The 5 Most Important Years in Goth Music: 1994

Categories: Gothtopia

Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral 0117.jpg
Over the course of the week, Rocks Off will be looking at the biggest years for goth music and exactly what they meant for the genre.

Nineteen ninety-four was a good year for a new kind of goth. Previously, for the most part the men had been sensitive artists, and even the ones who could be pretty brutal -- such as Nick Cave -- never seemed to lose their sense of grace and elegance. But two men changed all that, one real and one fictional.


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The first was Trent Reznor. Disguised as a hard-rock/industrial musician, Reznor shot into the spotlight with Pretty Hate Machine in 1989. That album alone would have cemented his place as a great goth musician, but it was his second album, 1994's The Downward Spiral, that showed that not only was he a rock star, he was a master of production and audio vision. "Closer" remains one of his biggest hits, if not in fact his biggest, while "Hurt" has become almost like a hymn thanks to honorary goth Johnny Cash's harrowing 2003 cover.

More than anything, Reznor managed to change the image of goth through the video for "Closer" directed by Mark Romanek. The new goth was aggressive, sensual, even base, without any of its predecessors' aspirations of nobility. This transition was even more pronounced in the rise of Reznor's protégé Marilyn Manson.


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Reznor produced Manson's 1994 debut Portrait of an American Family. Both albums received widespread airplay and critical acclaim.

Like it or not, Manson and his brand of goth became the dominate face of the genre for the rest of the '90s, even to being the somewhat official spokesman when it came time to denounce the idea of the Columbine shooters as goth in 1999.

Also in 1994 came Cave's Let Love In, recorded with his backing band the Bad Seeds and featuring "Red Right Hand," while Tori Amos dropped Under the Pink, featuring Reznor on "Past the Mission." Across the board, goth harnessed both its more classic elements and its more testosterone-driven modernism.

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