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Gothic metal is, naturally, a subgenre of Heavy Metal. It sounds dark, like gothic rock; it's got the sonic amplitude of metal; and it's depressing, like Doom Metal. Many of the bands have female vocalists; many also use the classic Soprano and Gravel trick. There are few bands that have never used either, though there are many that have a male vocalist as the frontman.

Gothic metal has its roots in death/doom, which is, as the name implies, Death Metal mixed with Doom Metal. The Peaceville Three, who served as the Trope Codifiers for death/doom, gradually incorporated several traits into their music (some traits being brought in from Gothic Rock) that would shape the genre; keyboards, violins (in the case of My Dying Bride), female vocals, and deeper (often bass-baritone) vocals. Around the same time as the Peaceville Three, the American Type O Negative, coming from a slightly different musical background (ie. not death/doom), started incorporating traits from gothic rock into their music also; to this day, it's unclear whether Type O Negative or the Peaceville Three did it first, but it's generally agreed to be one of those four bands that kickstarted the genre.

It is hugely popular in Europe, especially Scandinavia, where many of the bands are from. Possibly as a result of its popularity, and the stigma brought on by the false idea that "gothic metal = metal for goths", many bands have fought against being categorised as gothic metal, though it doesn't have the same stigma as other names would. In addition to this, there are also countless arguments as to which bands actually count as gothic metal, due to the rather vague definition of what gothic metal is. Expect there to be arguments should you refer to Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, Nightwish, Epica or HIM as part of this genre.

Examples of bands associated with the gothic metal genre:

  • After Forever (Disbanded as of 2009.)
  • Anathema - Trope Maker, along with Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. Later became a quiet atmospheric/progressive rock band.
  • Before the Dawn
  • Charon
  • Closterkeller
  • Cradle of Filth
  • Dark the Suns
  • Draconian
  • Epica - Some think of them more as symphonic Power Metal, albeit darker than the norm and with added death growls.
  • Eternal Tears Of Sorrow - Combined with Melodic Death Metal. However, their earliest work was Thrash Metal.
  • Evanescence - Mixed with a little Alternative Rock.
  • Exist Trace, although they have moved away from this in recent releases.
  • Fallout - An early band of Peter Steele and Josh Silver from Type O Negative, formed in 1979. They released one independent single, Rock Hard/Batteries Not Included, in 1981 before breaking up. Rock Hard is quite a standard rock song with synths. However, Batteries Not Included is definitely Gothic Metal - as it displays all the traits that Type O would become famous for, albeit includes some dated sounding synths. Since the band only recorded two songs, we don't know what direction they might have taken so it would be premature to call them the first Gothic Metal band. However this probably would have been the case if they had recorded more material at the time.
  • The Gathering - YMMV, once again. They eventually moved away from metal altogether to focus on a strange blend of trip-hop and progressive rock, but it's debatable whether their actual metal material was ever gothic metal. They certainly played a major part in the rise of female-fronted goth metal, either way.
  • Graveworm
  • HIM - Another YMMV band, probably the second-most on this list next to Evanescence. They call themselves "love metal", which presumably means "stop asking us about our fucking genre", but overall it's unclear whether they're gothic metal or not.
  • Katatonia
  • Lacrimosa (later)
  • Lacuna Coil - Since around Karmacode they moved away from gothic metal to more of an alternative rock/metal sound that divided the fanbase.
  • Lake of Tears
  • Leaves Eyes - The current band of Theatre of Tragedy's ex-vocalist Liv Kristine.
  • Moonspell
  • My Dying Bride - Trope Maker, along with Paradise Lost and Anathema. Later became a straight-forward doom metal band with frequent flashes of their earlier gothic metal and death/doom.
  • Nemesea
  • Nightwish - Like Epica, they're often considered more of a symphonic power metal band; they started showing elements of gothic metal with Century Child, and have got slightly darker with each album since.
  • The Old Dead Tree
  • Paradise Lost - A Trope Maker, sometimes considered the major one; also the Trope Namer with their album Gothic, which is more of a death/doom album but displays traits of gothic metal.
  • Revamp (Born from Ex-After Forever vocalist, Floor Jansen.)
  • Sentenced
  • The Sins of Thy Beloved
  • Sirenia
  • Stream of Passion - Arguably, maybe more Progressive Metal.
  • Theatre of Tragedy - Trope Codifier, the ones who pioneered the Soprano and Gravel technique (Paradise Lost, Celtic Frost and The Gathering had all used it before, but Theatre of Tragedy were the ones who made it popular). If you encounter a gothic metal(-ish) band that has two vocalists, one male and one female, then they will be strongly influenced by Theatre of Tragedy.
  • Theatres des Vampires
  • Tiamat
  • Trail of Tears
  • Tristania
  • Type O Negative - One of the Trope Makers.
  • Virgin Black
  • Within Temptation - Definitely with their debut album, Enter; their material afterwards is only debatably part of this genre (in fact, there are even some that question their later material's metalness).
  • Xandria

Gothic metal displays the following tropes:

  • Ensemble Darkhorse - Type O Negative, at least amongst metalheads.
  • Genre Shift - Gothic metal bands are renowned for doing this. The genre itself was created thanks to several death/doom bands doing this. Several goth metal bands then moved into other genres - Paradise Lost and Theatre of Tragedy into electronic rock, Anathema and The Gathering into alternative/Progressive Rock, Tiamat into some strange brand of experimental goth rock, Lacuna Coil into Alternative Metal... the list goes on and on.
  • Internet Backdraft - The debate over whether certain bands belong to the genre or not. The most commonly-debated bands are probably Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, After Forever, Epica, HIM, Nightwish and The Gathering.
  • Narm - Some bands in the genre have been known to cause this.
  • The Scrappy - Cradle of Filth and, depending on whether you count them as part of the genre, Evanescence and HIM.
  • Soprano and Gravel - There are very few bands that have not played with this technique at some point in their career. The genre was also responsible for popularising the technique in metal, resulting in it becoming a cliche.
  • Tear Jerker - Sometimes the music can get pretty depressing.
  • Trope Codifier - Theatre of Tragedy, and to a lesser degree Tiamat and The Gathering.
  • Trope Maker - The Peaceville Three (especially Paradise Lost) and Type O Negative.
  • Trope Namer - Paradise Lost's Gothic album.