Artist Info

Christian Death

The founding fathers of American goth rock, Christian Death took a relentlessly confrontational stand against organized religion and conventional morality, with an appetite for provocation that made Marilyn Manson look like Stryper. Regardless of who was leading or performing in the group, Christian Death set themselves up to shock, both in their cover art and their lyrics, which wallowed in blasphemy, morbidity, drug use, and sexual perversity. Their self-consciously controversial tactics set them apart from the British goth scene, having more to do with L.A. punk and heavy metal, and thus the band dubbed its sound "death rock" instead; however, their sensibility was ultimately similar enough that the "goth" designation stuck in the end. Their music also relied on slow, doomy, effects-laden guitar riffs and ambient horror-soundtrack synths, and their theatrical performances were strongly influenced by British glam rockers like David Bowie and Roxy Music, as well as industrial provocateurs Throbbing Gristle. The latter was especially true of the band's first incarnation, led by vocalist and founder Rozz Williams, who masterminded much of what many critics consider their best work. When Williams left in 1985, guitarist Valor Kand took over leadership and sent the group in a more intellectual, political, and metal-oriented direction. A subsequent dispute over ownership of the Christian Death name led to a bitter feud between the two, not to mention competing versions of the group, leading many of their fans to take sides. The unconverted tended to dismiss Christian Death no matter who was involved; critics often found their poetry florid and overwrought, their subject matter self-important, and their shock tactics ham-handed. Nevertheless, Christian Death had an enormous influence on the American goth scene, shaping the sensibility of countless goth, metal, and even industrial acts that followed. Sadly, the Kand-Williams dispute ended in tragedy in 1998, when a heroin-addicted Williams took his own life.