The Dark: Guitarist Robert Griffin on the ‘80s Cleveland Hardcore Punk Band’s New Compilation

Photo courtesy of Scat Records

The Dark was a Cleveland-based band that straddled the lines between hardcore punk, deathrock, and post-punk in the early '80s. Made up of teens, the group's playing was beyond their years, and its members would go on to play in such bands as Spike in Vain, The Guns, Knifedance, and Integrity. 

Scat Records (founded by The Dark guitarist Robert Griffin) has just released Dressing the Corpse, an 18-track compilation featuring highlights from sessions done between 1981-1984, plus four previously unreleased songs from the band. It's the first time The Dark's material has ever been available on vinyl.

I spoke with Robert to get some context and history on The Dark's run in the early '80s. As a huge Guided by Voices fan, it was extra-cool speaking with him since Scat Records also issued many of their key records. 

Hi Robert, please giive us the quick history of The Dark.

Summer 1979 I met the Eakin brothers Tom (vocals) and his younger brother Scott (bass). Tom had been into punk rock from the beginning after being exposed at Drome Records. I'd started to get into the music the year before, but more haphazardly.

Tom seemingly had all the records and turned me onto tons of stuff from local bands like Pagans, electric eels, Pere Ubu, to things on the West Coast like the Avengers, Weirdos, Crime, plus many points in between and further beyond.

His younger brother Scott had a friend who played drums, David Araca, and that fall we started a band called the Decapitators. I was 13, Tom 15, and Scott and Dave were 11. We had a few originals, but mostly did covers (eels, Pagans, Dead Boys, Cramps, Damned, Ramones, etc). In summer 1980 we split for a while, then started back up again as the Dark in the fall of 1981.

The Dark clearly wasn't orthodox to one specific sound. How would you describe what you guys were doing?

Our name was the sound. We wanted it to be dark. All the aforementioned bands were influences, and I brought in more of a post-punk vibe, trying to avoid playing barre chords in favor of a more droning, atmospheric approach.

In the beginning—first year or so—we tuned our guitars low, a unique thing then, and the songs were primitive but interesting. I think some of it sounds like Venom covering Warsaw.

By the summer of 1982 we were getting into hardcore and the tempos ratcheted up quite a bit. By the end of the band's run in the spring of 1984, there was also a discernible metal influence. Our lyrics mostly dealt with death, depression, anger, and dystopian themes.

Photos courtesy of Scat Records

While many No Echo readers might not be familiar with the band, The Dark's connection to Cleveland hardcore scene clearly ran deep.

The Dark shared members with The Guns (Scott & Dave) and Spike in Vain (me), and those bands existed both during and after the Dark's run. Tom Dark was a pivotal figure in the early Cleveland hardcore scene—he was the first to organize all ages hall shows in Cleveland and he put out the New Hope comp. LP in 1983.


Dressing the Corpse is available on LP and digital via Scat Records.


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