Industrial music has always been a bit of a reclusive and underground genre, but it has always had a very strong fanbase in the areas it dominates. From the early musique concrete-inspired bands of London in the 80's to the heavy, beat-driven bands in Chicago throughout the 90's, and even in the guitar-crunching, synthesizer-blasting sound of Seattle today, industrial music has constantly managed to keep a strong fanbase in its central area.
Industrial music first notably began in the late 70's and (especially) the early 80's. Spawning from the recently-dead punk movement of the 70's, industrial music was based on shock-value, obscenity, and non-sensical stabs at totalitarianism and the government in general.
Experimental-industrial band Throbbing Gristle
started off building the foundation of what would become the industrial sound of the 80's, and formed their own record label known as "Industrial Records," which is where the name of the genre is derived from. Bands started popping up all across London, such as Non
, Cabaret Voltaire
, and Clock DVA
. Each one using the meat and bones of Throbbing Gristles sound, but taking it in different creative directions.
Meanwhile, on the German front, avant-garde acts such as Einstürzende Neubauten
and (At the time) KMFDM
were parading around in western Europe, showcasing their live performances of controversial imagery, abrasive and distorted noise, and profanity-ridden nonsensical lyrics. Also in Belgium, ebm
act Front 242 struggled to become heard and eventually would, thus setting the stage for modern industrial music.
Around the mid-80's, industrial bands began to appear on the other side of the Atlantic. Notable industrial acts such as Skinny Puppy
tore across North America with their harsh, aggressive, beat-based compositions. Using heavy bass drums, sampling, bass synths, analog synthesizers, (and in some cases) distorted guitars, these groups became popular quickly in the gothic underground, getting a lot of playtime in underground clubs.
Come the mid and late 80's, these bands will eventually gain the label of "industrial" music. Originally intended to only refer to bands under Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records label, it now was used to refer to experimental-electronic bands that utilize the concept of musique concrete while putting up a demeanor of punk ideals.
The breakup of Throbbing Gristle in 1981 placed Einstürzende Neubauten and Front 242 in the spot of the spearheads of industrial music. Einstürzende Neubauten faded out of the scene after Front 242 set the standards for current industrial music with their danceable beats, while Einstürzende Neubauten continued in its branch of avant-garde, unconventional music.
In the late 80's, the face of industrial music took its eyes off of Europe and moved to North America, more particularly Chicago. After Front 242, Ministry, and KMFDM signed onto Chicago-based Wax Trax! Records, Chicago virtually became the world center of industrial music.
KMFDM eventually moved to Chicago in 1989 after a tour with Minitsry, and began taking more rock elements into their music, making it more listenable and less avant-garde, but they still carried on with their punk attitude and abrasive synthesizers.
Wax Trax! began seeing many more acts signing on to their label, such as industrial rock group Sister Machine Gun
, shock-based industrial rockers My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult
, and recently-created Front Line Assembly
(Formed by former Skinny Puppy member Bill Leeb, after leaving the band).
The centralization around Wax Trax! Records brought in a new era of industrial rock. Most would say that industrial music reached its peak in the 90's, and that is indeed true. Industrial rock acts such as Nine Inch Nails
, and Coil
quickly became known in the underground industrial scene, each carving their own niches in the genre while still following in the steps of Front 242, Throbbing Gristle, and Skinny Puppy.
With all these bands appearing and the rather underground state of the music, it was inevitable that the genre would begin to branch off. Some bands started to take more melody and rock-based themes accompanied with synthesizers, while others continued using heavy, pounding beats and the distorted lyrics being the center focus of the music. Eventually the music started branching into gothic subculture and punk subculture. Eventually the term "industrial" grew obsolete as a simple genre, since it could indicate such a vast array of sounds and styles.
Some people utilized subgenres, using "industrial" as an umbrella term. Experimental, beat-based bands such as Skinny Puppy would grow to be known as elektro-industrial
, acts such as Front Line Assembly and Ministry quickly gained the label of industrial metal
, while acts like KMFDM and Nine Inch Nails got the label of industrial rock
Because of this, some people insist that industrial music died with the end of Throbbing Gristle, whie others debate that it simply evolved.
However in the mid and late 90's things for industrial music started to look bleak. Skinny Puppy had to disband after keyboard-player Dwayne Goettel died of a heroin overdose, KMFDM disbanded due to differences between frontman Sascha Konietzko and band members Günther Schulz and En Esch, Ministry helmsman Al Jourgenson was having trouble juggling music and heroin addiction, and Wax Trax! owner Jim Nash died in 1995 from AIDS-related symptoms.
Industrial music, though prominant in the 90's, didn't get any new bands. The same bands from the mid and late 80's were pumping out industrial music throughout the 90's, and very few new acts were heard or known. Other than some short (and mostly unsuccessful) side-projects by single industrial band members, not much occurred. After the death of Wax Trax!, industrial music slowly dissipated piece by piece with each band hanging up their synthesizers and samplers. Industrial music seemed to be dead in North America.
But this era did not last long.
Bands began reforming around the turn of the century. Jourgenson cleaned up his act, Sascha get band mates Tim Skold and Lucia Cifarelli together to form MDFMK, Die Warzau
released its first album in almost ten years, Front Line Assembly began to see its older members return, and Skinny Puppy played live at the Doomsday Festival in Dresden, Germany.
During this short industrial haitus, many industrial-based acts began appearing in Germany. Mostly electrogoth or industrial metal bands, these ones continued building on the industrial rock and elektro-industrial sounds that were so prominant on the western hemisphere in the 90's. Bands like In Strict Confidence
, Die Krupps
, and Covenant
, though all varying vastly in genre, still used many industrial elements in their music.
After 2004 most the old industrial acts of North America had come back together, most of them now signed to Metropolis Records in Seattle or Sister Machine Gun-owned Positron! Records in Chicago. Very few new bands had gotten as big as these old bands have, and industrial music was still being performed by the same people who started it 20 years ago.
However with time comes change. The lo-fi, gritty sound that was once there is now virtually non-existant in today's industrial albums, with all the music heavily remastered, cleaned, and cut before being put on a record. Albums like KMFDM's Hau Ruck
or Skinny Puppy's The Greater Wrong of the Right
showed heavy evidence of this, which received much criticism from industrial fans of the 90's. These same critics now claim industrial music is dead, and died after the death of Wax Trax! Records.
My take on all this?
Industrial music is not dead, industrial music is just as it has always been, if not stronger. Sure, pure, old-style industrial is almost totally decimated, but music evolves. Industrial cannot simply refer to a single genre, but must be used as an umbrella term the countless styles bands utilize. All over Europe and the US industrial rock and metal bands are forming: Zeromancer
, and Celldweller
, just to name a few. Also the recent Neue Deutsche Härte
movement is making industrial music more known and building upon it. Eisbrecher
, L'Âme Immortelle
, and Oomph!
churn out album after album, each one showing an excellent effort and some being amazing and unique.
Industrial music is hardly dead. Yes, the lo-fi, industrial rock movement of the 90's is dead, but a new era is being beckoned in. I welcome this era with open arms. Sure, I will miss the old sound, but this new one can be just as enjoyable. Perhaps the industrial face will once again turn back to Europe, as the current scene indicates.
I only look forward to what bands will take place of the founders, and who will become the new "spearheads" of industrial music.
Man that's what happens when I just type shit and don't stop. I'm tired.