Gothic pop adventures
Previously shrouded in secrecy, the electro-goth duo of Dead Lights emerged in 2020 with a firm grip on brooding, muscular compositions that still had a dance beat to them. Emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic was probably not the ideal environment to debut new electronic music, yet the duo managed to competently work online together to craft their tunes.
Curiously, Saul and Richard, who form Dead Lights, had run across each other at one of Johnny Normal’s Synthetic City live events. Saul, aka Mr Strange, certainly makes an impression on anyone witnessing his live performances (as TEC summed it up: “loud and heavy”), particularly with his talent for theatre. Meanwhile, Netherlands-based Richard Van Kruysdijk has dipped into many creative projects, including the formation of his own MASS Productions. But he’s probably best know for being part of sweeping goth outfit Palais Ideal, who we previously described as a band that can “deliver a raw energy to proceedings with a little gothic flavouring whipped up in their gritty post-punk tunes.”
Van Kruysdijk had conjured up yet another idea for a new music endeavour, but lacked a vocalist to add that vital chemistry to the concept. But a few exchanges on email led to the pair swiftly combining ideas. Their first EP Death Pop arrived in September 2020, featuring the Alien-inspired body horror of the thumping ‘The Host’ and the gothic pop appeal of the title track with its moody, driving percussion
Dead Lights sees their debut album appearance this year and keeps that dark dance energy going. There’s something of an unsettling narrative to the songs on the album, or as Van Kruysdijk suggested in an interview earlier this year: “Each track has its own universe, its own story.” There’s an aim for a visceral, raw quality to the songs on the album which it certainly delivers on.
The Poe-inspired ‘The Raven’ has, naturally, a goth veneer all over it. Here, Strange’s vocals have a particularly doleful quality, delivering lines such as “I’m an angel playing in reverse” with a dark relish. At the same time, it offers up a contrasting uplift on the chorus, which is surprisingly effective.
The edge-lined starkness of ‘Plastic Girl’ lends a sense of unease in its moody beats. Elsewhere, there’s a bleak science fiction sheen to ‘The Future’ with its post-apocalyptic vibes. “Farewell to everything/Dust and ruins” is fairly unambiguous as a visual image.
‘Deleted Scenes’ offers up perhaps the darkest outing on the album, inspired by disturbing stories from within the porn industry. The composition boasts machine-like rhythms, while Saul’s drained vocals have a sour taste to them. Certainly, lines such as “Lurid pleasures/Seep and drip on the set” have a suitably seedy feel to them.
The excellent ‘Insekt’ seems to distill the Dead Lights ethos in a perfect combination of bold, dark beats and an almost physical presence to the vocals. “Obscene and perfect” sums it up. Meanwhile, the death disco of ‘Quiet Pleasure’ delivers percussive rhythms and mesmerising lyrical couplets: “Such unknown pleasures/And you’ll own yours forever”.
There’s an early Numan feel to ‘Industry’ with its cold synth soundscapes. At the same time, there’s a fractured, crunchy feel to the rhythms here that keeps things raw and interesting. Closing things out is the slower, moodier ‘The Witching Hour’, which has a hypnotic occult draw at its heart.
As an album, Dead Lights seems almost custom-built for those that enjoy darker electronic outings, but also like to have a bop on the dance floor. It’s a seedy electro-goth blowout, one that’s also likely to take on a fresh energy in a live environment.
Dead Lights is out now on digital and CD on the Cold Transmission Music label: https://deadlightsband.bandcamp.com/album/dead-lights
A special limited edition of 200 vinyl editions is also available (due for shipping out on or around 15th January 15 2022).