Now we’re talkin’.
Out of all the metal I love, and I do love it all as if I was James Jones and the various forms of metal were my minions, industrial style metal is by far and away the style that speaks to my little mechanical heart more than anything else. I was a flat-out hesher all up in the Slayer’s and Anthrax’s of the world in my youth until the fateful day I watched the Ministry Live home VHS tape from their infamous “Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste” tour. You know the one with 30 people on stage, and with the cowboy hats and all? That shit blew my head up. Simplified cyber punk, distorted vocals, machine gun riffs and drums…I really didn’t know what to think of it. But from that point forward, if it was heavy and had samples or electronics, I would give it a listen.
There will be many missing from this list I think have put out incredible songs or albums. From Red Harvest to N17 who’s “Virus” is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, or the more rock side of things like 16 Volt to Acumen Nation, or the new age madness of bands like Anaal Nathrakh or Neurosis, the below included are the ones to me, that define the genre flawlessly and raised the bar. And should be a part of your iPod and workouts from here til Underverse come. The leaders of the pack, if you will.
5) Godflesh – Slavestate
When you’re an Earache band in the late 80’s or early 90’s, you generally were from Tampa or the UK and kind of all did the same fast, riffy death metal with technically sound guitar solos. While many of those bands are legendary and stand out on their own, none did more than Godflesh. When everyone else had solos, Godflesh had feedback. When everyone went faster, Godflesh went slower. When most were tuned to standard E, Godflesh did drop A#. When most were singing about cadavers, Godflesh blanketed a crushing drum machine with an emotionally heavy vibe taken from real life. Songs like “Perfect Skin” and “Wound” were able to paint a bleak picture of Justin Broadrick’s thought process and creativity, and bring it to life in something closely resembling an avalanche. If you have any slight noise element to your industrial rock or metal nowadays, you probably owe Godflesh a thank you.
4) The Amenta – Non
This album was released in 2004 yet I’m calling it essential. Bold statement Dru! But for good reason. The Australian band The Amenta have done a lot of evolving but on their second release “Non” they took the title of “sonically overwhelming” away from Strapping Young Lad with a violent swipe, and it’s still their best release to date. They managed to take every great electronic and metal influence before them and put it into a ticking time bomb that never stops exploding. Want disturbing Skinny Puppy electronic textures throughout? Check. How about some Godflesh vibe? Check “Skin/Dirt” when it kicks in. Maybe some early Aborym/Fear Factory/SYL/Ministry/Skin chamber for good measure. It’s in there. At times it sounds like Mrykskog trying to communicate with a 56K modem. All the while this is futuristic metal and ahead of it’s time. And I can hear the influence of this album in many bands from Australia and the UK that utilized their triggering methods and layering since, ala Anaal Nathrahk or Infant Annihilator. Sometimes the best albums are the ones you don’t know about. This is one of them. Punishing stuff.
3) Ministry – Psalm 69
This album, much like any other Ministry album, almost never happened. It’s by luck alone that Al Jourgensen didn’t die 30 times before Psalm 69 was recorded. Either from freak circumstance or drug overdose, the likelihood Al was to die on a daily basis according to his autobiography was always very high… mainly because Al always was. But even with hating Paul Barker and Chris Connelly, Al still had his wits of song writing and innovation. And he had the axe slinging speed demon Mike Scaccia. Out of all that, came nothing but classics that spoke of and to the “alternative” generation. “NWO”? Classic political rally track. “Just One Fix”? Drug anthem like Kurt Cobain could never write. “Jesus Built My Hotrod”? The platinum selling album where no one knew what the fuck the singer was talking about since Frank Zappa. Ministry are often considered the Godfather of industrial metal. And if “Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste” is Part 1, “Psalm 69” is Godfather Part 2.
2) Fear Factory – Demanufacture
After releasing the slightly industrial/more death metal-esq “Soul of a New Machine” and breaking a lot of Roadrunner Records band rules in the process, Fear Factory opted to go take microchip peyote and go to the cyber desert on a spiritual quest to find a world where man and machines are always a war. And though they thought they were in the desert, they were probably just hanging out in Bill Leeb’s studio. And from that out came the even more groundbreaking “Fear is the Mind Killer” Ep. The blend of death metal and techno was also, unheard of at the time. So when Fear Factory keep on that road when “Demanufacture” hit, it became the new rule book. Pulled back on the ‘death’, kept the metal, increased Burton Bell’s completely unhealthy obsession with cyborgs on a lyrical level, added more melody and oh, let’s have Rhys Fulber from Front Line Assembly orchestrate all our samples and electronics. The result? A timeless anthem drenched industrial metal album that would influence anything that came after it, including Strapping Young Lad’s “City”. This album was the Matrix before Keanu got all “woah….!” This was like watching I Robot with Will Smith being replaced with Metallica. If you’re an industrial metal band now in 2015 and aren’t praising this album as the reason you exist, slap yourself. If not for Ministry, this would be the most far reaching industrial metal influence of all time.
1) Strapping Young Lad – City
I’ve said repeatedly that this album changed my world.
And I’ve said repeatedly this should be the soundtrack for the Akira remake if they ever get around to making it (though here’s hoping they don’t.) Devin Townsend at age 22 managed to put more fury and rage into one album than every honey badger ever shown on the Discovery Channel could in their collective lifetime. Devin Townsend and company managed to make an album sound like a city as a living, breathing, chaotic mess. Patterned after Los Angeles and Vancouver BC, it completely works. From paranoia to anger to hatred to turmoil, he covers all negative aspects of city life in one, giant cacophony. With non-stop crashing and explosions and blips and textures sitting under a complete shitstorm of speed and thrash metal styling’s, this is the most mechanically yet organic sounding album ever made. It would take many years before the masses realized the genius of Devin Townsend, but all point back to this as one of the angriest, most vicious pieces of sound ever created. The perfect soundtrack to a futuristic world of chaos.