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Gothic rock (sometimes called goth rock) is a genre of that originated during the late 1970s. Originally, bands from the genre had strong ties to the English and emerging styles. The genre itself was defined as a separate movement from punk rock during the early 1980s. Gothic rock artists deal with dark themes and intellectual movements such as Gothic horror, Romanticism, existential philosophy and nihilism. Notable Gothic rock bands include Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim. Gothic rock gave rise to a broader goth subculture that includes goth clubs, goth fashions and goth-oriented magazines.

In Gothic rock, the guitar tone is usually processed with electronic effects. A clean or warmly overdriven guitar sound is processed through chorusing, flanging, analog delay and/or dense reverb resulting in a timbre that resembles those used by Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Cure. Gothic rock has a characteristic guitar playing style as well. Gothic rock guitar playing takes its downstroke playing style from punk and emphasizes angular melodic lines instead of thick chords. Minor keys and minor mode melodies are prevalent but major keys are also used. The Phrygian mode, with a flattened second scale degree, contributes to the Gothic sound with its haunting and spooky mood. Gothic rock songs are typically mixed so that there is a heavy bass sound, which creates a dark and shadowy atmosphere.

Gothic rock often uses repetitive snare drum snap to propel the beat, either a real drum beat or, later on, usually a drum machine beat. The metronomic snare drum sound can be first heard on Iggy Pop's "The Idiot." It continues on in Joy Division's songs, Gary Numan's early music, on early the Cure records (beginning with Seventeen Seconds) and early Sisters of Mercy recordings. More sophisticated variations of the snare drum snap are used by Kevin Haskins in Bauhaus's music. In the 1990s, some bands in the gothic genre wrote songs with a more hard rock feel, such as the Sisters of Mercy's Vision Thing album, and Fields of the Nephilim, Rosetta Stone, London After Midnight, and The Wake.

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