Dracula’s Legacy: British Goths, Black Metal, and Whitby Bay

Photo credit: Reuters
Photo credit: Reuters

New Yorkers love nothing more than to complain about the tide of tourists that constantly sweeps into nearly every nook and cranny of the sprawling metropolis that they (and transplants like myself) call home, but turns out we don’t know how lucky we are. At least our city’s visitors generally don’t spend their days tottering around Union Square on mile-high PVC boots, all smeared with cheap eyeliner and in league with, uh… Anne Rice. At least we’re not in Whitby.

Blame Bram Stoker, who set part of his classic Dracula tale in this seaside hamlet. Decked out in their battiest finery, about ten thousand Goths descend upon the small Yorkshire town of Whitby twice each year to cavort amongst the tombstones, snap selfies in front of the famous ruined abbey, and patronize local establishments (I’m guessing they order a lot of red wine and Snakebite?). The Whitby Goth Weekend has been a fixture since 1994, and is apparently one of the world’s biggest gatherings of these suckers. While festivalgoers have been barred from certain town cemeteries and the swelling numbers of photographers has put a damper on the ghoul contingent’s enthusiasm for the event, it still appears to be going strong. Most of the townsfolk embrace the festival, assuming that “all publicity is good publicity” as long as their coffers keep filling with goth pennies.

Not everyone’s delighted about the Manic Panic invasion, though. The lads behind black metal-slash-noise abomination Whitby Bay are understandably unimpressed with this bi-annual horrorshow, and have channeled some of that frustration into some of the most interesting and unsettling music I’ve heard in awhile. One of the members characterizes the band’s efforts as “the malevolent fog surrounding Dracula’s coffin on its arrival at the Yorkshire harbour whose name they bear. Bram Stoker’s Whitby is haunted by myths of a white lady who lurks in the ruined abbey and the ghosts of sailors lost to the sea. Today, middle-aged goths feed seagulls greasy chips on the harbour promenade.”

As one might expect, it’s terribly abrasive and discordant stuff. Their debut 7” is now available, and if you like the sound of raw black metal mixing with screeching noise (Ildjarn meets Black Dice), you’re going to want to check out its two tracks, available here and described by their creators thusly:

“’Unextinguishable Candle’ is the battle cry of the crazed Dane warriors as they pierced the eyes and cut the tongues from the throats of Whitby Abbey monks. Flipside ‘Black Cape’ hisses with the miasma of death encroaching on us all.”

Proper depressing, that.

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