Initially a blend of academic avant-garde electronic experimentation and post-punk aggression, Industrial eventually evolved into the most raw and aggressive combination of rock and electronics.

Industrial evolved from its avant-garde beginnings into a jackhammer beat that was pounding, relentless, and merciless. As a result, the genre became a viable alternative to popular fast-paced dance music.
The dominant industrial sound was incredibly harsh and scary, but the main elements were the deliberately mechanical sound and the ideas of alienation and inhumanity. Artists were fascinated by the sounds of the modern metropolis, the size, order and coherence of complex machinery.

History of the Genre Since 1970

Industrial remained underground until the early 1990s, when Ministry and Nine Inch Nails introduced their take on the genre to a huge audience of alternative rock and heavy metal listeners.

Still, a significant number of bands chose to remain in the shadows of the underground, believing that the genre’s philosophy and issues were incompatible with fame and widespread adulation.

Industrial-style music is often simple in terms of timbre, tone, and plot. It focuses on repeating cyclical patterns that put the listener in an urban trance.

Numerous associations and visual images may arise in the mind, ranging from imposing glass and concrete structures, to continuously moving conveyor belts, to the horrific sights of Nazi concentration camp crematoria.

The performances of industrial groups usually include theatrical elements and are frequently staged in suitable locations, such as abandoned factories and train terminals (the genre’s avant-garde origins are an influence). Obviously, industrialists were not the first to be captivated by the melody of machinery, the urban rhythmic symphony.

In the first half of the twentieth century, in the works of Italian and Russian futurists (poets, painters, and musicians), who tried to create the “art of the future”. The cult of the industrial city and the aesthetics of urbanization were fostered.

In the 20th century, composers such as E. Varez, P. Honegger, L. Russolo, E. Satie, S. Prokofiev, A. Mosolov, etc. began to realize the “emancipation” of noises and non-musical sounds.

To create and record “bruitism” noise music, dynamos, car horns, motors, typewriters, and other “sound objects” were used in addition to specially built electronic instruments and an enormous number of drums.

In his famous symphonic Bolero, M. Ravel reflected on his visit to a steelworks. In the work of P. Schaeffer, P. Henri, and others (“concrete music”), noise experiments continued in the 1950s. In the 1960s, noise effects were often created using non-traditional sound extraction techniques on the most traditional symphonic instruments.

Like their predecessors in the academic music camp, the “industrialists” used various methods to make music that sounded like the sounds of the city.

For example, the West German band Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, formed in 1980, used steel plates, leaf springs, electric drills, circular saws, jackhammers, plastic containers, pumps, falling sand, and burning sawdust falling into water as musical instruments.

  • Along with Einst├╝rzende Neubauten and Cabaret Voltaire, the founders of the “industrial” record label Throbbing Gristle, who began experimenting in the late 1970s, are considered pioneers of rock industrial. The theatricality of the performances was as important to all of them as the music itself.
  • Skinny Puppy, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb and others added a fast dance tempo to the aggressive sound of their predecessors to form the second wave. They are sometimes considered a distinct style of electronic body music, with the Wax Trax label at its center.
  • The Ministry gained a large following in the late 1980s and early 1990s by adding heavy metal guitar riffs from Ministry and KMFDM to their electronic body music.
  • Trent Reznor, the frontman of Nine Inch Nails, added conventional song structures, made himself the center of the band, humanized the music, and became a “star.
All of this second wave, including the 1980s Front 242 from Brussels, 1981’s Ministry, 1982’s Skinny Puppy, 1983’s Coil from London, 1984’s KMFDM from West Germany, and others, share one key characteristic.

Unlike the “naturalists” of the first wave, they all relied on the ability of synthesizers to model musical and non-musical sounds, processing the guitar signal and vocals with various “distortions” (distortion, overdrive, compressor, etc.).

Then they used electronic drums and drum machines, combining industrial sounds with brutal heavy riffs, mechanistic techno rhythms, and tape manipulation sounds. Techniques for recording natural sounds, even those made in real-life “industrial” situations, were used.

The sound could range in harshness from the intense “militarization” of the Ministry to the ambient “soundscapes” of Coil. Laibach (1980), the only Slovenian band of its kind, fused industrial, heavy metal, and techno with the majestic sound of a baroque organ and choir.

In the early 1980s, King Crimson established an industrial sound without the use of synthesizers, using unorthodox electric stringed instruments (sticks) and unique guitar processing techniques.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, industrial became one of the most prominent alternative genres. During this period, several subgenres were identified, including industrial metal (Marilyn Manson, Godflesh) with its powerful sound and classic rock structures; industrial dance (Die Krupps, Rammstein); industrial gothic (Das Ich); progressive industrial (Nine-Inch Nails); and others.

Throughout the ’90s, industrial, or rather its subgenre industrial metal, held a prominent position in metal, but by the turn of the century, the genre’s power had waned, and it began to fade away. The only flourishing trend in industrial music today is industrial dance, dominated by American and German bands.

Noise is a similar (chronologically, conceptually and aesthetically) approach to industrial music (predecessors: Velvet Underground, Lou Reed Solo, etc.). Numerous bands and artists, from Korn to Russell Mills, reveal the influence of industrial music in their music.
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