Musical subcultures evolve from generation to generation -- punk and metal sure don't sound like they did two decades ago. And neither does goth. The Tallahassee-based Crüxshadows, America's hardest-touring gothic act not currently on a major label, surely holds a formidable legion of Hot Topic teens in thrall, but it doesn't much resemble mom's collection of dog-eared Bauhaus, Cure and Siouxsie LPs.
One listen to Crüxshadows' sixth album, DreamCypher, reveals that today's iteration of gloomy melancholia -- now often called "darkwave" or "electro-goth" -- is more overtly electronic than its '80s post-punk forebears. The insistent, thudding techno beat is designed for dance floors, the keyboard patterns are aligned with synthpop, and the crunchy guitars play a role more supportive than dominant.
A multitude of European clones adhere to this turn-of-the-millennium formula. But Crüxshadows distinguishes itself through the addition of Rachel McDonnell's violin lines and the trademark vocals of spiky-haired frontman Rogue (a.k.a. Virgil Roger du Pont III), who resembles a cross between Peter Murphy and David Gahan.
What Crüxshadows' fans love most about the band is the emotional fervor with which Rogue and Co. imbue their music and lyrics. Previous releases such as Telemetry of a Fallen Angel (which yielded the club anthem "Marilyn, My Bitterness") and Ethernaut (inspired by the Trojan War) are rife with references to angels, fairy-tale creatures and images from Rogue's dreams.
Admirers don't mind, either, when Rogue gallivants through the crowd wearing his Madonna-style headset mic, even climbing the venue walls like a gothic Peter Parker while singing the choruses. His flair for the dramatic is hardly surprising: Rogue has a background in musical theater and, apparently, sufficient oratorical ability to win a student election while graduating magna cum laude from Florida State (not far from the fictional location of SNL's "Goth Talk" show).
Currently, Rogue's overachieving nature is focused on crisscrossing the globe to support the new album, ranging as far afield as two concerts in Beijing, which would make Crüxshadows the first goth band to penetrate the Bamboo Curtain. No doubt, he's gratified that the "Sophia" single knocked Beyonce from the No. 1 spot on the Billboard dance singles chart, and that he can perform for festival-size crowds in Europe, even as critics at home still regard the band as an underground cult oddity. After all, as Rogue equivocates on "Eye of the Storm": "There is no wisdom without regret / No admiration without scorn."
Crüxshadows with Ayria and Angelspit. 9 p.m. Wed., Feb. 21. Pegasus, 818 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $12 ($15 at the door). All ages. 412-281-2131