Darkwave music is a genre that combines elements of post-punk, new wave, and gothic rock. It often features bleak and introspective lyrics, and its sound is characterized by synthesizers and electronic instruments.
If you’re a fan of darkwave or are looking to discover more about this unique and atmospheric genre, then you’ll want to check out these seven essential tracks.
From classic pioneers like Depeche Mode and Bauhaus to newer acts like Zola Jesus and The Soft Moon, these tracks showcase the best of what darkwave has to offer.
So turn off the lights, put on your headphones, and get ready to dive into the shadowy realm of darkwave.
1. Dead Can Dance – Opium
The song “Opium” by Dead Can Dance explores themes of addiction and the search for a way out of it.
The lyrics reference time after time the substance that gives title to the track and suggests the current headspace of a person that can’t stop using.
They also suggest that the narrator is looking for a way out, and even considers ending it all.
The song’s ethereal and atmospheric sound adds to the sense of introspection and contemplation, and the use of world music and darkwave influences further adds to the sense of mystery and otherworldliness that could be compared with the influence of such a heavy narcotic.
“Opium” is a powerful and thought-provoking track that speaks to the universal human experience of seeking understanding and meaning in life.
2. Molchat Doma – Sudno
“Sudno” by Molchat Doma is a brooding and hypnotic track that showcases the band’s unique blend of post-punk, new wave, and synth-pop.
The song’s dark and atmospheric sound is built on a foundation of pulsating synths, driving drums, and Egor Shkutko’s deep vocals.
Lyrically, an adaptation of a poem from Russian poet Boris Ryzhy, “Sudno” explores themes of love, loss, and death, making it a powerful and relatable listen.
Overall, “Sudno” is a standout track from Molchat Doma’s impressive catalog and a must-listen for fans of the band and the darkwave genre.
Due to the urgency in its rhythm, and the fact that I don’t speak Russian to understand any of the hard-hitting lyrics, Sudno has lately become one of the ultimate hype songs on my workout playlist.
Not that you care, but perhaps you want to imitate me!
3. Depeche Mode – Blasphemous Rumours
Perhaps one of the darkest Depeche Mode tracks, and one that not every casual fan knows about.
“Blasphemous Rumours” tackles themes of religion, faith, and the search for meaning, making it a powerful and thought-provoking listen.
The idea inspiring the song is that god has a sick sense of humor, kind of painting him as a sadistic architect of the world we live in.
That’s the blasphemous vision that the band says is not trying to impose, but only mentions.
A great song, from a great band!
4. Cocteau Twins – Sea, Swallow Me
A dreamy, airy track that showcases the band’s unique blend of dream pop and darkwave.
With a sound built on a foundation of shimmering guitar work, delicate synths, and Elizabeth Fraser’s signature ethereal vocals, Cocteau Twins really found a way to keep us listening until the end.
The overarching theme of the song can be described as wanting more, and it comes with a certain frustration.
Really a tune to add to your playlist if you are a fan of the genre.
5. Zola Jesus – Night
On a more goth side of the darkwave spectrum, Zola Jesus comes with an industrial orchestral sound driven by an electronic beat that feels like it’s playing in another room.
This song talks about meeting a loved one at the end of the night, resting, and finally being together.
Clearly a reference to death and an idea of an afterlife with people that are long gone.
Carried by a unique atmosphere, this is a clear exponent of the different turns the darkwave genre can take.
6. Bauhaus – Dark Entries
A classic song for the genre from 1980 that has clear post-punk vibes.
The track builds upon a foundation of driving drums, a descending bass line, and Peter Murphy’s harsh vocals.
Noisy and counter-cultural, with an almost-spoken verse in its middle section, I believe that only a listen will take you to confirm this one really deserves a spot on this list.
7. The Soft Moon – Wasting
A more modern entry, with a spacey ambient intro, supported on delayed drums and harsh synth pads.
The song is later propelled by a rhythmic, distorted, and processed bass line that’s just wonderful.
In The Soft Moon, the band Wating talks about seizing the day and getting a grasp of reality.
Clearly a contradictory message with the dreamy instrumental mood that serves as a base for such down-to-earth lyrics.
This is another of my favorites from the style, and one I encourage everyone to listen to!
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