The 90s were a heyday for industrial metal – let’s be honest, few bands have been able to continue a high quality output of this style into this decade, and fewer more recent bands still have been able to keep the flame alive (with notable exceptions being the likes of Interlock and Cyanotic). To confirm what I mean by industrial metal – lots of industrial electronics, and lots of metal guitars and rhythms. Exactly how bands have interpreted this – and how they have balanced the two – is what makes this genre so fascinating.
Bands that I didn’t include in the final, umm, twelve (I couldn’t squeeze everyone in…): The Young Gods / KMFDM / Strapping Young Lad / Dope / Rammstein…Other suggestions welcome, of course, and the usual playlists cover as much as possible. So, here goes.
Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck
Let’s start with the monster that began this list in the first place. An, oddly enough, probably the most “metal” of all of the tracks here. Prong started out as a metal band, and gradually added more electronics and industrial textures as they went along, but Cleansing remains their brutal tour de force – the opening three tracks in particular are absolutely bulletproof, of which this longstanding metal dancefloor anthem is the third. The electronics are relegated to the background, but the mechanised rhythm is stripped to it’s bones and overlaid with an awesomely clean guitar riff. Add to that the roared chorus, and really, this track still deserves to be heard.
Kiss Your Boots
Misery Loves Co.
Starting out deceptively quietly – the first verse is all but whispered above a pulsing heartbeat, before Patrik Wiren bellows the title one more title and the hulking beat tramples through the speakers like a stampede of very large mammals. At least four remixes of this track exist (the Pitchshifter ones in particular are worth hearing), but for me it’s the original every time – this track sounds monstrous loud, and even better on a club PA.
Speaking of Pitchshifter, before they went a little more punk and, perhaps, a little more mainstream – even so, www.pitchshifter.com rightly remains a landmark album from that period – they were a grinding industrial metal band that had a lot of power, a lot of rage, and not a lot of metal-mainstream appeal. The first sign that this was changing was this brutal anti-fascist single that got them a lot of attention at the time (and indeed was the first song I heard by them, on John Peel’s late-evening show on Radio 1). I’ve seen them fifteen times since the mid-90s, and they’ve only failed to play it once or twice – pretty much the only song they play from this period any more, which is a crying shame as there a number of other killer tracks from this time. Still, altogether now: “Like Never/Like No…”
I’m cheating a little here, seeing as this track was actually released on Godflesh’s debut album in mid-89 – however the band were such a titanic influence on the entire industrial metal genre that this deserves it’s place here. Slower and most likely heavier than just about anything else here, Like Rats grinds it’s way through nearly five minutes of densely-layered beats, riffs and a filthy, pulsing bassline that anchors the whole track. Justin Broadrick’s heavily-treated vocals – which sound truly fucking evil – just add to the oppressive atmosphere.
The Land of Rape and Honey
Even earlier – from 1988 – but also here due to it’s enormous influence, is this, the opening track from the album where Ministry suddenly turned very heavy indeed and set the template for twenty years more of industrial metal. It’s distorted, heavy, and fucking ace. If, somehow, you’ve never really listened to Ministry, you could do worse than starting here.
I think we have Metallica, of all people, to thank for the style of Die Krupps’ 90s output – in the 80s one of the early EBM acts, following the release of a tribute EP covering Metallica songs, suddenly covered their already muscular sound in guitars. Which is where I discovered them, and have been a fan ever since. This track – one of their more anthemic tracks, really – was also one of the (many) highlights of their live set when they played in Sheffield a year or two back.
Another band who took on guitars to their mainly electronic sound were these guys, and the change caused something of a split with the fans at the time, although in hindsight Millenium remains one of FLA’s best albums (and the first two tracks – Vigilante and the title track – have been fixtures of live sets ever since they were released). The guitars didn’t remove anything from FLA’s power – in fact they provided something of a turbo boost, and again became immensely influential.
Self Immolation (Vein Tap Mix)
Fear Is The Mindkiller
Nowhere was FLA’s influence (although from before Millenium!) more clear in the metal scene than with Fear Factory in the early 90s, after they hired Rhys Fulber from FLA to remix some of the tracks from their debut, death-metal-based Soul Of A New Machine, the result of which was this EP, a vicious, industrial-death-metal hybrid that sounded like no-one else at the time and sounded fucking immense. An extraordinarily brave experiment at the time, it remains an intriguing stepping stone towards the all-but-perfection of following album Demanufacture, and I’ll probably find people disagreeing with my choice of track from this EP (in all honesty I could have picked anything from it). I do wonder how much the work on this influenced Fulber in his work on Millenium, actually…
More Human Than Human
Astro Creep: 2000 – Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head
While Rob Zombie achieved greater success with his solo work, he has never bettered his work with White Zombie, and in particular the sample-and-electronics-stuffed Astro Creep album. Every single gap is filled with whatever crass B-movie or pr0n samples Zombie could find, and they all add a twisted humour and sense of fun to many of the tracks. Of the, what, five, tracks that still fill metal dancefloors now, this is of course the best known, underpinned by the pulsing electronics and John Tempesta’s drum rhythms that sound like they are being beaten out with clubs.
Natural Born Killers OST
I could barely miss NiN from this list, really, seeing that they were probably the band that helped push the genre into the mainstream the most – even if Pretty Hate Machine is, in the main, electro as they come. It was with Broken that they really moved to being industrial metal – it’s seething fury overlaid with masses of guitars, which then got broken into jagged pieces for The Downward Spiral. Burn followed this as a seperate release on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, and as such other than being played live frequently it’s otherwise a little forgotten – which is a shame, as it’s probably the heaviest track NIN ever wrote. Again, best played very loud indeed for the right results…
Cubanate were one of the earlier industrial bands to include guitars from the outset, and over four albums seemed to get heavier and heavier with each release, despite seemingly using less in the way of guitars! Nowhere was this clearer than on this brutal opener to their final album, a drum’n’bass monster with a bassline that could take down buildings (and you more feel as opposed to hear). I rarely dare to risk this when DJing nowadays – one, not many people know it, and two, I don’t want to scare all the kiddies away!
The final band – and twelfth, I know – are Kill II This. They were one of a number of bands that roared into life in the late 90s in the UK who were not afraid at all of using industrial electronics to bolster a chunky metal sound. Sometimes a little contrived – and sometimes not all that great (most of the first and last albums) – the two albums in between were ace, and live they were even better. Their crowning moment was this, the gabba intro morphing into a fast-paced moshpit filler that was pretty much as close as anyone got to matching the heights Fear Factory reached few years before.