The Wonderfully Macabre World Of Aurelio Voltaire

Become a Patron!

With songs featuring rowdy vampires, pirate ships, and promiscuous zombies, Aurelio Voltaire’s music incorporates gothic elements and vintage sounds. Voltaire has his own style that takes inspiration from many different music genres. Ranging from rock to vaudeville and almost everything in-between, Voltaire’s slightly campy and slightly creepy sound appeals to many listeners looking for unique, authentically gothic music.

You may know Voltaire’s music from Cartoon Network’s The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.  The song “Brains” and “The Land Of The Dead” were both featured in the series and introduced a lot of spooky-loving kids to Voltaire’s music. Additionally, “When You’re Evil,” a sinister tango, was another hit for Voltaire as it was used in a plethora of AMVs.

Voltaire’s Dramatic, Genre-Spanning Sound

With his signature black guitar and delightfully wicked sounding voice, Voltaire creates dramatic musical worlds and dips into many aesthetics. His music often features tales of love gone wrong, mourning, and other sentimental subjects. But on the less thematically dreary side, there are also a lot of powerful love ballads and epic adventure tales. Voltaire has a wide range of lyrics, and an even wider range of genres he explores through his twelve albums.

Voltaire playing guitar while wearing a top-hat with antlers.
Photo by Paul Collins

One could describe Voltaire’s music as a style called “dark-cabaret” for its spooky themes and its sultry, occasionally “old-timey” sound. His music sounds like it could easily be playing in a Victorian cabaret (or perhaps a Vampire Club). However, Voltaire also incorporates many different genres together to make his own unique music style. A few examples of other genres present in his music include sea shanties, country, folk, dark-wave, and tango. But what all of his songs have in common is a classic gothic feel and a timelessness. His distinctive sound makes it a bit difficult to compare to other genres, let alone put a label on it. 

But If Someone Was Going To Put A Label On Voltaire’s Music…

One fan commented:

“Voltaire’s music is the audio equivalent of riding a black unicorn down the side of an erupting volcano while drinking from a chalice filled with the laughter of small children.” 

Delighted by the comment, Voltaire in turn not only wrote a song, but named his entire 2011 album after that description of his dark, story-driven music.

“Riding A Black Unicorn…” invokes the drama and grandiose aesthetic that Voltaire’s world proudly embraces. It’s also a perfect encapsulation of Voltaire’s sense of humor and self-awareness. The combination of humor and drama is part of the characteristic charm of Voltaire’s work.

Gothic Themes In Voltaire’s Music

Naturally, there are a lot of themes of death and the undead in Voltaire’s work. Voltaire’s songs can range from downtrodden dirges to celebratory songs incorporating different cultural themes of memento mori. His work is reminiscent of gothic and romantic literature, which emphasizes intense emotion with fantastic elements (think Mary Shelley and Poe’s writing).

Voltaire’s music embodies vulnerable emotions of love, joy, and longing. Likewise, as mentioned, supernatural characters often appear in the horror-inspired songs. But much of his music also builds reality-grounded stories, such as his album “To The Bottom Of The Sea,” which creates a pre-industrial nautical world with many separate tales of loss.

Dark Comedy

Sentimental and intense, Voltaire’s lyrics hit on many romantic elements. However, his lyrics are also extremely cheeky and play with a lot of dark humor. Some of Voltaire’s comedic songs poke fun at the spooky lifestyle like in the song “The Vampire Club,” which narrates a comedic fight between pirate and vampire enthusiasts at a nightclub. Others are just morbidly upbeat like “Happy Birthday (My Olde Friend).” Campy lyrics and self-aware humor often intertwine with the darker themes in Voltaire’s music.

Happy Birthday my olde friend

It seems this horror show will never end

Any moment’s your last breath

Here’s to another day closer to death!

“Happy Birthday (My Olde Friend),” Voltaire

Voltaire also has a comedic, fandom-based album titled “Bitrektual,” which features songs about sci-fi franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who. The album features Voltaire’s unique sound, but is full of raunchy referential humor with songs like “The Sexy Data Tango” and “It’s Bigger On The Inside.” Though it is also worth mentioning some of his more serious fandom songs, like “The Devil And Mr. Jones,” his homage to Doug Jones’s character’s work in many Guillermo Del Toro films. Voltaire also recorded a love song as sung by Spock and a musical rendition of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Conqueror Worm.”

Voltaire’s Versatility On YouTube

As a musician, animator, actor, artist, author, professor, and even interior decorator, Voltaire brings his lovably spooky presence to all areas of creativity.  Voltaire’s YouTube channel includes all of his albums for listening, but additionally it features many different projects. His very active channel includes advice for aspiring musicians in “The Future Rock Star’s Handbook,” a few of his stop-motion animation films, and his craft and decor show.

A part of Voltaire's gothic themed home. Features skulls, ravens, and ornate black furniture.
One part of Voltaire’s lair featured homemade and bought items. Credit: Aurelio Voltaire

In particular, Voltaire’s series Gothic Homemaking is where he becomes a macabre Martha Stewart. This series focuses on affordable ways to customize small spaces, as Voltaire works with a New York City apartment. Gothic Homemaking has decorating videos and how-tos for craft projects creating macabre furniture and accessories for the home. And like with the loss of Voltaire’s content, Gothic Homemaking is a show full of campy humor and self-awareness.

Voltaire also showcases artists with coverage of conventions and oddity markets that he frequents for art pieces. It is a creative series that celebrates homemade art and making spaces your own with affordable, doable means. Also in the spirit of all of Voltaire’s content, Gothic Homemaking is a positive, creative, and at times very humorous depiction of gothic expression for a commonly misrepresented subculture.

Voltaire, The Goth Scene, & Celebration Of The Strange

Voltaire’s work overall demonstrates the beauty and humor present in the goth world. Having appeared in interviews to describe the subculture’s history and to clear up harmful stereotypes, Voltaire is also an important figure in the goth community. Always unapologetically countercultural, Voltaire’s work features elements that outcasts of all sorts can relate to. Goths and other subcultures are still prone to being misunderstood or misrepresented in the media, and public figures like Voltaire are important for sharing art and positive representation.

Voltaire playing guitar. He backdropped by a series of vintage looking items, like a mirror, old radio, and an animal skeleton.
Photo by Jennifer Tzar

At its core, Voltaire’s music celebrates individuality and alternative lifestyles. The world can be cruel, and Voltaire’s music often acknowledges that and lifts up those struggling to be themselves. Whether the lyrics follow a fantasy underdog or one closer to reality, Voltaire’s songs honor the “strange and unusual.” Through his impressive and expansive discography, Voltaire’s music builds fantastic worlds and also acts as proud anthems for outcasts.

And when the people look up and stare

And say, ‘Why you gotta be like that?’

I just look them in the eye and tell them

I was raised by bats!”

“Raised By Bats,” Voltaire

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.