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Various Artists

A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box (Rhino)


In terms of gothic music, the line of succession from the Damned to Bauhaus to Sisters of Mercy (sorry Andrew Eldritch, but you are goth) to VNV Nation is clear and somewhat non-negotiable. So Rhino Records' Gothic Box is just wrong from a first glance, having excluded so much that is goth, included so much that is not, and boarded up the whole thing as if Bela Lugosi really were dead.

The omissions are critical, as is the lack of contemporary specimens. Wolfsheim is one of goth's leading heirs apparent; Norway's Carpathian Forest is taking a sabbatical from recording albums with names such as Defending the Throne of Evil and We're Going to Hell for This while its members go to grad school; and Florida's Crüxshadows enjoyed their first non-subterranean chart success when "Sophia" debuted at number one on the Billboard dance singles sales chart. None of these bands are represented in this collection.

Who is? Some obvious choices, including the Creatures, Alien Sex Fiend, 45 Grave (who play the Creepy Crawl this week), and Christian Death — and some disinterred treasures by the March Violets, Miranda Sex Garden and the Birthday Party. But nearly all of these cuts are from the mid-'80s to mid-'90s — a fallow period, considering Bahaus and Joy Division had disbanded by 1983 and Cranes, Fields of the Nephilim and London After Midnight didn't really kick up again until this decade just past. In facrnly LAM's "Kiss," AFI's "The Hanging Garden," and the Rose of Avalanche's "Dreamland" nod to the genre's newer circle.

And then there's the stuff that just doesn't belong — and since goth is largely about being inside or outside, these inclusions are egregious. It's not that Skinny Puppy's "Assimilate" or the Chameleons UK's "Don't Fall" aren't great songs; they are. Skinny Puppy and Chameleons just aren't gothic bands, and neither are Gene Loves Jezebel (emo progenitors), Dead Can Dance (Ren-Faire hippies) or Flesh for Lulu (one-hit Pretty in Pink wonders).

With and's music components making it possible to evaluate and identify goth's entire catalogue, perhaps Rhino's effort is more sentimental — the three CDs and one DVD come cloaked in a leather, lace-up case — than practical. Nonetheless, how can any collection of such music that aspires to definitiveness fail to include Ministry's "(Everyday Is) Halloween," the recipe of the genre?

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