What do you get when you cross goth with punk? Deathrock. The bastard child of two of the biggest alternative subcultures, Deathrock is as dark as it is theatrical. A performative style, Deathrock found its way onto the post-punk scene in the 1970s and has held a special place in our hearts ever since.
What Is Deathrock?
Combining the romance of the gothic movement with the edge of punk, Deathrock is a unique style that dials up the theatrics. It’s a style that leans heavily on DIY elements and customisation, meaning that not only can you buy clothing that already fits in with the Deathrock genre, you can also get creative with your favourite goth and punk styles to shift them into Deathrock territory. Simply take classic punk rock and gothic styles and add campy, spooky elements of horror to get that Deathrock look.
Where Did Deathrock Come From?
The post-punk scene of the late 1970s saw the emergence of Deathrock. London’s Batcave nightclub was considered to be the birthplace of goth, and it’s in this same venue that Deathrock found its UK roots. Deathrock’s popularity surged after bands in the genre such as Alien Sex Fiend and Specimen gigged at Batcave and lured fans over from the trad goth scene.
In the US, punk bands such as the Misfits and the Cramps were using horror to embellish their punk style. While these punk bands didn’t claim the Deathrock name, by the 80s, Deathrock had well and truly hit LA’s hardcore scene. At the Anti-Club in LA, bands such as 45 Grave and Super Heroines grew the darker flavour of punk that Deathrock offers.
How Is Deathrock Different from Goth?
While goth focuses on motifs of death and darkness, Deathrock amps up the horror. It takes on a real pop-culture influence that features monsters, ghouls and gore in a more theatrical way than mainstream goth. The sound of Deathrock music is more punk than straight-laced goth, and the style follows suit. With punk and horror influences layered on top of classic gothic style, there’s no mistaking one for the other.
What Does Deathrock Sound Like?
Horror was part of the alternative music scene long before Deathrock arrived. From novelty horror acts like Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s Monster Mash to theatrical rock acts like Alice Cooper, there were plenty of horror-based influences for the likes of the Deathrock band 45 Grave to draw on.
One of the most influential Deathrock icons was Rozz Williams of the band Christian Death. Here they are doing their thing in the video for the song “Church Of No Return”:
If Christian Death isn’t your bag, another huge band on the Deathrock scene were 45 Grave. Their frontwoman Dinah Cancer goes by many titles from the Queen of Deathrock to the High Priestess of Deathrock and even the Goddess of Deathrock. See Dinah in action with 45 Grave in the video for the song “Party Time”:
How To Get The Deathrock Look
Deathrock might rely on a lot of DIY to bring in that punk vibe, but if you’re looking for a quick route to the Deathrock look, there are a few different styles that you can reach for straight away.
Punk had a huge influence on Deathrock, so punk staples such as fishnet tights, ripped jeans and tops featuring punk motifs like safety pins are sure to set you on the right track. You can even borrow oversized tops from the grunge scene, but if you stick to the punk side of things and blend in some gothic elements, you’re sure to be on your way to a successful Deathrock look. Don’t forget to include a generous helping of campy, pop-culture horror into your look!
Since you’re combining gothic and punk looks for the theatrical effect of Deathrock, it stands to reason that the best Deathrock hairstyles are the most iconic from each subgenre. A mohawk with shaved sides or super backcombed hair is going to be the perfect finishing touch for your Deathrock look. Why not finish off your Deathrock hairstyle with a horror-inspired hair accessory?