklins was once a member of this band and has contributed to what will likely be the band's next release hopefully due out in 2015.
In Ether made waves in both the noise scene and the industrial scene in Denver around the turn of the century. This 2006 reunion show found the band sharing the stage with noise legends Page 27, Syphilis Sauna Biaxial Creep and Nova Sak. Patrick Urn (on the right) now performs as Morlox and with Dave Colberg in Drones. Lucio Duran can sometimes be seen performing as Brocken Spectre.
BJ Serekis was the drummer of the Bedraggled with Reverend Dead Eye before he went on to drum in the earliest live incarnation of The Skivies. But the whole while he had this solo experimental/industrial project called IX07. He saw an opportunity to play on September 7 of '07 at the Brooks Center and performed his one and only live show, despite numerous records.
Perhaps properly belonging with ambient or experimental electronic music, nervesandgel did plenty of playing in the Goth scene in his early days and the Legendary Pink Dots is certainly one of his main influences. Here Johnny Wohlfahrt performs with the talented vocalist Allison Young now of Orbit OK and host of the karaoke night at Hamburger Mary's on Monday nights.
Since the '90s, Orbit Service has been creating some of the most fascinating psychedelic ambient rock around. Also arguably not a Goth band, Orbit Service, like nervesandgel, has its roots in the dark, atmospheric psychedelia of the Legendary Pink Dots.
More a performance art act than a strictly musical one, Psyborg Death didn't exactly make the kind of music you'd want to listen to separate from the live show. But it did look the part.
A melodic EBM band, Requiem In Black was active in the second half of the 2000s while the live Goth scene was at an all time low and it never seemed to connect with many other like-minded artists.
One of the most popular of the Gothic-industrial bands from Denver, Seraphim Shock has evolved from its mid-to-late '90s theatrical, vampire-culture/Satanic melodic industrial phase into a more dark glam rock band but whatever its iteration, its shows have been dramatic and entertaining affairs.
Whether performing shows including ritual like the infamous suspension show and the Satanic curse on the Monsanto corporation ritual, Shadowcaster is pretty unclassifiable but certainly seems to have an appeal to fans of industrial music and breakcore despite its music not really being in line with that.
Synapse is a current band that seems rooted in later era EBM and industrial rock. Singer Mark Sousa formerly fronted Machinegun Symphony.
The Silver Cord emerged at a low point in the existence of live Goth music in Denver. So its hybrid of black metal and dark post-punk didn't fit in with a lot of the other music going on but somehow the band managed to garner a following among people that missed that type of music. It is still a going concern though it hasn't played a live show in what has to be two or three years.
One of the more popular bands in the Goth scene of the 2000s, The Siren Project is fronted by Polish immigrant Malgorzata Wacht. Really more like a dream pop band with a European flavor, the Siren Project has long been a bit misplaced in the Goth scene, though if you do anything with any mood and atmosphere it's easy to get pigeonholed as Goth. The Siren Project is currently working on a forthcoming sophomore release.
Somehow bridging punk, industrial and the melodicism of the Cure, The Twilight Garden rarely plays live in Denver but it did take the stage opening for one of the two or three live shows that legendary EBM band Velvet Acid Christ has played locally.
Though technically more a minimal synth and post-punk band, in another era, Tollund Men would be considered a Goth band. On a bit of a hiatus, currently, Tollund Men will get back to live shows sometime in 2015. With several releases under its belt, Tollund Men has also garnered a bit of an international following as well as local cult band status.
Toothgnasher could be considered EBM but more the dark end of that with some industrial sensibilities. It is one of the few fairly active bands with ties to an earlier Goth scene still operating.
Not as active these days as it once was, Torso could be seen regularly for a handful of years. Basically an industrial rock band, here Torso opens for Bella Morte.
Last but certainly not least, Velvet Acid Christ is probably the longest continually running Goth-industrial project from Denver. Though VAC's Bryan Erickson rarely played live in general, he played really only two or three shows as VAC in town until this 2013 appearance. With numerous releases, VAC has been something of a prolific recording project phenomenon in EBM circles. This past year VAC has toured a bit more and it sounds like there may be another Denver show in 2015. We can only hope.
*Author's Note on the High Plains Underground Archive: In the late 1990s, I started going to local shows on a regular basis. Growing up in the '70s and '80s, I didn't know there was such a thing as local music worth checking out. But I was drawn in after seeing a band called Rainbow Sugar (an all-female punk/hip-hop/experimental guitar rock extravaganza) opening for Sleater-Kinney's first show in Colorado at The Fox Theatre in October 1998. Next, I learned about a show at the now-defunct Rebis Galleries. From there I went to the first Monkey Mania show, and there was no looking back.
Rainbow Sugar was the first local band I photographed at Herman's Hideaway in 1999. But it was in 2005 when I got my first digital camera that my extensive photo archive started. In this series, called High Plains Underground Archive, I will share a small fraction of the tens of thousands of those photos, focusing on specific venues, bands, time periods, movements and whatever else seems to make sense. The title of this series comes from the working title of my book on the history of underground music in Denver 1975 to the present.
• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS • - Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ on Keeping Friendships to a Minimum Make Time For Music - The Silver Cord Explores the Dark Side of Humanity - Why DIY Venues Are Vital Are Vital to the Health of the Entire Music Scene - DIY or Die: Why Denver Need Under-The-Radar, All-Ages Arts Spaces
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.