Industrial is scary. Brutal. Brooding. It’s an expansive, ugly genre and it’s evolved at a revolting rate over the past forty years or so. Samples, loops and buzz-saw guitars slice through the ears and straight into the brain. And for the sake of clarity, we’re talking about industrial rock and metal-tinged stuff, chaps and chappettes, so no Throbbing Gristle, no Nitzer Ebb, no Front 242, as great as those bands are…
10. Pitchshifter – www.pitchshifter.com (Geffen, 1998)
Pitchshifter don’t get anywhere near the credit they deserve. Yeah, rock bands dabbled with electronics and The Prodigy had fiddled with some guitar samples alongside drum and bass, but Pitchshifter were the first band to properly plunge a foot into each world and www.pitchshifter.com was their victory lap after basically being the best live band in the UK. Microwaved is like jungle music played by the Sex Pistols. Snarly. Instant. Still doesn’t sound dated.
9. Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile (Interscope Records, 1999)
Yeah, we could have had Broken or The Downward Spiral, but The Fragile is proof that double albums can be interesting even if they’re not made by Swans or Smashing Pumpkins. Trent Reznor wrote album track La Mer while he was in a cabin thinking about killing himself, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Just most of it. The Fragile covers all bases; Starfuckers. Inc is a certified metal banger, No, You Don’t could have been lifted from a Tekken soundtrack but the overall experience is an ambient selection of the eeriest, most downtrodden ditties you’ve ever heard from platinum-selling band.
8. Godflesh – Streetcleaner (Earache, 1989)
The debut LP by the UK’s most miserable band. Justin Broadrick’s thick, monotone bellows are very much from detention sessions with Michael Gira, while the whole thing sounds a bit like Killing Joke playing Black Sabbath in a cement mixer. The harsh, cold drum machine adds to the album’s bleak tone and proves you don’t need to go as fast as Ministry to be this heavy.
7. Front Line Assembly – Hard Wired (1995, Off Beat)
From the same school as Skinny Puppy, albeit a school that’s been skipped in favour of a drug-fuelled European rave with pole-dancing Pomeranians dotted across the dancefloor. This is all speculative, of course, but that’s what Hard Wired sounds like – hulking, dance-ready bangers topped off with chugging guitars (courtesy of Devin Townsend), scattershot samples and Bill Leeb’s distorted, commanding croon.
6. Mysticum – In The Streams Of Inferno (Full Moon Productions, 1996)
Ah yes, industrial black metal. As if this genre couldn’t get any weirder. Mysticum mixed the frostbitten grimness of black metal’s second wave with their friend from Godflesh: Mr. Drum Machine. The results were groundbreaking, paving the way for bands like Samael to pick up this beastly baton and follow suit. In The Streams Of Inferno was Mysticum’s sole LP until 2014, eighteen years later, when the band recorded a Satanic sophomore, titled Planet Satan. Obviously.
5. KMFDM – Nihil (Wax Trax!/TVT, 1995)
Toning down the thrashy, Ministry-esque racket they churned out on 1993’s Angst, KMFDM’s eighth record flung them in front of a wider audience. Juke Joint Jezebel’s cutesy chorus predates what you thought was so cool about Rammstein’s Moskau by nearly a decade and Flesh is one of the greatest, most defiant call-to-arms tracks KMFDM have ever a penned. That they aren’t the same size as fellow Germans Rammstein is a travesty.
4. Rammstein – Mutter (Motor Music, 2001)
The jewel in Rammstein’s kinky crown. Till Lindemann’s bassy, bone-bending vocals lay atop chunky White Zombie riffs amidst more subtle, sinister moments like Nebel and the title track. Mutter is the record that obliterated any remaining scepticism and made superstars of Rammstein. Rightfully so – it contains Adios, which is the best Rammstein song, ever.
3. Ministry – The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste (Warner Bros. Records, 1989)
Not content with essentially inventing and popularising industrial metal, Ministry’s Al Jourgensen went one step further and nearly perfected it. The thrash is turned right up with the likes of Thieves, rubbishing old fans’ claims that it’s only Al’s latter day output that is ‘Slayerstry’ (see what they did there? So clever). The samples and loops were largely skimped in favour of hulking, bigger-than-Jesus rounds of precise, profound heavy metal battery coupled with those static-laden roars of Al’s.
2: Skinny Puppy – Too Dark Park (Capitol Records, 1990)
Most pre-reformation Skinny Puppy records are the auditory equivalent of being eviscerated and having your gubbins tied around your body so you look like a Christmas present, but bloody hell, Too Dark Park is so infectious. The samples and beats are cranked right up and the thrashing, brief flourishes of metal guitar on T.F.W.O were a signal of things to come for the band, with the riffing of 1989’s Rabies and the like becoming key components in an elder Puppy with The Process and The Greater Wrong Of The Right. “He’s losing his mind and he feels it going.” Too right.
1. Strapping Young Lad – City (Century Media Records, 1997)
Taking the Fear Factory blueprint and extrapolating it, Strapping Young Lad read the rulebook, acknowledged it, wiped their arses with it and scissor-kicked it into the 41st millennium. Balls to Kimye – Gene Hoglan and Devin Townsend are the dream team, melding steamy segments of double bass death and industrial metal to create instant-yet-terrifying anthems like Underneath The Waves and the spasmodic Oh My Fucking God. This is the most intense, punishing and, thanks to Devin’s vocals, unique take on industrial you’ll ever hear.