Gothic metal music is a genre that emerged from the heavy metal scene in the mid 90s as a blend of the doom metal and death metal genres in Europe. There is a bit of debate over what the actual definition of the genre truly is between the media and the fans of the genre. Many older fans along with performers of the genre believe that the scene is a specific abstraction of the classic rock scene and gothic fiction. But the newer fans of the heavy metal scene dispute this idea, and have sided with the ideal that any female fronted band of the metal scene is in all actuality apart of the gothic metal genre. Despite these arguments, the genre has many characteristics in which are used to label the music as apart of the gothic metal scene.
There are two main characteristics however, the vocals and the instrumentation. Many bands will have dual vocalists, with female singing and growls in the background, while many others will have only one singer who carries an almost dramatic tone. The instrumentation is focused heavily upon complex guitar rifts with varying tempos and a distorted sound, and the use of modern electric keyboards. Taking a large amount of influence from sub-genres of heavy metal such as doom metal, death metal, and black metal, the music can vary between aggressively fast and heavy and slow. One instrument found often in gothic metal, surprisingly enough, is the acoustic guitar.
The riffs played on the acoustic are notably just as technically complex as those being played on its electric counterpart. Lyrical content of the genre is found to be very tragic, focusing on romantic themes and tales of fantasy that usually end poorly for at least one, if not all the people involved in the story. The settings of such fantasies in the genres music are depicted to be in many different times and areas, such as the Dark Ages, and Victorian or Roman eras. These romantic fantasies are not a prerequisite of the scene, but are simply themes of many different songs. Rather than writing separate songs for their albums, many bands of the genre actually write as if they are creating a book, making the songs intertwine into a storyline, this is also called a â€œconcept albumâ€. This is a form of musical writing that inspires the fans to listen to all the songs, as if reading chapters from a book, so that they will hear the entire story rather than only listening to certain songs on any given album.
It was in the 90s that a number of younger bands from Northern England and also Sweden took inspiration borrowed from the early forms of death metal music and blended it with music from doom metal bands, more notably bands like Black Sabbath. The first form of gothic metal music emerged from this blend of styles, and became known as Doom-death music, and bands like Tiamat, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost were notable for their works that were considered to be apart of this new style of music. Many other bands that began in the death and black metal scenes began to move into a more doom-death style, such as the more famous bands Theatre of Tragedy and Moonspell. Bands like Fields of the Nephilim and Sisters of mercy helped to create and influence the early gothic metal bands with their romantic imaging and feel to their music, coupled with the gothic rock and darkwave atmosphere and sound of their music.
Gothic metal emerged in the early 90s with the bands Paradise Lost, Tristania and Theatre of Tragedy creating romantically themed lyrics around the doom-death sound of their vocals and guitar styles. Leaving the more depressing themes of their original music, they began to blend more classical and warm characteristics to their lyrical content, and from there the gothic metal scene was born. Bands of the genre include Aion, Asrai, Dakrua, Darkwell, Euthanasia, Flowing Tears, For My Painâ€¦, Krypteria, Lacuna Coil, Mortal Love, On Thorns I Lay, and Within Temptation.