The Gothic Fairy Tales Playlist
December 1, 2020
This week is weird. Thanksgiving was weird. Everything’s weird.
We know people are having a rough time right now, and so we decided we wanted to give you a small present. What kind of present? A GOTHIC FAIRY TALES PLAYLIST PRESENT!
Okay, okay, we know it’s not exactly seasonal (or is it?), but I spent SO MUCH TIME crafting this baby for our Gothic Fairy Tales course, and Sara thought it would be a total shame to limit it only to those who bought the class. It’s admittedly one of my all-time favorite playlists, and also one of my longest, so I was 100% thrilled when she suggested sharing this one with everyone.
(Behind the Scenes Fact: I had 71 songs when I finished my initial list of possibilities for this one :P. Hey, this is my JAM!)
For this one, I tried to incorporate a variety of musical styles, always with fairy tales and the Gothic in mind. Not every song has a direct fairy-tale link, but they all (to me at least) totally get the aesthetic (okay, well, the last song is more just my for own amusement… but it totally works.)
Do note that I love me a bit of hardcore metal every so often, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so I avoided songs with TOO much growling/screaming. If you’re into that kind of thing though (or at least don’t mind a bit of it), the two songs I’d definitely recommend adding to the list are Avec Tristesse’s “All Love is Gone” (there’s a bit in the middle where they literally recite Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty”!) and Cradle of Filth’s “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids” (from their Elizabeth Bathory inspired album.)
You can listen here…
… and here are a few of my thoughts on the song choices!
Nox Arcana – “Shivers” – You know I love to start a playlist with a good instrumental, and this one sets the mood oh-so nicely. It reminds me of flickering candles and long corridors.
Theatre of Tragedy – “Siren” – Theatre of Tragedy is the only band that makes the playlist twice, and with good reason. Not only are they one of my all-time favorite Gothic Metal bands (at least their Aegis and older stuff), they also experiment with very different styles, so the two songs on the list are actually quite different. This is the one that’s not entirely written in Early Modern English, but it’s a perfect mix to me of gothic metal and what’s more typically thought of as “goth” music. Plus it’s about a siren, so how can you go wrong?
MS MR – “Bones” – This one’s more of a darkwave kind of sound – the refrain of “dig up the bones, but leave the soul alone” couldn’t get more Gothic if it tried.
Leaves’ Eyes – “Symphony of the Night” – this one is more of a traditional Gothic Metal song… and it’s written from the perspective of Laura from Le Fanu’s Gothic masterpiece Carmilla!
Chelsea Wolfe – “Preface to a Dream Play” – Chelsea Wolfe is a Gothic music queen, pretty much any of her songs could have worked on this playlist. I picked this one because it evoked a feeling of haunted, dreaming enchantment to me.
Lana Del Rey – “Once Upon a Dream” – Lana covered the song, originally from Disney’s 1959 film version of “Sleeping Beauty,” for 2014’s Maleficent and it’s exquisite. It takes the song to a completely new place, a stranger, deeper place. Rumor has it that Angelina Jolie specifically requested that she do it!
Myrkur – “Ella” – Myrkur is another amazing Gothic singer (in fact, she’s toured and dueted with Chelsea Wolfe in the past!) This song is from her more folk album, but she also does amazing Doom Metal music, and it totally comes through regardless. I highly encourage you to look up the translated lyrics for this one – you’ll see that the fairy-tale feeling that comes through the sound is 100% spot on in the lyrics too. It feels like a fairy-tale journey.
Tristania – “My Lost Lenore” – There’s no way this song isn’t inspired by Poe’s “The Raven,” and it’s a really interesting twist. Another Gothic Metal song, but I do warn you that there’s a bit of growling/screaming in this one. It’s actually an example of what commonly gets called “Beauty and the Beast”-style metal, with beautiful feminine tones sharply contrasted with growling/screaming masculine tones… so, in other words, perfect for this playlist!
The Birthday Massacre – “Midnight” – I just love TBM’s relatively cheery, upbeat-sounding but actually still totally “goth” music :P. Definitely something quite fairy tale about these lyrics too.
Joy Williams – “Before I Sleep” – Joy Williams’ solo work is new to me, but I completely fell in love with this song. It feels like Gothic fairy-tale quest music, shivering across the miles in iron shoes to get to your beloved.
Nightwish – “Shudder Before the Beautiful” – Another Gothic Metal band (er, well, Gothic/Power Metal band), Nightwish has about a million songs that could have fit, but I went with this one because it’s totally about the sublime?! I love it. (And for those wondering, I didn’t choose their “Beauty and the Beast” song mostly because I’m not a huge fan of the dude’s vocals in it… it’s otherwise a very good song, and one that obviously fits this playlist, but it just doesn’t quite do it for me.)
Azam Ali – “In Other Worlds” – You might know this song by its other title “The Cold Black Key,” which is what it’s called on the Neil Gaiman tribute album, Where’s Neil When You Need Him? It’s a song inspired by his very Gothic fairy-tale children’s book Coraline, so it’s an obvious pick, but I also love that it gets a bit of the less well known but incredibly awesome Middle Eastern Gothic into this list.
Rasputina – “Transylvanian Concubine” – Rasputina is another staple band of the goth scene, but a wholly unique one (dominated by cellos!) This song is about Dracula’s brides, but with a decidedly modern flair.
Patrick Wolf – “Damaris” – Oh my beloved Patrick Wolf… I love this totally Gothic song about waiting for a dead lover to “rise up” :o.
Within Temptation – “Hand of Sorrow” – Within Temptation is another of my absolute favorite bands, and it was SO hard to pick one song for this list… there were so many that could have worked! I ultimately went with “Hand of Sorrow” because it brings in a bit of the medieval vibe of Gothic (and it’s just a fabulous song.) It came down to this one or “Ice Queen,” so I recommend checking that one out too!
Theatre of Tragedy – “…A Distance There Is…” – Okay, this is old-school ToT, back when they sang entirely in Early Modern English and were pioneering Gothic Metal via Doom Metal. This entire song is basically a Gothic story, and honestly it’s one of my top 5 favorite songs of all time. The piano is amazing, and I’m a sucker for the use of thunderstorm sounds.
Yasmine Hamdan – “Hal” – Another nod to the Middle Eastern Gothic, but also I had to include a song from Jim Jarmusch’s absolute masterpiece of a Gothic vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive (2013).
Epica – “Once Upon a Nightmare” – Another Gothic Metal song, but fabulously, this one seems to me to be about a fairy seducing a man and enticing him to follow her into Faerie. Plus with a title like that, how could I NOT include it?
Soles – “Love Will Have Its Sacrifices” – Ridiculously catchy (seriously stuck in my head for days while making this), this song is the theme for the super fun web series based on Carmilla. Totally Gothic lyrics too.
Florence + The Machine – “Seven Devils” – Another difficult choice, as Florence has several songs that could fit the Gothic Fairy Tale theme, but ultimately I went with this one for its undeniable atmosphere. Devils totally freak me out, but there’s no denying they’re part of the Gothic, and this song is powerful.
Adam Hurst – “Elegy” – Adam Hurst is the master of Gothic instrumentals, so I had to include at least one of his songs!
Paradise Lost – “Enchantment” – There’s a bit of growling in this one, but this Gothic Metal band is one of the oldest and the music is just beautiful. I also definitely wanted to include a Gothic Metal band with a Byronic male singer.
Digital Daggers – “The Devil Within” – SUCH Gothic lyrics here, this is another relatively new discovery for me and I absolutely love it. So creepy!!
Loreena McKennitt – “The Highwayman” – I really wanted to include a ballad of some kind, because I feel like older-style Gothic stories and ballads really draw from each other, and Loreena McKennitt’s musical version of Alfred Noyes’ poem “The Highwayman” is perfect. A daring adventure, a tragic choice, and haunting ghost story all in one.
Valentine Wolfe – “Darkling, Listen” – This song is literally a Gothic music version of John Keats’ poem “Ode to a Nightingale” and it’s FABULOUS.
The Awakening – “The Dark Romantics” – Yeah, I couldn’t resist ending on this one. Yes, it sounds a bit like one of the goth music parodies on South Park, yes the lyrics are a little cheesy, but dang it, it wholeheartedly embraces the Gothic in all its splendor. We are the “Dark Romantics” indeed.
So there you have it! Hilariously, I just noticed that 3 singers/bands on this list have Wolf(e) in their name… it feels appropriate ;). I hope you enjoy this playlist! I encourage you to put it on, light some candles, and drink a glass of… wine ;).
P.S. What songs evoke “Gothic Fairy Tales” to you? I’d love to know! Stick them in the comments for me!!
The song that immediately popped into my head when I saw the title of this post was “Transylvanian Concubine,” so I’m delighted that it made the list! 🙂
Thank you thank you for this list! If you ever feel like compiling a strictly Gothic Metal list, I would not be unhappy…
I was listening to Florence + the Machine this morning, and I think Jenny of Oldstones would be a great addition, although as you said there are so many of her songs that could fit the bill. Or if you want old school Goth, Severina by The Mission UK, or Song to the Siren by This Mortal Coil.
I’m definitely thinking about it :). And yes to “Jenny of Oldstones!” That one’s totally on the long list, as is “Song to the Siren”! I’ll check the other one out for sure :).
There are actually countless legit trad Goth songs that are about fantasy and fairy tales. All of Cocteau Twins’ Treasure references Greek mythology, Siouxsie and the Banshees have got a whole bunch (“Spellbound”, “Green Fingers”, “Red Over White”, etc.) and filmed their own version of Alice in Wonderland, All About Eve LIVES in this genre with their self-titled first album and the second one, Scarlet and Other Stories. Even Bauhaus wrote a song about faeries, namely, “Hollow Hills”. And that’s just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. Actually, Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser sang “The Song to the Siren and All About Eve’s Julianne Regan sang on “Severina”. (Yes, I know way too much about Goth and fairy tales merging together, but it’s my passion LOL)
I am HERE FOR THIS. Thank you so much for putting this annotated playlist together!!
You’re so welcome!! I’m so glad you enjoy it :).