Industrial music was heavy enough before artists like Godflesh, Killing Joke and Ministry added gnashing guitars to the abrasive, apocalyptic mix — the sound of "collapsing new buildings," to translate the name of pioneers Einstürzende Neubauten. Enter industrial metal, a style that, at its best, absolutely crushes all comers.
While it's been a few decades since the industrial scene produced a true mainstream crossover, the biggest bands in the genre are still going strong, and their influence can be heard loud and clear in the output of a new generation of heavy bands: Code Orange, 3TEETH, Harm's Way and more.
With this in mind, we asked our readers to pick the single greatest industrial-metal album of all time, and naturally, our mosh-pitting fans leaned toward the metal side of the equation. See the top five vote-getters ranked accordingly below.
Every album on this list sounds mechanical, but Godflesh's Streetcleaner hits like the inner monologue of a Terminator on the hunt. After leaving grindcore pioneers Napalm Death, Justin Broadrick crafted even more apocalyptic noises on his genre-defining industrial debut, and there's a reason why fans still herald this album as a heavy-music monument all these years later — it fucking crushes. John Connor's, beware.
KMFDM's Nihil makes you want to mosh and throw ass at the same time. The German industrialists let their freak flags fly high on their 1995 smash, a thrilling whirlwind of sleazy techno beats, funky disco refrains, slamming metal riffs and zany vocals that culminates as one of the most devilishly danceable albums in the industrial playbook. Just put one "Juke-Joint Jezebel" and try not to move.
The vote tallies were incredibly close between this and Ministry's previous album, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, but Psalm 69 eked out the win here. And rightly so. You can't talk about industrial metal without Al Jourgenson and Co.'s 1993 masterpiece, the bonkers byproduct of inner-band tension, budget-busting drug binges and wild creative desires to mash throbbing electronics, hair-singeing guitars and psychobilly swagger.
Fear Factory have spent 30 years pushing industrial music to its most metallic extremes, and Demanufacture is arguably their magnum opus. Colliding the torrential power of death-metal guitar riffage with grinding beats that barrel forward like a 72-ton semi-truck going 90 on the freeway, Demanufacture is a total fucking monster of a record that could make an evil AI overlord shudder and retreat to the dark web's catacombs.
It had to be this one, right? Nine Inch Nails are the poster boys of industrial music, and while their glistening 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine, is equally integral to the genre's fabric, and their 1992 Broken EP is an immortal classic in its own right, there's no record — industrial or otherwise — that matches the digital-torture-dungeon atmosphere of The Downward Spiral. As high-concept and musically innovative as it is viscerally emotional (and sexually provocative), Trent Reznor's 1992 gem is industrial music at its most fully realized. You can debate just how "metal" it is, but there's no argument that it's not majestic, depraved and devastatingly brilliant.