‘I hear the roar of the big machineTwo worlds and in betweenHot metal and methedrine’

Andrew Eldritch was on one long amphetamine comedown when he wrote the Sisters Of Mercy’s best material throughout the 1980s. Staunchly in denial of his gothness and holding firm as Draculian rock god of the British Isles, Eldritch remains the ideal intersection of dark electronic music and guitar-driven rock and heavy metal that, sometimes, can draw in the same type of listener.

In the above lyrics, taken from 1987 anthem Lucretia My Reflection, guitars grind down into the tick-tock heartbeat of Eldritch’s beloved drum machine Doktor Avalanche. His solemn baritone vocals ring out in the chaos, an uncanny antihero’s voice projected with confidence, with aggression. It is weird and heavy, monumental and moving. Play it at the goth club or at the metal bar alike and you’re almost guaranteed to notice a fellow true ‘head’s face light up.

Electronic music and heavy metal couldn’t seem more different in theory, but that surface level reading belies an ocean of common waters in which plenty a black-clad rebel might swim. Anyone who’s dug out a perimeter spot in an active pit knows the thrill of throbbing as one with their fellow concert goer; this also holds true for the industrial techno raver swapping sweat with other dancers during a pounding Berlin sunrise.

Kelsey Chapstick

Los Angeles act HEALTH are a contemporary group who understand and exemplify this crossover potential by fusing heavy electronics with more traditional rock instrumentation to create what they describe as “modern hard rock”. In this 2019 Revolver interview, they discuss how classic bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple have already released the greatest hits that genre can offer. Adding synthesisers is, for HEALTH, the way forward that can add heft and interest to their music.

“Whenever we say something needs to be heavier, it needs ‘more dog’,” they explain, citing a goofy episode of The Simpsons that features dogs swimming in a brewery’s vat of beer to increase the flavour potential of the batch. They cite the Roland TR-808 synthesiser as being “huger [sic] than anything in the world”, and note they incorporate tools like that in order to sound “the most fuckin’ dog”.

While HEALTH aim for sheer power in their music, more nuanced acts like Roadburn favourites Kaelan Mikla rely primarily on thematic heaviness to convey a sense of darkness and weight. Their layered synth lines weave a smoky incantation of Icelandic folklore and tortured dreamscapes, while pulsating backbeats get your body moving.

In an interview I conducted for Revolver right before the release of their 2018 LP Nott Eftir Nott, keyboard player and vocalist Solveig Matthildur said they’d written “songs of regret, shadows, witches and all the things that lure in the darkest hour of night mixed with Icelandic folklore, and reminiscent of the winter darkness that simultaneously frightens us and makes us feel at home”.

Her move from a black metal hotspot like Iceland to techno-drenched Berlin surely affected the dancier bits of the record, further gluing their feet in divergent scenes with ease and panache. One look at their latest video Sólstöður shows their continued love for blackened imagery while pointed doses of aggressive shrieking only highlight the beautiful contrast to a steady, pounding beat.

In complete opposition to HEALTH and Kaelan Mikla is a Roadburn Redux performer, Ethan Lee McCarthy. His project Many Blessings, a self-described “experimental outlet” for the Primitive Man and Vermin Womb frontman, is less interested in dance beats and fully dedicated to brain-melting aural terror; though, if you’re already familiar with the paralysing death metal terror of Primitive Man, that should be no surprise.

Violent, caustic, and ambient in the way a train grinding through a football field of rusty cars might be, Many Blessings albums like Thank You, Good Bye are comprised of increasingly harsh sounds over droning sonic backdrops that facilitate a sort of uneasy catharsis. The quixotically confessional titles are works of art in themselves, posing questions like Is it A Victimless Crime?, while other tracks like Wet Vessel beg for explanations that will never come. McCarthy stabs at the rawest form of self-expression through unfettered sounds and, without fail, draws blood every time.

There’s no way to talk about spilled blood in harsh electronics without mentioning HIDE. The duo excel beyond being simply musicians and instead use terrifying visuals, abrasive soundscapes, scathing performances, and their foreboding presence to sear through the heart of electronic music since their 2014 inception. Singer Heather Gabel doesnt pull a single punch when slicing into the meat of the outfit’s purpose, telling Revolver in 2014:

“I want people to feel afraid. So many people live in fear all the time because of who they are. My songs are about turning it back on the people who prey on [them].”

HIDE were set to perform on Roadburn’s fated 2020 lineup, a dismal loss for ticket-holders who anticipated the acerbic bite of the duo’s stage presence. COVID-19 took plenty of incredible acts away in its wrath, especially in a year when electronic music was set to take on perhaps its largest role in the festival’s history.

Boy Harsher were another victim of the cancellation, but now’s the time to dive deep on their catalog if you haven’t yet. If you’ve been to any goth club or party in the past several years, you’ve heard Pain.  It’s infectious, sexy, impossible to ignore, and one of the biggest hits of the dark electronic music scene in recent history. It’s the Massachusetts act’s signature song, and a perfect example of why they deserve every ounce of attention they’ve gotten over the past few years.

Formed in 2013 as Teen Dreamz before changing names and refining their dance appeal the following year, Boy Harsher dropped their debut Yr Body Is Nothing in 2016 and have since released instant classics like Country Boy Uncut and Careful with seemingly effortless charisma and creativity. The two members, Augustus Mueller and Jae Matthews, come from film-focused backgrounds and use their knack for tension-building and keen aesthetics to craft brilliant works of art like Send Me A Vision, which you can watch below. Timeless, ethereal, and unsettling in the most exciting way, it’s a stunning short film.

Another million-plus viewed video of Boy Harsher is Motion, which stars another prolific underground music star, Kristina Esfandiari. Kristina is the pinnacle of crossover potential, working as the mastermind behind passionate doom peddlers King Woman (formerly a solo project) while simultaneously creating bubblegum indie as Miserable, revenge rap as Dalmation, harsh industrial act NGHTCRWLR – we could go on, but you get the picture. She’s the physical manifestation of what multi-genre fusing looks like in one artist, and a prime reason why none of us should fear taking in sounds that seem daunting or different, unfamiliar.

Ultimately, that lack of fear and coming together of the creative minds is the spirit that drives a festival like Roadburn. While it may have started as a more stoner-doom mashup of acts that indulged in the legality of cannabis in its home country, the fest has since become a multi-headed hydra of brash, unapologetic performers that seek to touch, move, and enthrall their loyal watchers while indoctrinating newcomers into new, unknown pleasures.

While many of us joined scenes like those found tied to heavy metal or goth out of a sense of rejection from mainstream ideals, we’re sometimes reluctant to find common ground in that exile. Sloughing off rigid genre loyalty is refreshing and empowering, though, and not nearly as scary as it might seem at first. Heshers can dance, dancers can headbang, and the point of it all has always been fun, poetic, emotional catharsis through movement and art, community and camaraderie.


She Past Away

While they cringe at comparisons to the Sisters, it’s impossible to deny that She Past Away share at least a few sonic similarities with them. They are also a valuable voice in the dark electronic scene today, as well as another would-be act from Roadburn’s impeccable and sorely missed 2020 lineup.

The Turkish goths are known for their captivating hooks and dense atmospherics, beginning with their 2009 debut EP, Kasvetli Kutlama. Singer Volkan Caner haunts with a lonesome bellow while ice guitars, punchy keyboards, and a steady beat on the drum machine swirl up enchantment.

The EP’s title track is a depressive, atmospheric ode to loneliness and feeling one’s self slip away in a sea of ‘black leather masks on fake faces’ – lyrics that would feel just at home on a black or doom metal album. While those genres tend toward concentrated, dedicated crowds, She Past Away’s undeniable catchiness boosted their crossover appeal and gained an impressive eight and a half million views on YouTube alone. Even hesher diehards won’t be able to deny the duo’s magnetism and, really, why try?

Andi Harriman

Music journalist, DJ, frequent lecturer, and literal writer on the book of goth (check out her coveted tome Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace), Andi Harriman is one of modern electronic music’s best assets for carrying the torch of everything dark and dance floor-ready. You can find a smattering of entrancing sample sets on her website that give a peek into her musical style and the type of tunes she’s likely to spin at Synthicide, an electronic party and label she runs in New York City.

Also make sure to check out her debut EP with Berlin-based label Aufnahme + Wiedergabe, including the video for Ruminandum, that acts as a colorful pastiche of ’80s-influenced imagery dragged straight from the subconscious of an AI-generated brain fed a decade’s worth of archival MTV footage and early digital experimentation.


Gallops made their band debut at Roadburn, thus establishing their legitimacy on this list but also solidifying the growing breadth of ‘burners’ listening habits. When I attended in 2018, I recall the inescapable draw of Gost blocking out a full room of attendees ready to boogie, but they have since moved into more industrial territory, and left a gap into which another danceable act must fall if the crowd wants to keep moving well into the night. Enter: Gallops.

Tracks like Darkjewel and Shakma are perfect examples of their crossover potential when we’re talking ravers and heshers: there’s a steady, four-on-the-floor beat succeeded by ineffable grooves that hook the ear and move the body effortlessly.

Drab Majesty

Dais Records act Drab Majesty are coldwave revolutionaries whose simmering, perfect 1980s heartbeat builds on the aesthetics of vaporwave, the sounds of modern new wave, and the visual appeal of Andy Warhol dressed as a cyborg clown from 1967’s idea of the future.

Drab Majesty started as the solo project of Deb Demure, the alter ego of Andrew Clinco of American rockers Marriages, since the release of 2012 EP Unarian Dances. 2017 seemed to blow the doors off with the release of The Demonstration, just after Mona D joined the small crew. Their live performances as a duo are swathed in thick fog and bisexual lighting (in case you’re not familiar, click here to read more), leaving the watcher either primed for casual, relaxed dancing or a trancelike, soft-focus audience experience.

Check out their popular video for Oxytocin to get a sense of the baroque grandeur and ennui-soaked sound that sets them apart from their contemporaries.


Self-described as a “one-woman powerhouse of Parisian Darkwave,” Hante. is the brainchild of musician Hélène de Thoury that fuses pounding electronic beats, reverberant whispers, and sensual melodies to create sensual dance tracks imbued with the darkness needed to hold an entire room rapt from start to finish.

Hante is set to participate at Roadburn Redux, so watch her new music video to no doubt pick up on the numerous influences surely loved by plenty of ‘burners, like those she name-dropped in a 2019 interview:

“I’m still very influenced by bands I was listening to when I was very young such as Queen, Guns N’ Roses, Radiohead, David Bowie, Tears For Fears, The Human League, and Depeche Mode… I was listening to a lot of industrial/metal bands in the noughties and now there are a lot of amazing synthwave artists who inspire me such as Xeno & Oaklander, Hord, TR/ST, Boy Harsher, Selofan, Drab Majesty, and so many more.”