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Deathrock is a term used to identify a sub-genre of punk rock incorporating horror elements and spooky atmospherics, that emerged on the West Coast of the United States in 1979.[citation needed]



Deathrock songs use simple chords, echoing guitars, a prominent bass, and drumming which emphasizes repetitive, post-punk beats within a 4/4 time signature. To create atmosphere, scratchy guitars are sometimes used. Lyrics can vary, but are typically introspective and surreal, and deal with the dark themes of isolation, disillusionment, loss, depression, life, death, etc.; as can the style, varying from harsh and melancholic to upbeat, melodic and tongue-in-cheek. Deathrock lyrics and other musical stylistic elements often incorporate the themes of campy horror and sci-fi films, which in turn leads some bands to adopt elements of rockabilly and surf rock.[1]

The frequently simplistic song structures, heavy atmosphere and rhythmic music place a great demand on lead vocalists to convey complex emotions, so deathrock singers typically have distinctive voices and strong stage presences.[2]

Despite the similar sounding name, deathrock has no connection to the similarly named death metal (aside from occasionally similar lyrical themes), which is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal. However, bands such as The Birthday Party may have influenced the vocal styles to be used in the latter.



The term "death rock" was first used in the 1950s[citation needed] to describe a thematically related genre of rock and roll which began in 1958 with Jody Reynolds' "Endless Sleep" and ended in 1964 with J. Frank Wilson's "Last Kiss."[3] These songs about dead teenagers were noted for their morbid yet romantic view of death, spoken word bridges, and sound effects. The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" is arguably the best known example of the '50s/'60s use of the term.[4][5]

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