The re-emergence of industrial music and ghosts in the machine…
There has been the already noted re-emergence of goth music- the neu Goth of indie acts like Savages and many others who play indie with a dark edge. At the same time operating outside the indie obsessed media is a whole new industrial scene that is fast rising as, Dom Smith, the editor of Soundsphere magazine notes…
Okay. I know. Industrial music in 2013, it’s a touchy subject. The scene is precious and it’s underground. I know that. Don’t get your vampire freak-on, just yet though. There’s something of a revival going on, particularly in the UK, with new bands drawing great influence from the old guard of alternative-electronic sounds.
Indeed, for emerging musicians using the industrial sound for inspiration, these are exciting times, as Manchester pure industrial dance acts like Modulate, Sheffield’s Uberbyte and Glasgow’s Je$us Loves Amerika take direct cues from the likes of Nitzer Ebb recalling their rave-ready beats and unapologetic aggression, while emerging London bands Binary, Ulterior and Severin collectively channel Ministry with their coldwave approach as they do from Throbbing Gristle, Killing Joke and The Jesus And Mary Chain at varying points through their musical output.
Of course, and bear with me here, we can’t ignore bands like The Defiled who have bravely taken the industrial metal genre back to the mainstream alternative market just as (breathe) Marilyn Manson, Alec Empire (Atari Teenage Riot) and Nine Inch Nails did in the 90s.Â Similarly, Leeds-based act Officers (who’ve recently collaborated with Gary Numan) draw not only from the sleek and polished production of electronic music’s godfather but also from Depeche Mode’s deep, dark vat of provocative crossover electro-indie-industrial-rock epicness.
There is something of a brooding and focused mood about the UK scene at the moment, and the aforementioned bands are doing well independently. There are also some cracking indie labels out there doin’ there bit for a scene that isn’t exactly know for world-beating bands (on a commercial level). There are, of course, dedicated indie labels; the likes of Armalyte Records (London) who have been putting out a range of new stuff from proper industrial bands (good and bad) for the better part of a decade. There’s not a lot of funding behind industrial music and its bands, but there’s certainly the following. It’s always been there, and it seems like 2013 could be a great year for the genre over here.
In the States, it’s a similarly positive story, for the most part anyway.
While established industrial-pop acts like Mindless Self Indulgence, Sleigh Bells and Celldweller are still on the rise, while acts like Salem (frequently boxed in with the obscure-as-all-hell âwitch-houseâ genre) and HEALTH are promoting a terrifically catchy and completely f***ed sound that is more noise than anything else. But, it’s addictive and utterly decadent noise. The kind of noise that sucks you in, and holds you close, strangling you in the most comfortable way possible. It’s not pure industrial, but the Gristle inspiration is certainly there. One of the more interesting bands to emerge State-side in the last few years (and to sell-out âtoiletâ venues across this side of the Atlantic) is Death Grips (crazy good electro-hip-hop).
Again, I am thinking outside that pesky box a little here; but check the band out, and you will not only see the influence of industrial music on their sound, but the raw energy and definite vibe that goes with it. There’s a vibe to industrial music? Oh yes. There sure is. It’s punk’s aggression mixed with goth’s swagger and (most of the time) imagery. One final brand new act that most certainly showcases the attitude and imagery perfectly is New York’s GHXST who push out this grungy drugged-up and utterly hypnotic grimey industrial-grunge sound.
Industrial’s re-emergence on a worldwide scale is mostly down to the web and the impact and evolution of platforms like Soundcloud and Spotify- allowing bands to freely distribute and promote their music. Of course, that can be said for most bands these days, but in the case of Severin and GHXST particularly, the aforementioned platforms have afforded them much success with the online media.
It’s because of these outlets new music fans are starting to look beyond the Enter Shikari-types covered in reputable print mags like Kerrang! And Rock Sound (though, we can’t forget Enter Shikari’s lean towards inventive electro-tinged alternative music) and make their own choices and decisions about what to listen to in their own time, and at their own pace.
Of course, much like goth, industrial as a style (and a reference point) has been passed off as a âun-coolâ by the mainstream media and as a result, thoroughly excellent (while decidedly niche) bands have been dismissed because they didn’t âfit inâ or couldn’t easily be moulded into something more âcommercially viableâ by a PR rep making strange and unnecessary comparisons to other more popular bands (I think mine are fairly on the money, if you don’t then of course, let me know!).
It’s never been very obvious (to me at least), why so many of the classic bands I’ve mentioned above, with the exception of Depeche Mode never really made it into favour with the mainstream press as they were starting off, and come to think of it, nobody has ever really explained to me how that could’ve happened either. These bands were equally, if not more influential than the likes of NIN (although they struggled too at first), and certainly more palatable than the industrial bands that did find favour in the UK and US charts with high positions at the turn of the century (see Orgy, American Head Charge and Stabbing Westward).
The raw, aggressive and complex notes of Throbbing Gristle (yes, I’ll keep bringing them up), along with their inspired incorporation of guitars (and any acoustic instrument they could find to use) was both innovative and challenging in equal measure. We must not forget of course, Germany’s EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten and how through the 80s they invented this whole new soundscape of pure bloody noise revolution; breathtakingly different and completely inspiring.
Industrial grew out of punk’s rage and electronic music’s production, brought together in one incredibly fierce mash-up of styles that bands like Officers and Binary peddle proudly today. Industrial was never supposed to become an established genre and style, but it did with the help of dedicated fans in it for the intelligence and diversity of the sounds. Industrial has stuck around and evolved to incorporate the oldest and newest musical trends; Mike Patton’s Mr Bungle experimented with industrial-jazz while Axl Rose attempted to make and industrial-classic-rock record on 2008’s disasterpiece ‘Chinese Democracy’. The style has been used and abused a fair bit, but it stays strong.
The thing about Great Britain is, we’ve never been that great at promoting diversity in music within our newspapers and/or printed mags, but in this the digital age (and because industrial runs on from a digital core with legions of tech-head fans), the blogosphere gets the privilege of being the genre’s lifeline. For better or worse (mostly better), outlets like Side-Line (Germany), ReGen (US) and amodelofcontrol (UK) have been doing their best to keep the genre going (bubbling away underneath the surface) promoting the work of Gristle, Killing Joke and Numan where (for the most part) the major publications won’t spend words on them. Worth mentioning also is that the web has allowed major industrial music festivals to flourish too in the last few years. Worth noting in-particular is Resistanz, the industrial music fest based in the Steel City of Sheffield. That one brings acts from across the world alongside some of the cream of new and emerging talent. It’s all rather fantastic, really.
2012 saw some fantastic releases in the field of industrial music; Binary released a cracking single (my track of the year, in fact) and a great statement of intent with ‘Modern Man’, Severin packed in a great genre-crossing EP in the form of ‘Everything Breaks’, Death Grips stuck a big finger up at the record industry by releasing their last album, ‘No Love Deep Web’ for free online before schedule simply because the band didn’t want to wait any longer to get it out. How could I forget ‘The Seer’ by Swans was put out, add to that the fact that Pop Will Eat Itself (sans Clint Mansell) and Godflesh are playing live again on select tours, industrial (and all of its fringe tags and categories) is more popular than ever.
While many might jump on me for this post, and might also say that I’m really missing the mark with the bands I’ve chosen, it’s a non-exhaustive list of upcoming indie bands that utilise the dark and electronic sounds that have been present within the genre for years. The artists that I have mentioned more often than not are incorporating heavy rock and indie elements into industrial music and taking the style in some great directions (as others have done so before in differing ways). I find the whole concept of an industrial revolution (in whatever form that comes in) for 2013 rather exciting, don’t you?