THE HISTORY OF INDUSTRIAL MUSIC
VII. 1991 And Beyond
By Michael Casano
By 1990, different genres of music began to emerge due to the influence of industrial music: dark wave, techno, metal, and neo-prog to name a few. These genre crossovers make classifying music rather difficult. However, classifying music according to genre is really a feeble attempt to easily define and label a band. If nothing comes out of this series of articles other than the fact that every genre of music is a blend of many different forms, and that all great art is great due to the sincerity of the artists, then this series was a success. By reading these articles, the reader might ask, “What does classical music have to do with industrial music, or why mention the Velvet Underground, or bands like the Cure?” My answer would be that these bands or classical music have nothing really to do with industrial music. The whole point of these articles was to establish a basis of influence that made the world of potential sound possible. If you were a young person growing up in the fifties and happened to be interested in electronic music, the only place you could turn to was the academic world of classical music. The sixties offered pop music, garage bands, and the free jazz movement, the seventies had punk, the eighties offered a largely ignored underground scene due to the commercialization of music at its most perverse pinnacle. As far as the nineties goes, if you think that most of the bands that you like were not listening to Adam and The Ants’ first two albums (Dirk Wears White Sox, 1979, and Kings Of The Wild Frontier, 1980) with excitement then you are quite mistaken. Great art breeds great art. My own reason for wanting to write these articles was to establish the fact that rock music, in general, is a legitimate form of art. Most music educators would scoff at such an idea, but I truly believe that taking such a contemptuous stance like that is completely off the mark. Industrial music is not for everyone. It deals with a lot of subject matter that is very unpleasant and its conveyance can be rather crass. As far as I am concerned, industrial music is no more unpleasant than going to work everyday, watching television, driving your car, or other mundane activities of life. It has always been my contention that what makes you most uncomfortable and what challenges you the most is what makes you grow as a person. Staying quiet and comfortable and listening fluffy to pop music might make you feel good, but is it truly helping you?
My other reason for writing these articles is to stimulate others to do more research, write their own articles, and offer a different approach to examining music. There are some great music journalists out there: Jon Savage and Dave Thompson to name two. These two writers have influenced me with their overwhelming knowledge and ability to translate that knowledge into something readable. I have learned tremendously from reading their work, and from writing these articles. I would like to thank Electrogarden for taking a chance and letting me do this project. I would also like to thank those who took the time to read the articles. But without the music, there would be nothing to write about. I would like to thank all of the musicians mentioned in the articles and those I forgot to mention or I am just not aware of. The independent music scene is a very precious resource, and there are a lot of bands that deserve a tremendous amount of credit and recognition. Ultimately these articles are dedicated to these musicians with the spirit and courage to get themselves heard.
By 1991, the underground scenes in Seattle and the American Midwest were plundered by corporate record executives. Nirvana’s Nevermind was touted as the next Never Mind The Bollocks and terrible radio creations such as grunge and alternative dominated mainstream rock stations. Music was in a sad and sorry state, similar to what had happened in the early eighties as new wave had become a marketable form of punk. Alternative had become the new market buzzword, and the major record companies were exploiting all aspects of this market by slavishly attaching the alternative tag to any band that came along with long hair and guitars. Industrial music began to get some mainstream recognition, but mostly it was left alone. Front 242’s Tyranny For You album is a good example of a great album not being touted as such. Another example is the Legendary Pink Dots’ The Maria Dimension. These albums were largely ignored by radio, and undeservedly so. Other albums from 1991 were Lab Report’s Figure X-71, Skinny Puppy’s Last Rights, Coil’s Love’s Secret Domain, Cop Shoot Cop’s White Noise, Die Warzau’s Big Electric Metal Bass Face, Frontline Assembly’s Caustic Grip, the Hafler Trio’s Kill The King, and X-Marks The Pedwalk’s Freaks.
1992 offered the release of two Nocturnal Emissions’ reissues from 1983, Viral Shredding and Drowning In A Sea Of Bliss. Glenn Branca’s Symphony No.2, originally recorded in 1982, was released in 1992. Percussionist Z’eV and Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth played on the Branca recording. Nine Inch Nails’ popularity increased with the release of the Broken and Fixed Eps. Ministry continued their aural assault with Psalm 69, and bands such as KMFDM (Money) and Meat Beat Manifesto (Satyricon) also released important albums. Other albums of note released in 1992 are Curve’s Doppleganger, Frontline Assembly’s Tactical Neural Implant, Fear Factory’s Soul Of A New Machine, Murder, Inc.’s self-titled album, Excessive Force’s Conquer Your World, Lassigue Bendthaus’ Cloned and Binary albums, the Swamp Terrorists’ Grow-Speed-Injection, the Boredoms’Wow2, the Prodigy’s Experience, Pigface’s Fook, Godflesh’s Pure, and the Vampire Rodents’ Premonition album.
1993 witnessed the emergence of KMFDM as the new kings of industrial music. Throughout the nineties, KMFDM would consistently release good to great albums. Angst was one of these albums. Front 242’s 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09:12 Off were also prominent releases that year. The band Tool, despite being a metal/prog hybrid, also appealed to the industrial metal crowd. Their Undertow album drew great critical acclaim. Bands such as Sister Machine Gun (Sins Of The Flesh) and Spahn Ranch (Collateral Damage) also began to emerge as prominent shakers within the industrial scene. Other albums making their mark that year were 16 Volt’s Wisdom, Stabbing Westward’s Ungod, the Hafler Trio’s How To Reform Mankind, the Machines Of Loving Grace’s Concentration, Mentallo and the Fixer’s Revelations 23, Zeni Geva’s Desire For Agony, the Boredoms’ Pop Tatari, :wumpscut:’s Music For The Slaughtering Tribe, Cop Shoot Cop’s Ask Questions Later, and Einsturzende Neubauten’s Tabula Rasa.
1994 was completely dominated by the release of Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral. This album managed to procure radio play, videos on MTV, and reviews and articles in every major music magazine you can think of. Another interesting release was Portion Control’s The Man Who Did Backward Somersaults. Portion Control released some very interesting albums in the early eighties: I Staggered Mentally, 1982, Hit The Pulse, 1983, and Step Forward, 1984, but never managed more than a cult following. Killing Joke once again reminded everyone that they were one of the most underrated bands of the eighties, releasing the Pandemonium album. Other 1994 releases were Chemlab’s Burn Out At The Hydrogen Bar, Econoline Crush’s Purge, 16 Volt’s Skin, Lassigue Bendthaus’ Render, Penal Colony’s Put Your Hands Down, Sister Machine Gun’s The Torture Technique, Prong’s Cleansing, the Boredoms’ Chocolate Synthesizer, Crash Worship’s Triple Mania II, Babyland’s Total Letdown EP, and Leaether Strip’s Solitary Confinement.
1995’s genre crossovers were abundant, as the parameters of industrial music began to blur. Battery’s NV album had elements of industrial and dark wave, releases from Fear Factory (Demanufacture) and White Zombie (Astro Creep 2000) were more metal based bands who tapped into the industrial sound. The Prodigy’s Music For A Jilted Generation possessed hardcore techno elements as opposed to industrial, yet the album appealed to the industrial crowd. One of the most interesting and hardest to define albums of 1995 was Six Finger Satellite’s Severe Exposure album. Somewhere between industrial, new wave, and noisecore lies the bizarre and criminally overlooked world of Six Finger Satellite. Another overlooked band, Zoviet*France had released great albums since 1983’s Norsch album. In 1995, Zoviet*France released the Collusion album. Big Block 454 released the experimental Rough As Sausages album. More commercially successful releases such as Filter’s Short Bus, Nine Inch Nails’ Further Down The Spiral EP, and KMFDM’s Nihil confirmed the prominence of industrial music. Other albums released in 1995 were Blok 57’s Animals On Speed, Armageddon Dildos’ Lost, Crocodile Shop’s Celebrate The Enemy, Kill Switch. . .Klick’s Beat It To Fit Paint It To Match, the Machines of Loving Grace’s Gilt, Spahn Ranch’s The Coiled One, Sister Machine Gun’s Burn, Zeni Geva’s Nai-Ha and Freedom Bondage albums, Babyland’s Who’s Sorry Now, Prick’s self-titled album, and Die Warzau’s Engine.
In 1996, KMFDM’s XTORT and Meat Beat Manifesto’s Subliminal Sandwich were two of the best industrial albums released that year. Progmetal bands like Tool (Aenima) and Neurosis (Through Silver In Blood) also released albums that year. Yet, no other album enjoyed such outrageous publicity as Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar. Combining elements of metal, industrial, goth and glam, Marilyn Manson’s self-proclaimed antichrist superstar persona drew nothing but notoriety, which in turn translated into record sales. In The Nursery, who’s 1986 Twins album is often overlooked, released The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari soundtrack. Other releases that year were Z’eV’s Heads And Tales, Gravity Kills’ self -titled album, Die Form’s L’Ame Electronique, Download’s The Eyes Of Stanley Pain, Six Finger Satellite’s Paranormalized, Battery’s Distance, Skinny Puppy’s The Process, Merzbow’s Pulse Demon, Funker Vogt’s Thanks For Nothing, 16 Volt’s LetDownCrush, Econoline Crush’s Affliction, haujobb’s Solutions For A Small Planet, and Stabbing Westward’s Wither Blister Burn & Peel.
By 1997, industrial music in general was being accused of flogging a dead horse, as the genre began to be flooded with retreads and Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails copycats. There were some bright spots, however. Led by Spahn Ranch’s Architecture and Deathline International’s Arashi Syndrome, the genre was not indeed dead, but in the process of redefining itself. Other releases that year were Sister Machine Gun’s Metropolis, Death And Horror, Inc.’s Transmissions From The Chemical Land, Yeht Mae’s eaM theY, the Hafler Trio’s Fuck, and KMFDM’s self-titled album.
Merzbow, from Japan, and Rammstein, from Germany, released the most interesting albums of 1998. Merzbow’s 1930 and Tauromachine were reminiscent of Merzbow’s experimental past. Rammstein’s Sehnsucht, best described as operatic industrial metal, certainly sounded like no one else. Other releases that year were Apoptygma Berzerk’s 7, Econoline Crush’s The Devil You Know, 16 Volt’s SuperCoolNothing, Spahn Ranch’s Beat Noir, Orgy’s Candyass, Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals, Lull’s Moments, Die Form’s Duality, Fear Factory’s Obsolete, Meat Beat Manifesto’s Actual Sounds And Noises, and Stabbing Wetsward’s Darkest Days.
As the century was coming to an end, one of the most important albums of the industrial genre was released. Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile (1999) was an astounding display of musical depth and versatility. KMFDM’s Adios (1999) and Attak (2002) and Tool’s Lateralus (2001) were some of the best albums released in recent memory. 23 Skidoo’s 2001 reissue of their 1982 release Seven Songs was also an interesting listen nearly twenty years after its initial appearance. Kevorkian Death Cycle’s A+O(M) (1999), Hate Dept.‘s Technical Difficulties (1999), Neurosis’ Times Of Grace (1999), Coal Chamber’s Chamber Music (1999), VNV Nation’s Empires (1999), 16 Volt’s Demography (2000), Fear Factory’s Digimortal (2001), and Stabbing Westward’s self-titled 2001 release are some other albums of note. The future sound of industrial music is uncertain. Nevertheless, the music that has been created will certainly influence that which has yet to come forth.
And that will be good enough.
Recommended links for your perusal:
Big Block 454’s Rough As Sausages album was actually released in 2001, not in 1995. You can purchase or listen to the album at http://www.mp3.com/bigblock454 . You can also check out more info about Big Block 454 at http://www.bigblock454.mcmail.com.
Copyright 2002, Michael Casano