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by Chuck Eddy

February 16, 2014

Metal for Goth Mermaids

by Chuck Eddy  |  February 16, 2014

Sometime around the mid-'90s, a dark, spooky death metal band from the Netherlands called The Gathering hired a frontwoman named Anneke Van Giersbergen. They had employed other female vocalists before then, but 1995 was when their sound really started to evolve; they figured out that metal didn't have to sound nasty to feel heavy, and before long you could hear hints of Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins, Enya and Portishead. Once The Gathering had that brainstorm, other European bands followed suit. Nightwish, from Finland, debuted in 1997, and within a few years topped album charts in Greece and Germany as well as throughout Scandinavia; Lacuna Coil, from Italy, put out their first EP in 1998, and by 2006 were charting across the continent and even scoring a top 30 album in the U.S. Within Temptation, Dutch like The Gathering, racked up hit singles and gold albums in several European markets, and finally broke into the U.S. Top 20 with their Flash Dance-y new full-length, Hydra.

Actually, a couple commercially successful, initially Christian rock-identified bands from the U.S. South -- Evanescence and Flyleaf -- derive from a similar lineage; they're just relatively less operatic/symphonic metal (and a bit more nu metal) about it, maybe. But this playlist focuses on bands you're less likely to be familiar with -- mostly Euro ones, though a few Americans (Persephone's Dream, Crisis, Lilitu) made the cut. Norway (Theatre of Tragedy, who also date back to the mid-'90s; Sirenia, Octavia Sperati; Peccatum; Star of Ash; Madder Mortem; part-Germans Leaves Eyes) and the Netherlands (After Forever, Delain, Asrai, Epica and Stream of Passion along with The Gathering and Within Temptation) seem to dominate the style, but locales as far-flung as Russia (Dark Princess) and South Korea (Oathean) speak their piece too. Lineups overlap a bit -- e.g., The Gathering's current singer used to be in Octavia Sperati, and Leaves Eyes' singer used to be in Theatre of Tragedy, and Nightwish's ex-singer guests on Within Temptation's "Paradise." Several of the divas turn out to have red hair. It's anybody's guess why that might be -- maybe they just seem more mysterious that way.

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