Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Goth Subculture - Deathrock California

Friday, June 3, 2016 by Stormy

Deathrock California

The deathrock scene in California in the early '80s produced some of my favorite music ever, in any genre. Even 30 years after first hearing most of this stuff it still gets plenty of spins.

Since i was a little kid, i was always into campy horror movies, EC comics, Black Sabbath... anything on the darker side. When i first got into punk and hardcore in '87, i was obviously infatuated with The Misfits. Then, somewhere around 1989, i finally heard the sounds i'd been waiting for. "Only Theatre Of Pain", "Sleep In Safety" and "Autopsy", the ultimate goth-punk trifecta. I guess i thought this was a doorway to a whole new world of amazing albums, but it turned out there was really only a handful of stuff like this out there, with these 3 records being at the very top.

I'm really looking forward to the upcoming book "Phantoms: The Rise of Deathrock from the LA Punk Scene". It amazes me that this extremely influential sub-genre that gave birth to the entire Goth scene was never properly documented until now. The music itself was never really documented in compilation form either. Outside of a few key punk comps that had some great deathrock tracks scattered throughout, like "Hell Comes to Your House", "Can't Argue With Sucksess" and "American Youth Report", there's really no definitive collection of just deathrock bands. Some labels like Cleopatra Records tried a few times with so-called deathrock comps, but they're pretty badly researched. They all have the same, few, early '80s bands like 45 Grave (always "Evil"), Christian Death (usually not the classic early stuff for copyright reasons), Kommunity FK (always "We Will Not Fall"), and sometimes Super Heroines. From there it always falls apart with late '80s and '90s goth and rockabilly bands that just happen to be from CA. Stuff without the punk edge that takes itself a bit too seriously. Strobelight Records did a little better job with their "Kaliffornian Deathrock" comp, and their "New Dark Age" series is great. Kudos to them. A while back i put together my own compilation of favorite early '80s dark LA punk songs, and i figured i'd share it here.

I've included hidden links of collections (mostly discographies i put together myself) for just about every band on the comp. To make it easy, each band link is in that respective band's paragraph in the "band rundown" below. I also threw in some of the key compilations mentioned. So there's actually around 20 downloads in this post. Collect them all!!

Deathrock California: The Darker Side of California Punk Rock: 1980-1985

Here's the rundown of the bands/tracks:

Secret Hate were an incredibly talented and diverse punk band from Long Beach. They had killer tracks on following compilation LPs: "Hell Comes to Your House" (1981), "You Can't Argue With Sucksess" (1982), and "When Men Were Men... And Sheep Were Scared" (1985). They also put out the "Vegetables Dancing" 12" on New Alliance Records in 1983. The CD version of "Vegetables Dancing" has the 2 tracks from the "When Men Were Men..." comp LP, and a live set from Bruin's Den, Long Beach in 1982, but the other 4 comp tracks are missing for some reason. But hey, maybe some crazy bastard put all the tracks together in one file and even mastered all the tracks to the same volume, ripped it at 320kbps and hid it in some blog post. Who knows? I would guess Secret Hate would not be considered a deathrock band, as half their discography is straight punk rippers with the occasional odd influence seeping in, but the other half of their songs has an obvious influence from the dark sounds that were going on around them in LA at the time. Deathrock California tracks: "Charade" is from the "You Can't Argue With Sucksess" comp LP put out on Mystic Records in 1982. This track has a heavy Christian Death vibe, in both the music and the vocals, and shows that the band can write a goth-punk tune on par with the best of them. "Death In the Desert" is from the "When Men Were Men... And Sheep Were Scared" put out on Bremisbrain Records in 1985. This is my favorite Secret Hate song. Just an epic track full of memorable riffs. They were definitely in their prime at this time, and of course this is when they broke up. They got back together in the '90s though, after Sublime covered their song "The Ballad of Johnny Butt", putting them on the mainstream map.

Voodoo Church from Los Angeles released just one (incredible) 4 song 12" EP put out on Second Death Records in 1982. They reformed roughly 20 years later and released the "Unholy Burial" CD in 2004, and the "Eminence of Demons" CD in 2009 (with Rikk Agnew on second guitar), both put out by Strobelight Records. Deathrock California tracks: "Eyes (Second Death)" and "Live With the Dead" are both tracks from the 1982 12" EP. To keep the entire compilation in CD quality, i used mastered versions from CD comps. "Eyes (Second Death" was taken from the Kaliffonian Deathrock" comp CD put out on Strobelight in 2006 and "Live With the Dead" was taken from the "Strobelights Vol. 1" comp CD put out on Strobelight in 2004.

Burning Image from Bakersfield were another band with a very thin '80s output. All that was officially released was the self-released, two-song "Final Conflict" 7" in 1984 and one track on the great "Let's Die" comp LP put out on Mystic in 1985. Fortunately, Alternative Tentacles put out the "1983-1987" CD in 2004, which included the EP and comp tracks along with 10 unreleased songs. Like Voodoo Church, Burning Image reformed over 20 years later. They released the "Fantasma" full length CD on Alternative Tentacles in 2009, the "Orleander" download album on Revelation in 2011, and the "Grand Guignol" CD (what, they never heard Naked City?!) on Mokat Records in 2014. And like Voodoo Church, i've never heard anything they did past the '80s. Deathrock California track: Time Is Running Out was one of the unreleased songs from the "1983-1987" CD. The first song the band ever wrote, and also the best in my opinion.

45 Grave were from Los Angeles. They formed in 1979, playing ripping punk hardcore songs with campy horror themed lyrics, pretty much kick-starting everything. Of course you can argue that singer Dinah Cancer's previous band Castration Squad was the first California deathrock band, but they never released anything, or even recorded anything as far as i know. Plus they were awful. 45 Grave were just amazing on the other hand, with Paul Cutler from The Consumers, Rob Graves from The Bags and Gun Club, and Don Bolles from Germs and Nervous Gender. Most notable in the band's discography is the ripping "Black Cross" 7" put out on Goldar Records in 1981, the incredible "Autopsy" anthology LP put out on Restless Records in 1987 and the "Sleep in Safety" LP put out on Enigma Records in 1983. There also released various 12" EPs and comp tracks throughout the '80s, but all the essential material is on "Autopsy" and "Sleep in Safety". One of my top 10 favorite punk bands of all time. Deathrock California tracks: "Consumers" and "Choices" are both from the "Autopsy" LP, a compilation of material from 1981, half of which were Consumers songs, as well as the 2 tracks from the "Black Cross" 7". "Choices" is one of the 2 tracks that Paul Cutler sings (the other being "Eye"), and is one of my fave punk songs ever written. Just perfect. "Bad Love" is from the "Sleep in Safety" LP.

Accessed  Blogged and Quartered  8/6/16
Click the link for full band listing.

Take  a look at at the Fan page for - A photoblog with a collection of 1980s goths, wavers and (post)punk.