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top 10 2023 11 comebacklabelIn recent years the Dark Scene has been saturated with returning projects from the field of mostly Electro-Industrial. In 2023 the emphasis shifted to the Gothic side. Two cult Gothic projects released albums after a long break and one of them returned to the scene from the 80s.

Covered genres: all dark scene genres

05. Sonar - ‘Future Cries’ (rhythmic noise | Belgium, Hands Productions)

Dirk Ivens known for his work in the cult Belgian project THE KLINIK as well as for his solo project DIVE created SONAR in the mid-90s. The project was focused on the scene of Rhythmic Noise and not classic Post-Industrial like THE KLINIK, DIVE and other projects of the Belgian. SONAR was initially released on Dirk’s label Daft Records and then switched to Ant-Zen. The new Sonar work became the first full-length album of the project on Hands Productions. ‘Future Cries’ is the first album after almost a ten-year hiatus from SONAR’s work and is made in the genre of standard rough not particularly aggressive Rhythmic Noise with looped compositions and multi-layered piles of sounds. The material is good, but the looping gets a little tiring towards the end of the album. Facebook:

04. Nina Belief - ‘Vessel of Voices’ (Electroclash, Coldwave, Minimal Synth | USA, No Emb Blanc)

American performer NINA BELIEF created a project of the same name in the late 1990s, but did not delight her listeners with releases so often. The American’s previous work was out in 2013. The new album is called ‘Vessel of Voices’ and is made in a combination of Electroclash, Electropop, Minimal Synth and slight touch of Coldwave. This is a popular combination nowadays, but Electroclash is not a frequent guest in such mixture. The album turned out to be quite long and the material is not always coherent, but there are cool tracks and the overall atmosphere is interesting with a gothic touch and a slight dose of dark romance. Good work by the American, which has already become the second solo in her discography. Facebook:

03. Skeletal Family - ‘Light from the Dark’ (Gothic Rock | UK, Chapter 22)

The British band SKELETAL FAMILY was formed in the early 80s and is rightfully considered a cult group on the Gothic music scene, so all of their albums are perceived by fans of the dark scene as a holiday and an Event. Almost 14 years have passed since the last album, so fans of British formation are tired of waiting. With their new album ‘Light from the Dark’ SKELETAL FAMILY create a light and familiar Gothic Rock and Post-Punk with female vocals. This is no longer the same material, of course, that made them popular and beloved by everyone, but airy and light compositions with Anneka’s beautiful vocals will still ring in the ears of Gothic music lovers many times. Facebook:

02. Dark Sanctuary - ‘Cernunnos’ (Ethereal, Neoclassics | France, Avantgarde Music)

The French project DARK SANCTUARY is some kind of an icon of the Ethereal and Neoclassical genres of the dark scene. Its works of the mid and late 90s as well as throughout the 2000s became loved and recognizable, so the long break since 2009 plunged all listeners into anticipation of a new creation, although the musicians did not disappear anywhere and worked in other bands and musical projects. But new work did appear in 2023 and this longest break in collaboration apparently benefited the musicians, because the album ‘Cernunnos’ can be considered one of the best in the project’s discography and definitely the best in 2023, not only within the chamber dark scene, but in the entire dark scene. The magnificent female vocals of Sophie Boss accompanied by Neoclassical opuses with piano and violin again reminded how ideally beautiful a Dark Chamber scene can be. There haven't been many albums like this lately. ‘Cernunnos’ is far ahead and has settled in ears, speakers and players for a long time. Perfect. Facebook:

01. Ghost Dance - ‘The Silent Shout’ (Gothic Rock, Postpunk, Dark Rock | UK, Voltage Records)

The cult group GHOST DANCE was formed in the mid-80s and released only one full-length album in 1989, after which its members scattered to other projects and GHOST DANCE ceased to exist. 30 years later in 2019 Anne-Marie reassembled the band with almost the same line-up as in the 80s and the British act began writing new material. The completed return took place in 2023. The album ‘The Silent Shout’ included both completely new compositions and unreleased material from Gary Marx archive. The album is made in the genres of modern Gothic Rock with hints of the Alternative and Indie scenes with smooth, strong compositions, although me personally would like to hear something more old school from GHOST DANCE. In any case, the return of one of the legends of the goth scene was actually one of the main events in 2023 and the album turned out to be good, but not great. Facebook:


Label of the year

I write this as part of the top labels every year and every year it is relevant: self-release has traditionally become the best label. However, there are other music publishing companies that continue to develop the scene and promote young promising projects into the world of the dark scene. It is the emphasis on young projects that is one of the main criteria in choosing this top.

03. Pbh Media (Sweden)

The Swedish label Pbh Media was created in the second half of the 1990s and currently has more than 100 releases. And, although he got into the top labels of 2023 mainly because of the releases of TRAIN TO SPAIN and SCALA, the Swedes also published other interesting projects during the year. In any case the label has attracted attention not for the first time, so its presence in the top turned out to be cumulative for 2-3 years and not just for 2023. The label specializes in the synth scene more towards electropop and other variations, even occasionally leaving into the indie and pop acts. Facebook:

02. Young and Cold Records (Germany)

The German label Young and Cold Records was formed in 2013 in Augsburg and practically and initially published compilations and less known projects from the Gothic and Indie scene. Over time the palette of German producers became more formed, more famous projects began to appear on the label and the focus became more Gothic. In the last 2-3 years the label has been regularly supplying the Gothic scene with interesting names from the field of coldwave and post-punk, which has earned it a place in the top 3 for 2023. Facebook:

01. Bat-Cave Productions (Poland)

The Polish label Bat-Cave Productions appeared at the beginning of the 10s and is currently one of the leaders on the Gothic scene not only in Eastern Europe, but also in the world as a whole. Bat-Cave Productions produces both young start-up bands and well-known projects. The bulk of published releases are from Poland, but there are also other European and world projects. The label has been on the radar for a long time and periodically was either a contender for the top three labels of the year or part of it. In 2023 there were many new interesting albums and re-releases of old “lost” ones. The label is not only a publishing company, but also takes part in organizing gothic and other events in Poland and abroad. Facebook:

Other honorable mentions: Hospital Productions, Scanner

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