From Slipknot's keg-abuse to Code Orange's electronic clangor, the influence of industrial music resounds loud and clear in the output of today's biggest and most important heavy artists. Nine Inch Nails introduced the movement to the masses in the Nineties, but long before Trent Reznor was cranking anguished, dance-floor-ready sounds out of his pretty hate machine, groups like Throbbing Gristle, Ministry and Skinny Puppy were making mechanized mayhem for the ages. So, where to start when it comes to industrial music? You can't go wrong with these 10 classics.
Using found objects and bits of junk to accompany more traditional instruments, Einstürzende Neubauten embodied the original definition of the term "industrial band." However, their genius — evident on this record — comes from an ability to make music, and not just noise, with their unconventional tools. Plus, the cover features a pissing horse.
By 1995, rave music was all the rage, and everyone thought techno, IDM and industrial was about to overtake the all-too-human form of music known as rock. Enter Fear Factory's second full-length album, where the band mixed their signature tribal-death sound with keyboards and cyborg clanking, proving that man and machine could still coexist in metal.
Front by Front's heavy electronics and bombshell beats generated the template for most modern industrial bands. Tracks like "Headhunter" rail with delicious irony against the failings of extreme capitalism, while "Welcome to Paradise" lays into organized religion. It's a digital middle finger to anyone who claims "real bands need guitars."
Slowing things way, way down from the hyperactive grindcore of his previous band Napalm Death, Justin K. Broadrick teamed up with bassist G.C. Green and a drum machine to create the most crushing, apocalyptic music to ever come out of Birmingham, England, since Black Sabbath. No wonder everyone from Korn and Danzig to Converge and Isis (who has covered this album's title track on a 2000 release) have cited Godflesh as an influence.
With its piston-precise tempos, militarily disciplined guitar playing, grinding bass, and dismal vocals, Killing Joke's 1980 self-titled debut was so much more influential than what Metallica hinted at with their famous cover of the album's "The Wait." Arguably the first industrial-metal record, Killing Joke laid the foundation for Godflesh, Prong, Fear Factory and many others.
Few bands mix heavy-metal riffs with geeky electronics like the technological terrorists in KMFDM, and Nihil represents a perfect expression of this sound. Elephant-sized beats make tracks like "Juke Joint Jezebel" and "Beast" popular in da club, but the fast and furious guitars of "Flesh," "Ultra" and "Brute" turn dance floors into mosh pits every tun they're spun.
Ministry's stylistic watershed Psalm 69 propelled them not only to the forefront of the industrial scene but also well into the metal world. Al Jourgensen rants like a man in need of an exorcist on tracks like "N.W.O." and "TV II," firmly establishing himself as one of the most batshit crazy sons of a bitch to ever abuse a microphone, second to maybe only Butthole Surfer's Gibby Haynes who guests on "Jesus Built My Hotrod."
Hit singles "Head Like a Hole" and "Down in It" get the most recognition for unexpectedly (and unintentionally) helping to drag industrial music into the mainstream. But distorted powerhouses like "Terrible Lie," "Sanctified" and "Something I Can Never Have," with their thick layers of synths, raw noise, explosive guitar and impregnably tight song structures, truly capture NIN's brilliance.
If time and space were not a factor, Jack the Ripper might have used this sonic nightmare as a soundtrack to accompany his dirty work. The caustic and abrasive synths, crushing beats, distended samples and frontman Ogre's stream-of-consciousness rants almost eclipse the fact that the band has a real knack for writing catchy songs.
On their groundbreaking second studio album, the original industrialists assemble abrasive collages of computer noise, sped-up cassette tapes, looped feedback, secretly recorded conversation, and much more. The results are truly disturbing, particularly tracks "Hamburger Lady" (inspired by the story of a burn-unit victim) and "Death Threats," a compilation of threatening messages left on the group's answering machine.