Below is a work written by Tomasz Łesak, a fan of industrial rock music. It was his final English exam at the chair of Netherland Philology in Wroclaw, Poland. Enjoy! :)
2007 All copyrights reserved by Tomasz Łesak
Katedra Filologii Niderlandzkiej we Wrocławiu
GENESIS AND DEVELOPMENT OF INDUSTRIAL ROCK MUSIC
Praca semestralna z języka angielskiego
What is actually industrial rock and where does come from?
Industrial rock is a quite underestimated genre of music and lags behind other more popular styles like indie rock, hard rock or pop rock. It is a fusion of industrial music and rock music. Furthermore, industrial rock is counted as a part of industrial culture which since has become extensive, including different various styles of music (electro body music, power noise, ambient etc.). Though superficially abrasive and often aggressive, industrial rock is generally more listener-friendly than traditional industrial. Moreover, industrial music has always been alternative and could not be very popular in the mainstream world. However, if we want to learn more of industrial rock\metal, we have to go back in time and say a few words about the history of industrial music. Everything started with that movement.
1.2.1 The “true” industrial.
Industrial was born in the mid 1970’s in Hackney – a district of London. Genesis p-Orridge is considered to be one of the first artists who began to create industrial music. He founded a band called “Throbbing Gristle”. Genesis has given music a new face. In his opinion, we live in an industrialized society being surrounded and dominated by noisy machines. Everyone who works in a factory becomes a slave.
Their live performances were very controversial – not to say shocking. They often used disturbing imagery, including pornography and photographs of Nazi concentration camps. It gave the group a notorious reputation. However, they always maintained that their mission was to challenge and explore the darker and obsessive sides of the human condition rather than to make attractive music. Throbbing Gristle pioneered the use of pre-recorded samples, and made extensive use of special effects to produce a distinctive, highly distorted background, usually accompanied by lyrics or spoken-word performances by Genesis P-Orridge. Other bands like Cabaret Voltaire, Whitehouse, SPK or Test Dept soon followed playing the blending electronic synthesizers, guitars and early samplers. They created aggressive and abrasive music fusing elements of rock with experimental electronic music. Obviously, the industrial music scene has developed in other countries, too: France (Pacific 231, Étant Donnés), Germany (Einstürzende Neubauten), New Zealand (The Skeptics) etc.
1.2.2 Post-industrial music
"We went into this record shop out in the middle of Wiltshire and they had an 'Industrial' section - so many of which I'd played on and I suddenly felt separate from it - like, this is not me, this is not what I'm about." – Peter Christopherson (member of Throbbing Gristle)
The industrial scene began to go commercial around 1983. It was possible thanks to MTV. But the music had to change because classic industrial music was too difficult and avant-garde for the “normal” listeners. They needed to hear something easier. A lot of people say that industrial music ended with the demise of Throbbing Gristle. So, the bands that followed, have only been influenced by the original industrial music. They mixed elements characteristic of industrial with other instruments or gave the classic industrial sound up and introduced their own ideas. Then, a lot of post-industrial genres came into existence: noise (Merzbow, Sonic Youth, Genocide Organ), electronic body music (Front 242, D.A.F., Nitzer Ebb), neofolk (Death In June, Hekate, Sol Invictus) and, of course industrial rock\metal.
1.2.3 Industrial rock music
The two most influential groups for industrial rock were Killing Joke and Joy Division. These band combined tribal drumming, cold and harsh sounds with synthesizers and post-punk music. Their artistic work was a turning point for other bands that were formed shortly after. They were inspired by the whole corpus of electronic and rock music. The prime time of industrial rock took place between 1988 and 1996. A lot of great and memorable bands surfaced back then, mostly in United States (Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Acumen Nation, Rorschach Test, 16volt, Sister Machine Gun etc.). But other countries like France (Treponem Pal), England (Pitchshifter) and Germany (Die Krupps) have also taken part in development of industrial rock.
So, industrial rock music consists of guitar riffs, synthesizer/sequencer lines, heavily distorted and very low pitched guitars, as well as harsh vocals, but in some instances it can also have clean vocals. Sampling metal riffs augmented with sequencers are used as well. Songs should be filled by energy, as riffs dominate over industrials samples and electronic effects. The lyrics speak of anger, love, hate, sex, loneliness, longing and other emotions or human relationships.
The most important and influential bands
2.1 Nine Inch Nails (NIN)
This is probably the most famous industrial rock band of the world. It was formed by Trent Reznor in Cleveland in 1988. He is the only official member the band, joined by an array of musicians for live performances. However, Reznor is the only official member being responsible for all the music. His first big success was the band’s EP called “Broken”. Trent put into the music his feelings springing from a disillusionment with his record label, TVT Records. His music became more aggressive than on his first release – “Pretty Hate Machine” and the guitars were stronger and more audible. After releasing his third album, called “The Downward Spiral”, NIN gained very good reviews from critics around the world. It confused some listeners because of the lyrics. They were focused on strong aggression, hate of the whole world, some even urged to suicide. On this album, Reznor proved to be a great individualist and a talented musician. Following the release of the album, the band played a lot of concerts in the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan. Although, the next releases (“The Fragile”, “With Teeth” and “Year Zero”) were large commercial success, a great deal of music journalists thought they are not as good and innovative as the former ones. Currently, the band is on a world tour which is connected with the release of “Year Zero”.
Ministry belongs to the most renowned bands of the industrial rock\metal scene. There were a lot of ups and downs in its history. Therefore, describing ever release in detail proves troublesome. Some facts are certain, however – Ministry was formed in 1981 in Chicago by Al Jourgensen (son of a Norwegian father and a Cuban mother). He remains the most important musician in the band. The first two Ministry releases – “With Sympathy” (1983) and “Twitch” (1986) were just melodic pop with the synth-pop elements. Jourgensen has been always ashamed of it. They do not match the future brutal heavy metal/industrial style of the group. “Psalm 69” (released in 1991, and also known as “KEFALI 69”) was a breakthrough for industrial rock. It included big hits like “Psalm 69 (The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs)” – a title borrowed from Aleister Crowley's work: The Book of Lies, “Jesus Built My Hotrod”, “Just One Fix” (a collaboration with poet/novelist William S. Burroughs) and “N.W.O.” (a protest of the Persian Gulf War and a political attack directed at then-President George H.W. Bush). The albums that followed: “Filth Pig” (1996) and “Dark Side of the Spoon” were created in a hard period for the band. Vocalist, Al Jourgensen had problems with heroin addiction and William Tucker (guitarist) committed suicide by cutting his own throat. There are two things characteristic of Ministry: a very long line-up, with many guest musicians from other bands, and the musical style: strong bass, loud drums, heavy guitars and Jourgensen’s hoarse voice – this is evident on “Animositisomina” (2003). Al is a strong opponent of Bush’s politics and that is very audible on “Houses of the Mole” (2004) and “Rio Grande Blood” (2006).
Chemlab are co-creators of the genre of industrial rock. The founders are Jared Hendrickson (vocals, lyrics, arrangement, guitar) and Dylan Thomas More (composition, programming, samples, arrangement). The band was formed in Washington D.C. in 1989. Their first release was an EP album titled “10 Ton Pressure” from 1990. After that, they moved to New York City – their base for the duration of their career. Note that they made a name for themselves and built up a strong fanbase by endlessly touring with artists such as White Zombie, KMFDM, Nine Inch Nails or GWAR. In New York, their released their first full length album “Burn Out At The Hydrogen Bar” which was a new quality in rock music. Influenced by industrial pioneers (Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire) and Cold Wave (Joy Division) bands, Chemlab mixed electronic surrealistic sound with movie samples, yapping guitars and poetical lyrics. “Sutures” were a very interesting and innovative idea. They are fragments of tracks from vinyl records. Scratched, cut and remixed, they became a noisy collage of strange sounds, serving as interludes between regular songs. In 1996, the next album called “East Side Militia”, appeared on the market. In the meantime, the band faced lineup changes. Drummer John DeSalvo (16 Volt/KMFDM) and Geno Leonardo (Filter) joined the band. The second album is a musical continuation of the themes from “Burn Out At The Hydrogen Bar”, adding new elements: rhytmical guitars, very fast drums (DeSalvo’s merit) and a complicated structure of songs. Chemlab toured the whole United States promoting their release. After “Burn Out At The Hydrogen Bar” and “East Side Militia”, the band broke up in 1997 and then reformed in 2004 to release an album entitled “Oxidizer”. Jared Hendrickson remained the only original member. Chemlab’s new music is more peaceful and modern, without serious experiments. Still, it sounds very good. In 2006, the album titled “Rock Whore vs. Dance Floor” was released, bringing many industrial rock guest stars: Adam Grossman (Skrew), 16Volt, Die Warzau and many others.
2.4 Die Krupps
Die Krupps is a German band defined as electropunk, industrial rock, ebm and crossover. It was formed in Düsseldorf/Germany in 1980 by Jürgen Engler (vocals, guitar, programming) and Ralf Dörper (synthesizers, keyboards). The band’s name comes from the Krupp dynasty - one of the pre-war industrial families from Germany. Die Krupps have been strongly involved in the creation of the genre and introduced new ideas in industrial music. In 1981, they released their debut EP “Stahlwerkssymphony”, which resembled the music of Einstürzende Neubauten. Their next LP – “Volle Kraft Voraus” from 1981 combined the industrial sound with electronic rhythms. In 1984, the group released their first English-language album, “Entering the Arena”, including orchestral arrangements with metallic percussion (the band’s trademark) and a more conventional synthpop sound. In the 90s, Engler began to be interested in heavy metal and refreshed the line-up with several American members who were known for their metal influences (Frank Thomas Lee Altus, Darren Minter). On “I” (1992), “II – The Final Option” (1993) and “III – Odyssey of the mind” (1995). Die Krupps crossed heavy metal with electronic sounds making the music more powerful. During this period, almost all of the band’s tracks were remixed by other artists (Revolting Cocks, Clawfinger, Paradise Lost, Einstürzende Neubauten and others) on “The Final Remixes” (1994). “Paradise Now” (1997) is the last but the best ever album recorded by Die Krupps. Full of metal, strong guitars and sublime samples and effects, it crowns the band’s career. Today, Engler focuses on his own project called Dkay.com. Die Krupps played a few shows for their anniversary tour in 2005.