This episode of We Have A Technical doubles down on ur-goth realness with discussion of early records by Alien Sex Fiend and Sopor Æternus and the Ensemble of Shadows. What are the roots of goth’s connections to rockabilly? How has Anna-Varney Cantodea gathered such a web of mystery to herself? In addition, we’ve got takes on the new Nine Inch Nails track and a recent live performance from Merzbow, plus all the horsing around you’ve come to expect from the official IDieYouDie.com podcast! Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.
On this episode of the podcast, Bruce and Alex discuss albumcraft. Yes, it’s another long rambling conversation about stuff like track sequencing, cohesion and the other semi-intangibles that affect the listening experience. Is there such a thing as focusing too much on the spirit of an album? What strategies against the architecture of the LP have various industrial figures adopted over the years? We’ve got some of our customary chatter about shows both recent and upcoming, and more on the official I Die: You Die podcast! Also: we are a single, brief week away from The Great Debate II. Consider yourself warned. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music and Stitcher, download directly, or stream from the widget down below!
Coil/Nine Inch Nails
Despite an enormous profile within the world of industrial, one that stretches out well beyond into the realms of experimental and esoteric musics, the material Coil remixed for Nine Inch Nails is by far the most well-known work in the group’s catalog. Even leaving aside the opening credits of Se7en, the various contributions by Jhon Balance and Peter Christopherson to Trent’s oeuvre easily eclipse all of their own original material (appearing as they do on various highly charting albums and CD singles) in the public consciousness. Hell, if you Google “How to Destroy Angels” you’ll be four pages deep into the search results before you find a reference to the Coil album, instead of Reznor’s side-project named in tribute to the duo.
With that in mind, the idea that there is more material from any of those now storied remix sessions that had yet to be physically released is kind of incredible. Even more incredible is the idea that in spite of Nine Inch Nails’ global profile, which is probably greater now than it ever has been, that a small label like Cold Spring would be able to press said music and sell it. Without wanting to speculate on what sort of legal hoops the folks at CS might have had to jump through to make Recoiled a reality, it’s not hard to imagine the tangle of rights that might have prevented this from ever being anything other than a grey-area bootleg (4 out of 5 tracks previously appeared on a download only release Uncoiled compiled by the diligent fans of the NIN forum). One can only assume that the release has the blessing of erstwhile Coil collaborator Danny Hyde, whose involvement in these recordings can’t be overlooked, as he was reportedly Christopherson’s primary musical foil during the era. Suffice it to say, there were a lot of good reasons to think this release might never have happened.
And yet here it is, in glorious vinyl and compact disk, Recoiled. To be clear, most of the material on the release, which clocks in at 5 tracks and 40 minutes, falls into the realm of the ‘alternate’ take, with many of the remixes featuring the same effects, sequences and arrangements that would show up on the NIN remix releases. This is especially apparent on opener “Gave Up (Open My Eyes)”, which is quite similar to the version that kicks off Fixed. Far from making it inessential, it’s the differences which make it interesting. There’s just something so Coil about creaking backmasked sound of the intro, the subtle differences in how Trent’s oh-so familiar “Give it to me/I throw it away” mantra is affected, the specific way the cut-up guitar and drums are arranged. Those subtleties aren’t necessarily going to be apparent to folks who haven’t spent a lot of time with the more well-known versions, but there’s a certain revelatory quality to hearing Christopherson and Hyde’s sprawling, raw and unrefined interpretations.
Up next is an earlier version of the reinterpretation of “Closer” which famously kicked Se7en off, a precursor to “Precursor”, if you will. With some extra charnel synths intoning in the background, it feels less like the muck scraped from the inside of a murderous soul (sorry, but it’s just impossible to separate that mix from its cinematic outing) and more like the sacred processional experimentation Coil would undertake on Musick To Play In The Dark. The bubbling and somewhat melodic textures woven into “The Downward Spiral (A Gilded Sickness)” are perhaps not radically removed from their official iteration on Further Down The Spiral, but some quick comparisons remind the listener of just how much Hyde and Christopherson added (perhaps heavily cribbing from the Love’s Secret Domain playbook) to the original, maybe Reznor’s most structurally experimental composition until that point.
The reader might note that we keep returning to the idea that the similarities between Recoiled‘s tracks and the more familiar versions of these remixes only throw their subtle differences into sharper relief. To take this discussion in a somewhat personal direction, this isn’t just a function of having heard the latter so many times, but also the context in which those remixes were first heard: namely as part of our discovery of the Nine Inch Nails catalogue, much of it as it was being released while we were in high school. Not to completely torpedo our credibility, but we were listening to NIN well before proper Coil releases trickled down to us through fourth hand tape dubs and 56.6 Kbps Napster sessions. The result of this was that we couldn’t help but integrate Coil’s work on those mixes into our topography of NIN’s work, rather than as Coil qua Coil. Twenty years on from hearing those mixes, our interim immersion in and love for Coil is forcing us to realise just how much of the sonic weirdness on display here is classic Coil, and now has more in common with our exploration of that catalogue than remembrances of initial teenage NIN obsessions. The subtle and uncanny rearrangement of minor details on Recoiled‘s versions is only driving home just how deeply Coil’s very particular magic was inoculated within us without notice at that impressionable age.
The mystery of Recoiled‘s actual physical existence, here, now, can perhaps be credited to its easy slippage between taxonomies. It is the work of two bands (one defunct, one impossibly successful) and neither. It is the same as the official releases which it spawned (but which it came after) but not. It is a relic of the apex of commercial interest in industrial culture in the early 90s but is also an utterly cult artifact (the coloured vinyl has just sold out as we’ve gone to press with the standard black sure to follow). Like Nine Inch Nails and Coil’s erratic working relationship, it feels incomplete yet utterly tantalizing. Though not large, Recoiled contradicts itself and contain multitudes. It is real, it is here, and it will work an irresistible pull on a very certain sort of listener. We’re sure you already know where you stand in relation to it.
Okay fine, so most remix LPs are inessential at best and outright filler at worst, especially within the confines of Our Thing, where a tit-for-tat remix culture often results in high volumes of alternate versions of dubious quality. Still, a retake of a song, be it cover or remix, sometimes tells us something about the source material we hadn’t suspected before. And hell, sometimes those disparate versions, whether altered to fit another style or rendered down to base elements and built up again, become a part of the fabric of a song or a record we can’t divorce. In that spirit we thought we’d scare up a list of twelve remix LPs we think are worth your time. Some are obvious, some not, but each of them brings something to the table and adds to the continuum of the source artist in a meaningful way. Got a favourite we didn’t mention? Leave it in the comments!
Nine Inch Nails, Fixed
As unlikely as he ever would be to admit it, Trent’s remix releases are the truest connection the mighty NIN has to their industrial roots. You’ll note that we specifically picked the Broken companion here. While Further Down the Spiral is equally notable, we think the concentrated nature of the JG Thirlwell and Coil created mixes gives us an idea of what Reznor might sound like had he followed the more experimental angels of his nature. The Reznor and Vrenna (and Paul Kendall who you should really know something about) version of “Happiness in Slavery” is a vision of a band we never actually got to hear. Plus, for our money, the Coil mangled version of “Gave Up” featuring the cut-up Reznor vox is by far the best and most interesting version of the song, a little taste of genuine kink from a time when T Rez was all about angry fuckin’.
Godflesh, Love And Hate In Dub
Godflesh’s looping grinds always sat in close proximity to industrial culture, cited as being “real industrial” by those still upset by the genre’s embracing of clean(er) synthesized sounds by the late 80s, or as the sort of industrial-esque metal to which rivets needed to pay respect (if only out of protocol), or even as a sort of missing link between Ministry and Swans. Regardless, the rhythm-heavy Songs Of Love And Hate was prime for breaks-heavy reinterpretation in the mid-90s, and the resultant mix of jungle and industrial sludge felt both like a representative signpost in the band’s unique journey through extreme music as well as an indicator of contemporary electronic trends in broader culture.
Skinny Puppy, Remix Dystemper
A far more adventurous reinterpretation of S’Puppy’s catalog than that offered by 1990’s self-explanatory 12″ Anthology, Dystemper is a peculiar listen sixteen years on. It suffers in part from the late 90s obsession with DJ and “electronica” culture (see Josh Wink’s contribution), but also nicely points to Puppy’s influence within circles beyond industrial. Where else are you gonna find KFMDM, Autechre, and Guru (yes, that Guru) all trading versions (and not just contributing outtakes to 90s movie soundtracks). Perhaps more pertinent today, the direction the then newly formed creative team of Ogre and Mark Walk took on their version of “Smothered Hope” is a perfect blueprint for the entire sound of the first two ohGr records.
Coil, Stolen & Contaminated Songs
A bit of a cheat as this isn’t a remix LP per se, more of a collection of alternate versions and outtakes made from the same source material as Coil’s Love’s Secret Domain. We’ll cop to straight fanboyism here, but seriously, have you ever heard anything like this? Unlike Gold is the Metal which serves as an addendum to the classic Horse Rotorvator, we feel like Stolen & Contaminated Songs is a wholly unique entry into the catalogue from its source material. While LSD is often beholden to the genre experimentation (mostly techno and nascent forms if IDM) Balance and Christopherson were partaking in, Stolen & Contaminated Songs sounds like the album you would expect if you only ever heard the title track of the former LP. All freaked out exotica, twisting samples and drug-fuelled studio wizardry straight from the addled minds of two of the greatest to ever drop a tab and hit record. Absolutely essential.
Taking the relatively sonically consistent Freeze Frame Reality as its primary source material, Frames would prove to portend all of the experimentation and tense atmospheres Haujobb would come to be known for once the project officially kicked into high gear (check our survey of the ‘jobb’s catalog from a few years back for a deeper gloss of their evolution). Remixed both in and out of house, Frames runs from ambient to noisy, from beat-heavy to sweeping, but always remains evocative. Featuring a murderer’s row of mixers (members of Puppy, FLA, Clock DVA, Mentallo, and Forma Tadre all lend their talents), this record feels like anything but a quick cash-in on a band just coming off their sophomore release (the original tracks which are included on some versions don’t do any harm either). The road to Solutions For A Small Planet is patently clear from here.
iVardensphere, I Dream in Noise: Remixes Vol. 2
Not that we have anything against the first iVs remix release, but volume 2’s line-up is pretty much what you’d get if you asked us to curate a remix album. You get (deep breath) Alter Der Ruine, Iszoloscope, Encephalon, Aliceffekt, Comaduster, Caustic, Ad Ver Sary, and Distorted Memory all bringing some of their own flavour to the ‘Sphere’s brand of tribal industrial, taking it from genres as varied as glitch and EBM to dark electro and atmospheric industrial grind (that last one courtesy of Unit 187). And hey, one of our fave tracks of 2012 was BlakOpz’ take on “Ancients”, a club banger we still play out and the best intro we could have asked for an act we were unfamiliar with. A very nice capsule of the moment in which it was released, this one has a bit of everything and more for the discerning industrial scenester.
ESA, The Immacuate Manipulation
Jamie Blacker is an intense fella, in case you hadn’t figured that out from listening to his increasingly dark and visceral albums of rhythmic noise for Tympanik records. Weirdly, the place where we first became aware of how much depth and feeling was built into Blacker’s work for ESA was when he handed it over to a gaggle of similarly minded artists on The Immaculate Manipulation. Witness Manufactura pushing the boundaries of “The Devil is Inside Me” to be all the more intense and emotional, or Access to Arasaka uncovering some melancholy hidden in the cracks of the scathing “Your Anger is a Gift”. High on the scale of remix releases that give new perspective on the artist they’re dedicated to, this one is actually a reasonable place to get to know ESA before taking the plunge into a dark and violent sea.
Front 242, Re-Boot
Another slight cheat, what with this being a live album, but given that it was the first and (we think) only official version of the total overhaul of 242’s back catalogue (okay, we’ll stop) undertaken before the turn of the millennium, we think that Re-Boot merits a mention. If Love And Hate In Dub and Remix Dystemper generally acknowledged what was happening in electronic music outside of industrial in the late 90s, Re-Boot signed up for the full package, complete with VIP Chemical Brothers tickets and Lo-Fidelity All Stars tea cosy. Beefed up to UK big beat standards, some of the most famous EBM songs of all time kick along at a frantic and bassy pace. A few years on, this hybrid of classic EBM and more mainstream electronic sounds would be further explored by Icon Of Coil and Apoptygma Berzerk, but on Re-Boot Richard 23’s just happy to show that he knew how to run the electronic hype-man game years before Keith Flint even thought about piercing his tongue.
Gary Numan, The Mix
We’ll readily admit that Hybrid is a better produced remix effort which cleaves closer to Numan’s own work at the time, but there’s just something irresistibly fun about The Mix. Cleopatra catch lightning in a bottle for once on a remix/tribute disc and actually land a respectable roster, most of whom are having a good day at the boards. Cagily selecting tunes exclusively from Gary’s classic era and his then-nascent dark rebirth (the one exception being Kill Switch…Klick’s valiant effort to salvage something of merit out of the awful “Emotion”), The Mix treats the dedicated Numanoid to hits old and new brought up to electro-goth speed. The back and forth relationship between Numan and industrial culture has produced some fantastic yet resolutely brooding fare over the past years, but if you’re keen to hear a lighter, club-friendlier version of that relationship, The Mix can’t be beat.
Perc & Einsturzende Neubauten, Interpretations
We won’t rehash too much of what we wrote about this 12″ from the mind of the UK’s techno-industrialist Perc back in October. As then, our primary fascination with it is in how he took a loose collection of samples from the all-time masters of shredding metallic percussion, married it to his own brand of intense, militaristic techno and came out with something that sounds like power noise. That this isn’t a simple collection of 4/4 club remixes isn’t all that remarkable; after all Perc isn’t that guy as an artist, and Neubauten are unlikely to have allowed that sort of thing to occur this late in their game. It’s just two artists with similar approaches from wholly different traditions meeting across the gulf to create something new and different, and for that it deserves your attention.
Ulver, 1993–2003: 1st Decade in the Machines
Good gravy, where to start? Ulver, those wacky Norwegian geniuses, decided that their moves from black metal to folk to prog to ambient to noir electronica (all in the space of ten years) were still affording their audience too much opportunity to pin them down. Garm and co. thus enlisted a bevy of experimental electronic producers to take samples not just from single tracks but from entire albums and use those as the basis of new compositions. The result is one of the most erratic and defiant compilations we can think of, flitting from minimal house (“Bog’s Basil & Curry Powder Potatos Recipe” – yes, the actual recipe is in the liner notes) to pure noise (“Wolf Rotorvator” – we’re not the only ones who see the Norwegian wolves as the legitimate descendents of Coil). Ulver are forever circumscribing and then abandoning their own history, leaving us to try to find patterns in the castings.
Throbbing Gristle, Mutant Throbbing Gristle
You know, Throbbing Gristle weren’t exactly the hot property they are today back in the early ‘aughts. While the group has never been far from the lips of music nerds and their ilk, the release of Mutant before the official rebirth and subsequent collapse of the group was unexpected to be certain. The fact that the line-up of remixers from outside the TG camp was so dance-oriented was bizarre, and almost archaic for the time; as much as we like the idea in theory, could you honestly say you think one of the guys from Basement Jaxx remixing “Hot on the Heels of Love” was something folks were clamoring for? Appetites of the market aside, we’re often come back to Mutant as one of those oddball moments in the catalogue of a band who defy encapsulation, a contemporary dance LP out of step with the mode of the time, but in step with the off-kilter nature of it’s subjects. United, still.
Alright kids, here’s the third installment of ID:UD’s new podcast! It looks as though our new podcast hosting platform is up and running, so we should be able to keep episodes of We Have a Technical coming without worrying about snapping the blog’s regular hosting plan all Macho Man Slim Jim style. This week, we talk about the much ballyhooed return LP from Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks, as well as the new EP from Caustic, Coprophagia/Consummatia. There’s also some talk at the end about the recently announced seventh Festival Kinetik, and the role that we’ll be playing in it. Stream from the fancy player below, or download from this link right here!
As always, we’re keen to hear what you have to say about this new dimension of the ID:UD experience, so leave any and all comments or suggestions in the comments section below, or fire us an e-mail at email@example.com
0:00: Our theme music is “Black Cross (Dead When I Found Her Remix)” by ∆AIMON, available from Artoffact records.
0:47: In actuality, three episodes of Fish Police aired, meaning we’ve now tied it. More importantly, Fish Police was a comic before it was a TV series, and featured inking by none other than Sam Kieth, later of The Maxx fame.
5:41: Alex meant to say “Into The Void”, not to be confused with Enter The Void.
11:09: A friggin’ Academy Award.
13:10: I Dream of Wires is a 2013 documentary about the resurgence and popularity of modular synthesizers.
13:58: It wasn’t “Various Methods of Escape”, it was “All Time Low”. Here is the Final Fantasy music Alex was thinking of.
15:40: “Ringfinger” is in E flat-major according to some sheet music we Googled.
19:50: Our feature for the week this was recorded was a conversation about Covenant’s Leaving Babylon.
26:27: Uncanny X-Men #123, “Listen–Stop Me If You’ve Heard It–But This One Will KILL You!”, July 1979
27:01: Bruce is turned on by Kate Bush’s The Sensual World.
27:44: We’re specifically referencing Caustic at Kinetik 2.0 in 2009.
28:45: And You Know Me By the Trail of Vomit
31:21: The Man Who Couldn’t Stop ranked 19 in our Favourites of 2012 list.
31:43: The Causticles song Bruce is referring to is “I’m Not (Functional)”.
34:30: The interview mentioned here appeared on Intravenous’ website in January.
37:24: JG Thirlwell played the ultra expensive Fairlight Synthesizer on Coil’s Scatology under his Clint Ruin alias.
39:10: Caustic’s Vampire Freaks Blog, and Matt’s Failing Better Music Tumblr.
41:40: You can pick up Coprophagia/Consummatia via Bandcamp.
46:30: You can see our big fat heads at the front of the crowd in this video from the show.
48:18: Bruce’s review of The Legendary Pink Dots’ The Gethsemane Option.
50:18: “What Do You Want From Me” was a single by Peter Hook’s solo-project Monaco.
52:20: For information about the festival and updates about our involvement, check the Kinetik website and Facebook!
55:36: The video for Henric de la Cour’s “Shark”.
59:45: That is what it means.
Despite what The KLF would have you believe, achieving success in music of any sort is hard. Like, really hard. Talent, determination, and popularity don’t always come in equal measure, and in addition to there being countless acts which never went anywhere for each one that did, plenty of household names spent good time in bands that never achieved the fame they’d later go on to. Industrial and the other genres we deal with here at ID:UD are no exception to this law, so in that spirit we offer these glimpses into the pasts of some of Our Thing’s biggest names.
A caveat: our criterion for this feature was recognition, pure and simple: did the members of a band go on to achieve a wider degree of it after their time in their earlier bands? While plenty of these earnest beginnings do exhibit some artistic value apart from their historical significance as starting points, others…don’t. We’ll let you be the judge of which is which.
Before Strawberry Switchblade: The Poems
Well before she was the utility player for basically every top-tier neo-folk project in the late eighties and early nineties but not long before she was in Strawberry Switchblade, Rose McDowall was in a punk act called The Poems with her then husband Drew, who you may remember from his involvement in a little band called Coil. The post-punk trio (rounded out by a third member who’s name even our extensive Googling can’t uncover) only released a single 7″, and were apparently no longer a going concern by the time SS were formed. Their notability really only extends as far as their membership, although they do occasionally turn up on various obscurities blogs, usually with a rip of their sole single “Achieving Unity”. A quick search should reveal it, along with this cut from a Glaswegian punk compilation.
Before Skinny Puppy: Images In Vogue
A familiar name to new wave die hards or Vancouverites over a certain age, Images In Vogue released a swath of singles and three LPs over the 1980s. Behind delightfully named vocalist Dale Martindale on the drums was none other than a young Kevin Crompton, AKA cEvin Key (with Don Gordon – later of Numb – on guitar, no less!). Key ditched IIV to go full time with Skinny Puppy in 1986, but not before helping record their signature single, “Call It Love”. Sadly, cEvin was nowhere to be seen at the (otherwise fun) Images In Vogue reunion gig at the Commodore about ten years back.
Before Ministry & Thrill Kill Kult: Special Affect
The story, which Al Jourgenson will tell to anyone with a pulse and auditory organs, is that Ministry’s early synthpop direction was purely the result of being strong-armed by major label goons who figured a cod English accent and some mopey leads would be easy money. It’d be easier to accept Al’s version of events if this (admittedly solid) art rock band with Al’s guitar bolstering similarly affected vocals from TKK’s Groovie Man (and one of the guys from Concrete Blonde) never existed.
Before Nine Inch Nails: Option 30
The best thing about the existence of Option 30 is that every couple of hours somebody somewhere on the internet discovers that Trent Reznor was in a marginal new wave cover band and completely loses their mind. To be accurate Trent was in a couple marginal new wave bands (Exotic Birds being the most notable one, although Slam Bamboo opened for Glass Tiger!) before becoming the defacto ambassador to industrial for a generation of music fans, but unless you’re a mean-spirited dick you’ll have a hard time holding it against him. We were all young once, with weird haircuts and tacky shirts, and most of us don’t have to deal with half the internet pointing it out on a regular basis.
Before Ministry (the other half): Blackouts
Now this is some great stuff. Hailing from Seattle, the Blackouts counted amongst their numbers both Paul and Roland Barker, as well as Bill Rieflin. Sitting somewhere between Bauhaus and The Gun Club, their collected EPs and singles from 1979-1985 were reissued a few years ago along with plenty of bonus stuff on a highly recommended comp from Washington institution K Records.
Before Rotersand: The Fair Sex
At least by the standards of Our Thing The Fair Sex are actually kind of notable on their own terms; the late eighties/early 90s EBM and darkwave act released a string of albums and by all accounts still a going concern some 25 years after the release of their debut The House of Unkinds was released. What you may not know is that Rascal Nikov, the imposing front man for futurepop warriors Rotersand cut his teeth programming and playing keyboards for them. Per Wikipedia Rotersand’s Gun was also involved in The Fair Sex in some sort of a production capacity, although their Discogs entry doesn’t give any indication whether he was credited on record or not. Enjoy the club hit “Not Here, Not Now” embedded below.
Before The Cure: Lockjaw
You could always tell that Simon Gallup was the tough in The Cure, whether you looked at his leather jacket, his hair, or the way he wore eyeliner more to menace than to beguile. Dude still looks like a stone rockabilly killer even after all these years. Anyway, not to be confused with Fools Dance, the short lived, dreamier project Gallup was involved with in the early 80s while he was on the outs with Smithy, Lockjaw was his first crack at the can, and was a much more raucous bit of business. Bonus points for tossing a Spiderman joke onto your 7″ sleeve.
Before Leaether Strip: Decode
Okay, this one is a bit dubious, as we can’t find a single source for it other than a passing mention of Claus Larsen of Leaether Strip being involved with Danish synthpop band Decode, who released one 7″ “Planet of Youth/Amazing Waves”, in ’86. We’ll still include it in this article because the a-Side of the single is actually pretty damn good, and the orchestral touches seem in line with something Uncle Claus might have had a hand in. Also someone named “Paw Larsen” is specifically credited with arrangements on the b-side, which is either confirmation or the source of the confusion depending on how it pans out. Anyone in a position to confirm or deny should drop us a line in the comment section!
Before KMFDM: Kingpin/Shotgun Messiah
Tim Skold’s career stretches well out both before and after his tenure in KMFDM, but his first breakthrough came with an 80s Swedish rock band indebted to glam metal (which switched names midstream). It’s interesting to think about how the use of guitar in KMFDM has changed over the years and the question of whether or not this early devotion to a very American style of metal could have oh fuck it we just included this one so we could post this infamous photo.
Before Malaria!: Mania D
Formed in 1979, by the time Mania D’s debut cassettes were hitting the market the various members of the all-girl trio had already individually been in and out of early incarnations of Einsturzende Neubauten, Liaisons Dangereuses and Die Krupps, not to mention founding side-project Malaria! in their spare time. While their associations with various early industrial and EBM acts are notable, the music Gudrun Gut, Beate Bartel and Bettina Köster made together wasn’t half-shabby, between sax led punky workouts like “Track 4” and Malaria!’s all time classic NDW jam “Kaltes Klares Wasser”, their accomplishments extend well beyond being footnotes in the history of other long-running acts from Our Thing.
Before Dead Can Dance: The Scavengers
Good gravy, Mr. Perry! The polar opposition between this and, well, just about everything Dead Can Dance represents suggests that Pete Shelley’s lawyers might have got in touch with this precocious New Zealand band, prompting a young Brendan Perry to run headlong into any genre which would keep him from being accused of being a Buzzcocks soundalike ever again. While this is a fun bit of fluff, that’s probably for the world’s greater benefit.
Before Icon Of Coil: Hellheim
Not to be confused with the viking black metal band also from Norway, the Hellheim we’re talking about (also sometimes known as The Helheim Society) here was a metal project featuring contributions from Sebastian Komor of Komor Kommando and Icon of Coil fame. Seb, then credited as “Zeb”, provided the drums programming and synthwork for the act, fusing black metal with industrial sounds, a mixture that presaged his guitar oriented Melt project. Helheim’s ’96 MCD release Fenris was reissued in 2012 along with a bunch of tracks by guitarist Zorn’s side-project Vendetta Blitz.
Got another “before they were big” name from our end of the pool? Post it in the comments!
In Conversation is a feature in which the senior staff talk about a recent record we’re listening to. Not exactly a review, it’s pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: two music nerds having a conversation about an album with all the tangential nonsense, philosophical wanking, and hopefully insightful commentary that implies. This week we switched it up a bit, latching on to the hype surrounding the resurfacing of Nine Inch Nails’ Broken movie, which is embedded below. You should probably watch it before reading if you haven’t had the pleasure previously, but be warned, it’s hella NSFW, featuring plenty of graphic violence and sexuality.
Alex: It’s hard to imagine that anyone involved in the making of the Broken movie ever seriously thought it would get a commercial release. Created by Trent Reznor and Peter Christopherson as a means to link the videos for Nine Inch Nails’ Broken into a mini-movie, it metaphorically picked up where the infamous video for Nine Inch Nails’ “Happiness in Slavery” left off, amping up the mixture of sadomasochism, violence and general grit to a level commensurate with the themes of the record, that is to say, fairly extreme even by today’s standards.
As with most NIN fans of a certain age, the first time I saw Broken was on a high generation bootleg VHS with bad tracking problems, acquired for a nominal fee from some guy on alt.music.nin or one of the other off-brand newsgroups dedicated to the band. It would have been 1997 or so, and as ridiculous as it seems in retrospect, I was actually pretty scared to have it sent to my parents’ house, lest my folks discover I was ordering faux-snuff porn through the internet. I had read extensive descriptions of the events of the movie, and it had taken on a mythic quality in my mind, something so extreme that even having seen it was a mark of rebellion and worldliness. (As a point of comparison, earlier that year I had taken a two hour bus ride to a shitball video store with lax renting policies to acquire a copy of Buttgereit’s Nekromantik, which for some reason seemed like less of a big deal despite being way more vile and objectionable, not to mention actually legally banned in my home province.)
Taken in that context, the fact that Trent or someone within the NIN camp put up the whole of the movie’s 20-some minutes to stream on Vimeo for all and sundry (at least until it got taken down for a terms of service violation a few hours later) seemed totally incongruous. How could something so potent, so transgressive be accessible at the click of a link? On Facebook even? Which leads me to my first line of questioning: is Broken still as shocking and gut-churning as it ever was now that we’ve had years of the internet messing with our internal disgust compasses? Or is this feeling just residue from a more innocent time?
Bruce: I have to cop to not having seen Broken uncut until comparatively recently, when those same shoddy transfers you were hunting down were finally digitized, but I think the answer to your question is twofold, and really needs to be thought of in connection with the history and legacy of NIN. On one hand, Broken might not now look so different from any tossed-off torture porn movie, but on the other it still does look (and feel) very different from any contemporary video endeavors from any but the most marginal of bands. It’s important to remember that while the Broken video itself was “underground”, NIN were anything but at the time: they had heavy major-label support, loads of MTV airplay, and had acquitted themselves well on the inaugural Lollapalooza. While you could probably find any number of industrial-related acts putting out stuff just as gory (if not legitimately upsetting), none of them are a couple of years away from headlining stadium tours and references on the Simpsons. My point is that while yes, we can find stuff just as transgressive, it isn’t sitting in remote proximity to whatever we could call crossover success or popularity.
The issue of innocence and nostalgia you raise is a key one, and again I think we serve Broken better if we cleave to NIN’s specific trajectory rather than our own histories. It’s interesting that so much video controversy was attached to NIN in the 90s, from the hilarious “Down In It” mix-up, to urban legends about the content and origin of Broken, to even the edited-down content from it which appeared on Closure (my friend’s mom had to buy the copy we all duped in high school due to the Virgin Megastore requiring ID proving you were 21 before selling it), especially in light of Reznor’s comparative respectability within broader culture these days. In an age in which Trent wins Oscars, scores AAA video games, and is spoken of as one of the more mature and “serious” artists the 90s produced (alongside Radiohead), I think what’s being triggered isn’t just our own subjective memories of tape duping and bootleg swapping, but remembrances of an objectively very different period in NIN’s history.
Speaking of changes in general culture, one thing that jumped out at me while watching Broken was the dovetailing of industrial culture’s obsessions with serial killers, which have been there from the beginning (“Very Friendly“), and a bump in general pop culture’s fascination with them in the 90s. I could be way off base, but it seems like that era fixated on them not just as emblems of social ills as in the past or as the unremarkable quarries in today’s procedurals, but as stylized antiheroes, beginning with the success of Silence Of The Lambs and perhaps reaching its apotheosis with the NIN-relevant depraved mindfuck of Se7ven (Fincher perhaps also closed the door on this trend with Zodiac, in which the killer is an unknowable lacuna, the pursuit of which is futile). Do you think industrial’s relative general popularity in the 90s had something to do with this intersection of interests? Does Broken‘s serial killer theme feel to you like a continuation of industrial culture’s interest in that area or a marker of something from the broader zeitgeist?
Alex: Well, I don’t know that I can logically attribute the popularity of serial killer chic with industrial rock in the 90s; it wasn’t really a widespread theme amongst the few popular acts (242’s “Serial Killers Don’t Kill Their Girlfriends” notwithstanding). There is something to the idea of Trent deliberately referencing a classic industrial trope though; especially in light of how the more popular he got, the more he felt the need to do things like release remix albums loaded with people like Coil and Jim Thirlwell. Despite having basically given a big ‘ol kiss-off to industrial (remember that famous FLA diss?), he kept going back to it for a few years afterwards in various capacities. I’m sure he’d probably deny that, but whatever his relationship with the Wax Trax roster is a matter of public record, he might have thought the contemporary electro-industrial stuff of the time was bullshit but he was at least conversant with the larger history of the genre. It’s not like he was working with Sleazy because he liked the videos Pete directed for Bad Company or something.
There’s also I think a good case to be made for Trent’s general desire to keep his image as extreme as possible in the face of rising popularity. He’s always had a streak of contrarianism, and getting the record company to pay for a simulated torture session (note that the Interscope copyright notice is still on the end of the video) seems pretty characteristic of him in the early 90s. Like, compare the videos for “Wish” which is basically pretty goofy, all Nine Inch Nails Beyond Thunderdome, and “Happiness in Slavery”, where Bob Flanagan gets his dick and internal organs fucked with before being ground up into sausage meat, totally unusable for promotional purposes. Was it Trent reacting to his newfound fame with acts of calculated self-sabotage that ended up being anything but? Was he just trying to get away with as much as possible, using the system to undermine itself? Was he just piqued by something creatively with no further thought given to how it might eventually turn out? Who knows? It certainly didn’t hurt his image as an edgy outlier in the music of the era at any rate.
I really don’t feel like we need to go over the individual beats of the movie; the significance of it as a piece of art by a commercial musician is actually way more interesting to me than the actual film itself at this point. But I guess it should be asked: is the Broken movie still as shocking as it once was? I think I actually find myself unsettled by the toilet gimp suit and the steak scene moreso than the actual torture portion of the video at this point in my life.
Bruce: Yeah, I think I’d agree with that, and with those bits making it onto Closure I was exposed to them much earlier than the more explicit gore. I think individual mileages will vary as far as what is shocking or disturbing, based on personal phobias, beliefs, and the like, but I do think that pure gore and torture have to have lost at least some of their impact upon the general populace, again in an age of routine torture porn flicks. More uncanny, indefinably disturbing material (and dare I say more artful?) like the pieces you mention might trigger something more in modern audiences simply on the basis of their relative uniqueness. I think much of the “shock” which people are talking about this week in connection to the video’s resurfacing has more to with its history and cachet, as Rob Sheridan pointed out.
How about this: it’s difficult to think back to contemporary reactions to individual points in a discography like NIN’s which most people reading this will know like the back of their hand, but the brief, unified, and unremittingly aggressive sound of the Broken EP must have come as a shock to most listeners after Pretty Hate Machine, even those well aware of Reznor’s connections to the Wax Trax posse. The funk metal of “Last” is as close as Broken comes to the poppier side of PHM, and the sheer amount of guitars Broken features remains unequaled in Reznor’s work. Maybe part of the impact (or impetus) of the Broken film comes from its introduction of an utterly new and different incarnation of the band?
Alex: Since the movie never saw release, I can’t see how the actual content of it impacted how people saw the band, although it is pretty linked to the perception of Broken as the angry, dangerous NIN record. It’s important to remember that although the idea of alternative music as a movement was in full swing by ’92, Nine Inch Nails were less 120 Minutes and more Headbanger’s Ball (the clip for “Wish” notably having been nominated for Best Metal Video at the MTV Music Video Awards). I don’t think it was ’til the monstrous success of The Downward Spiral that Trent was really canonized as an alternative icon. Hell, the video halfway responsible for that actually plays like the Broken interludes, albeit with the more flashy, commercial sensibility of Mark Romanek taking the place of Christopherson’s lingering, uncomfortably sexual imagery.
The more I think about it, the more I feel like the importance of it is entirely divorced from the specifics of its content. For how extreme it was at the time, I don’t know that it makes much of statement, Trent would be involved with a far clearer and more cogent statement on how we relate to mass murderers via their depictions in the media with his work on Natural Born Killers a few years later. It’s a nice corollary to the Rolling Stones’ Cocksucker Blues and the KLF’s White Room movie, their obscurity in the otherwise very public record of their subjects is what makes them interesting. Having them available to see at any time in the comfort of our own homes neutralizes that to a degree, which is unavoidable but still a bit of a shame. Now that the veil has been lifted, what importance will Broken continue to have in the grander scheme of NIN’s history?
Bruce: I think you’ve nicely synthesized the seeming schism between big bands and their obscure movies, so I won’t speak any further to that. As to Broken‘s future impact or legacy? I think at the very least it already serves as an excellent indication of the breadth of Trent’s work, insofar as it already feels like the work of a very, very, very different band from the one which, say, released an instrumental 36 track non-album, pioneering the pay-what-you-want/multi-tiered release format which we’ve come to take for granted (to paraphrase Virginia Slims, “you’ve come a long way, piggy”). That Broken is now there for younger, more casual NIN fans who maybe came on board for The Fragile or even Year Zero and want to dig back into the archives is important. Even if, like Trent’s old tourmates say, nothing’s shocking anymore, being able to get a sense of what was once shocking or transgressive about NIN has value.
As for me, I do think that the majority of the thrill I got from seeing Broken in this context did come from a sense of nostalgia, both for that era of NIN and for the whole experience (which we’ve already discussed) of feretting out secret and underground material like this pre-Internet. Thankfully, with NIN’s reactivation waiting in the wings, we won’t have to wallow in that nostalgia for long. I can only hope that the new incarnation of NIN, whatever form and aesthetic it takes, is just that: new. Broken is now out there in the aether for those of us who want to revisit it from time to time. You can’t go home to the abattoir again, but you can still recall some of the fun you had there.
How to Destroy Angels
The uphill battle facing How To Destroy Angels has nothing to do with garnering attention for their small body of work. As a project of Trent Reznor and his now constant collaborator (both in the latter Nine Inch Nails albums and their ballyhooed soundtrack work) Atticus Ross, name recognition won’t ever be an issue for the quartet, which also includes Reznor’s wife Mariqueen and art director Rob Sheridan. The real challenge will be in differentiating and justifying the project’s existence beyond being just an off-shoot of NIN, a double-edged sword that both assures a modicum of success even as it buries their new EP An Omen in expectations. Their free-to-download self-titled debut was reasonably good (and in fact featured the best post Ghosts song Reznor and his camp have been involved with in “A Drowning”) but how do How To Destroy Angels fare with the higher ante of a sophomore release?
The inevitable comparisons to Nails certainly aren’t hard to make; the question of how far the HTDA apple has fallen from the tree is answered almost immediately on opener and lead single “Keep It Together”. The emphasis on bass that features so noticeably on everything the Reznor/Ross axis has worked on since With Teeth forms a bed on which Mariqueen indulges the mildly distracting habit of aping the phrasing and deliberate enunciation of her husband’s more restrained vocal moments, a tic so identifiable that even Trent’s vocal appearance mid-track is unnecessary to twig it. Elsewhere on “The Loop Closes” a jerky groove derezzes and re-emerges via a swarm of bleeps and a chanted chorus that invokes the proggy warmth of The Fragile. Hell, even the bare, folky “Ice Age” has antecedents in any number of NIN songs via its use of plinky detuned guitar.
Of course “It sounds like Nine Inch Nails” doesn’t amount to much of a criticism when Trent’s brand in 2012 is synonymous with meticulous, artful production. An Omen is as sumptuous as anything I’ve heard this year, even in its silent moments it positively hums with the digital-organic sound that has characterized Ross and Reznor’s work together. The shimmering, backmasked orchestra sounds of “On the Wing”, the way Mariqueen’s voice fades gradually into a background texture with deliberate slowness over the course of “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”, the sculpted feedback on closer “Speaking in Tongues” – all the work of artists who have made the recording environment their definitive instrument. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that almost every photo or video of HTDA is taken in a studio setting (witness the clip for “Keep it Together” for a good recent example); at this point the workshop itself is as much a part of the project as any of the individual members from an aesthetic standpoint.
I don’t know that An Omen goes any further towards defining an identity for How to Destroy Angels beyond Nine Inch Nails. In fact almost all of its strength comes not from individual songs but from the distinctive studiocraft of its makers. I suppose that’s a bit of an academic concern in the grand scheme of things, and I’m generally happy enough to have this sort of a mellow detail-focused bit of sound to accompany late night bus rides and reading sessions. Still, it’s not the most emotionally involving collection of songs, and I can’t help but think that its precise nature is a kind of smokescreen that effectively hides how shopworn it is lyrically and thematically. At the risk of being prescriptive, HTDA could take a lesson from Scott Walker or Ryuchi Sakamoto or even the band who inspired their name: exacting use of technology in translating songs to the recorded form need not rob them of their depth of feeling.
Clan Of Xymox
The prospect of a Clan of Xymox covers record seemed pleasant enough when I first heard learned of it. Even when Ronny Moorings’ songwriting isn’t up to snuff, Xymox’s instrumentation almost always delivers that dreamy darkwave atmosphere I love, so a collection of tried and tested material given the Xymox sheen sounded appealing. I wasn’t expecting said material to be this tried and tested, however. Dominated by songs so well-known that even the most casual goth clubgoer has them etched into their brain with acid, and marked by arrangements which are equally conservative, the majority of Kindred Spirits comes across as not so much bad, but unnecessary, and in the case of a few tracks, that might be worse.
It’s frankly shocking how straight down the pipe the track listing is: The Sisters (“Alice”), The Cure (“A Forest”), Siouxsie (“Red Light”), Depeche (“A Question of Time”), and both Joy Division (“Decades”) and New Order (“Blue Monday) all show up like clockwork. For the most part, Xymox’s renditions of these famous numbers cling so close to the originals that they can’t help but appear weak in comparison. Ronny strains and sings out of range trying for the high keen of Seventeen Seconds era Robert Smith on “A Forest” (as a Cure obsessive may I instead suggest Children Within‘s version which nods to the Mixed Up remix or Carpathian Forest‘s faithful yet grim take?), and gulps and swallows his words to ape Trent’s youthful angst on “Something I Can Never Have”. The slow, slow swing of “Red Light” is lost, replaced by a trip-hop by way of oompah vibe that never gels. The worst of the rote offenders, however, is the final track, “Blue Monday”. Thin and limp, Xymox’s version reminds me of the tinniest, most poorly produced darkwave tracks which were floating around in the late 90s: in other words, not the outfit one wants to be wearing on a date with the best-selling 12″ of all time, which defined dance music for nearly a decade.
To be fair, not all of the obvious choices fall victim to poor comparison. “A Question Of Time” puts a staccato synth bass square in the middle of the mix while doing a good job of recasting the big, alarming lead. “Alice” adds a hint of gauzy atmosphere and tinkle to things while the core drum beat stays in keeping with Doctor Avalanche’s early simplicity. These are classy, no-fuss renditions. However, when Kindred Spirits isn’t slavishly derivative, it’s too often painfully perplexing. Radiohead’s “Creep” surfaces with an arrangement that switches out the textbook 90s soft-loud-soft alt-rock formula for dainty keyboards that sound like they’d be more comfortable playing “Chopsticks”. Lest I give you the impression that this sounds irreverently clever or droll, take my partner Alex’s word for it when he opined that he’d expect to hear this version emanating from a karaoke booth rather than a veteran darkwave act.
Two tracks do break these moulds and deserve to be singled out. The previously released version of Bowie’s “Heroes” does a good job of speeding up the beat to a nodding tempo and nudging Robert Fripp’s emotionally yowling guitar into a chiming refrain which suits Xymox’s history and helps bring the whole track into their overarching sonic domain. Secondly, their cover of Department S’ “Is Vic There?” is a great track, full stop, and is everything that the rest of this album isn’t. A zippy bit of minimal, stripped down (and lesser known!) new wave that owes something to Neue Deutsche Welle, it’s got a great minor guitar lead and an incessant post-punk beat. It’s right in Xymox’s hot zone, and I wish there had been more tunes like this on Kindred Spirits.
A covers album should teach the listener something, either about the band doing the covers and what has guided them through their creative process, or about music in general, tipping them off to songs, artists, and even genres they’d have missed in their regular listening habits, or to hidden motifs and dimensions of well known songs which benefit from being drawn out in radically different incarnations. By that metric, Kindred Spirits can’t be seen as anything less than a failure. If you’re into Xymox, you won’t be making any great discoveries about what gets Ronny’s synapses firing in the studio, nor, with the exception of Studio S, will you have heard anything you haven’t heard a thousand times before. The old cliche about poor covers records, that you’ll want to dig up the originals to cleanse your palate, sadly holds true here, though with a selection this obvious all you’ll have to do is poke your head into your most conservative local goth club for half an hour.
(…Oh, and while “Venus” may be properly credited to original psych songsmiths Shocking Blue, don’t be fooled. Xymox are simply attempting a dark inversion of the Bananarama cover, a move which will have you asking the question which hangs over much of Kindred Spirits: why?)
As you may have heard, David Schock at WTII has been posting the results of his Top 500 industrial songs of all time project over at Facebook. Various folks from all across the scene – bands, DJs, promoters, writers (including your humble correspondents) were invited to send in their ballots to determine what the greatest 500 Industrial Songs of all time are. The criteria as laid out by David is fairly simple: participants were to simply write a list of 101 songs they felt were most representative and qualitatively “best” examples of the genre, with points assigned for where they rank in the list. Your number one pick got 100 points, number two got 99 and so on, all the way down to a half a point at number 101, theoretically to be used for tie breaking. After a few months of tabulations and a week or two of slowly releasing the results from the bottom up (for those curious, the lowest ranked song to receive a whole point was our own number 100 pick, The Young Gods’ “Our House” which came out at 3765) the final results are now available, and there’s a whole lot to talk about. Take a read at the Top 100 song list here, those of you without access to Facebook, you can also see it here on Violent Playground.
Firstly, much respect has to be given to David for taking on this project. Beyond the organization and the undoubtedly mind-numbing process of sorting out the data, he’s proven himself to be incredibly enthusiastic about seeing this through, posting videos on Facebook, engaging in debate and generally trying to get folks interested in not just the project, but the music itself. Anything that engenders talk about Our Thing is welcomed, and considering how marginalized industrial has become in the greater musical landscape, we were very happy to participate. So take a bow David, we salute your efforts and hope they’ll not only give rivetheads something to chew on, but also serve as a resource for the curious.
On to the list itself: we recommend having a look at the Top 500, although there’s plenty of interesting stuff in all reaches. Amongst the most surprising trends we noticed was the fairly global interpretation of industrial many voters took: while The Cure’s “Burn” and Bjork’s “Army of Me” aren’t songs that fit any but the most loose definition of the genre, their inclusion does paint a picture of the continuum that these songs exist in. Lots of stuff that gets played in the clubs and on the podcasts of Our Thing aren’t industrial, but even when their sonics are dissimilar they have contextual value for the larger part of the list: none of this stuff exists in a cultural vacuum. It’s tempting to assume that anyone who felt that “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (166), qualifies for the list was just writing a list of all time goth club classics, but even if it’s true, there’s a lesson there.
Minus any demographic information linking the songs to the folks who voted for them, we’re gonna have to assume that a lot of surprisingly highly ranked picks are regional hits. While unexpected, seeing tracks by artists like the Gothsicles (“Konami Code” 188) rank fairly highly is cool. The very nature of polling folks across the globe is gonna lead to some degree of homogeneity (as seen in the Top 100), having a song that’s perhaps not as well known everywhere but that is a stone classic in one place offsets that to a degree. That leads us into the question of songs “deserving” a ranking, which is a debate that usually rises up around these sorts of lists in every scene. We’ll stay far clear of that (our ballot below probably gives a pretty clear indicator of our tastes and perceptions), although we do believe, in the immortal words of Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, that “deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” It’s all based on a vote, the songs that got voted for ranked the highest, that’s kind of the end of it. While we’re certainly open to arguments that say, A Split Second’s “Flesh” (133) is a better, and more influential song then plenty of stuff in the top 100, that’s an aesthetic and historical viewpoint, which aren’t ultimately factors when the tally is done. Suffice to say we don’t think there’s any truly egregious omissions from the top 500 (okay, fine, there should be at least ONE Kirlian Camera song in there) and ultimately it gives a broad view of the past and present, and maybe a small glimpse of the future in which contemporary artists made the cut.
On to the top 100. Firstly, the obvious: nothing too current on here. There are only four songs released in the last 10 years, with the vast majority being from the 80s and 90s. Beyond the first inescapable truth of these sorts of lists, that older stuff will generally always garner consensus while the legacy of newer songs and artists is still being formed, there’s also the question of how we consume music in the current climate. When it’s just as easy to find the new release from Aesthetic Perfection online as it is to find any given top 40 single, what’s popular is far, far less dependent on factors like club play, the end result being that a newer song is in far greater competition with literally every other song in and out of genre to grab the attention and affection of any given listener. If David or some other kind soul takes on this project in 10 years it’ll certainly be interesting to see what trends have developed in that regard. Regardless, there’s still some surprises to be found. Stromkern’s “Stand Up” (77) Acumen Nation’s “Gun Lover” (28) are interesting as specific songs to represent the bands and for their rankings: we had no idea either song (both of which are great, undoubtedly) had such a large profile. That sort of thing is manna from heaven for us at ID:UD, while either could be attributed to some sort of weird statistical fluke, it’s much more fun for us to look at them as indicators of people’s experience within Our Thing that isn’t our own. That’s the real value for us of a list like this, as both an affirmation of global views and as a window into areas we may not have considered or been aware of.
Finally, the Top 10. With the exception of Bigod 20’s “The Bog” and Clock DVA’s “The Hacker” (at 9 and 10 respectively) we’d be be pretty open to shuffling any given song into any other spot, including number one, all have a fairly equal claim to it, at least as far as exposure and generally accepted status as classics goes. As Vancouver industrial nerds we’re of course happy to see our heartland representing almost a third of the top 10, although the real winner might be Uncle Al Jourgensen, who between Ministry and related side-projects (including his production work on Rabies) appears no less than 6 times in the top 25 alone. Once again, not a total surprise, but not a totally anomalous perception of industrial from a North American perspective. It’d be interesting to see how the top 10 might have looked had this project been conducted entirely in Europe: we suspect that “Headhunter” (1) and “Join in the Chant” (2) would likely not be going anywhere. We’re happy with the way it shapes up at any rate, and although the nature of this sort of beast dictates an emphasis on established songs (almost every song in the top 100 would get a dancefloor going in most parts of the world), this sort of document is infinitely useful for those of us who think about this stuff far too much, both as something to refer to when discussing the vicissitudes of what constitutes “popular” in a marginal scene and as something to pore over just for the pure love of this music. The latter is the reason David, and anyone involved in the voting (including your friends here at ID:UD) bother to do any of the stuff they do like promote, run labels, blog, whatever. So hats off to the folks involved, and moreover to Mr. Schock for going ahead and spending six months putting all of it together. We love our scene and love anything that creates discussion about it.
On to our own ballot.
We opted to include only one track per band on our ballot in the interests of getting as wide a representation of sub-genres and periods in as possible. While these songs aren’t necessarily our favourites by the artists in question, we think they’re both at least somewhat reflective of said artists’ overall work and speak well to their relevance and place in the broader history of industrial. We’ve included the placement of the song’s we’re discussing on David’s list in brackets.
ID:UD’s Top 100 Industrial Songs Ballot
1. Coil, “The Anal Staircase” (100)
Our number one represents a lot of things for us, and for I Die: You Die as a whole. Firstly, our profound respect for the legacy of Coil, both as artists and figures in Our Thing. It’s our belief that music, all music, is a better thing for having had Jhon Balance and Sleazy, and it’s important for us to both claim them as part of the legacy of industrial music even as we proclaim their importance beyond it. Secondly “The Anal Staircase” is as close to representing our vision of industrial as any song possibly could be. It’s visceral, creepy, danceable, and trancelike. It doesn’t follow an established template of song writing but has a mechanical inevitability in its progression. It’s a distortion of the organic by the technological (the horn samples warping and folding in on themselves), so much so that the two become intractable. It’s got queer politics, questions of dominance and submission and passion all rolled into one terrifying vocal performance. In short, although Coil have plenty of other great songs (some of which we love more), to us “The Anal Staircase” is industrial, a superlative example of what we think the genre is, and almost everything we find enticing about it. Consider it our platonic ideal and our apogee all rolled in one: the perfect expression of what industrial is, and was and still can be.
2. Skinny Puppy, “Love in Vein” (289)
Choosing just one Puppy track was hard, but opting for something from critical and fan favourite Last Rights felt appropriate, and “Love In Vein” is as good an encapsulation of the elements which make Puppy the cornerstone they remain. The funhouse-from-hell intro gives way to a classic cEvin groove, all draped in sample-mad atmospherics from Dwayne, while Ogre thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.
3. Front 242, “Circling Overland” (148)
We’ll cop to a bit of strategic voting on this one. While we knew “Headhunter” would beat out all other 242 tracks by a mile, the menacing pulse of “Circling Overland” shows just how versatile Front By Front and 242 on the whole are.
4. Nine Inch Nails, “Wish” (49)
For our money the best example of why Trent is so important, not just because he made it as an industrial artist (in fact, he has bucked at the tag on more than one occasion) but because he wrapped up industrial in the signifiers of things like alternative rock and metal and sold folks who might never have cared about it otherwise. If you don’t think that’s difficult, ask why more folks haven’t done it; it takes a level of genuine musical genius to pull off, as evidenced by the endurance of “Wish” in the public eye, a trojan horse that also happens to be an amazingly great expression of post-teen angst and aggression.
5. Throbbing Gristle, “Discipline” (115)
“Discipline” doesn’t just perfectly capture the psycho/socio/sexual neuroses which TG saw as being endemic to the modern world, it’s also their John Coltrane number – it was often the centerpiece of their live show, and could be extended, compressed, or generally fucked with however the band saw fit.
6. Nitzer Ebb, “Let Your Body Learn” (119)
Okay, maybe we’re being ultra-literal, but nothing quite expresses the “B” in EBM like Ebb’s “Let Your Body Learn”. Propulsive aggressive and yeah, kinda sexy all in one, it’s music that moves your body, the perfect soundtrack for dancing, working out, fucking, whatever. Learn! Build! Choose!
7. Ministry, “So What?” (20)
This is a nice compromise for us, one that does a good job of showing off Al and Paul’s work as producers, songwriters and performers and as collaborators (all props to Chris Connelly and Bill Rieflin in this case), all of which are as important to their legacy as Ministry as any given song itself. As an encapsulation of their capacity for groove and drang, you needn’t ever look any further than this.
8. Kirlian Camera, “Eclipse” (1036)
We’re still not 100% sure about whether or not we can call this track industrial in all good conscience, but as we hope we’ve shown on this very site, Kirlian’s genre-hopping has had a huge impact on post-industrial of all stripes.
9. Einsturzende Neubauten, “Haus der Luge” (1057)
Perhaps as “rock” as Neubauten ever really got, this track fires on all cylinders: there’s the head-slamming, doomy yet funky bass riff, oodles of percussive clatter, both rhythmic and otherwise, and the subtle horn arrangement that emerges midway through perfectly underlines Blixa’s crisp vocal attack.
10. Klinik, “Moving Hands” (121)
The impact of Dirk Ivens and Marc Verhaeghen’s bridging of minimal synth and industrial culture and sounds can’t be overstated. Between slow grinds like “Black Leather” or full-bore floorkillers like this, the foundational Klinik records paved the way for all dark electro to follow.
11. Swans, “Time is Money (Bastard)” (520)
An utterly brutal track. Pure machine-like punishment is delivered by some of the most unrelenting work you’ll ever hear from “traditional” rock instrumentation. Gira barks a harrowing take on eye-for-an-eye judgement in a Foucaultian nightmare world.
12. Haujobb, “Penetration” (142)
Released a stand-alone single smack between Polarity and Vertical Theory, “Penetration” encompasses everything we love about Haujobb. Technologically minded but utterly cryptic, anthemic but wholly sinister. And holy crap, did it ever remix well.
13. Babyland, “You Will Never Have It” (156)
In a perfect world Babyland would be rich and famous. We could write pages about why their music is important, and how it makes us want do something , and how even late in the game Gatto and Smith were making some of the best music they ever had and we ever heard and felt. We’ll shut up though. Listen and watch and you’ll get it.
14. A Split Second, “Flesh” (133)
It’s still easy to see how this track kicked off an entire subgenre of dark dance music back in ’86: played at 45 or 33 RPM it still delivers the goods on today’s dancefloors. Without this track there’d be no Lords Of Acid, no Gatekeeper…we could go on.
15. Foetus, “I’ll Meet You In Poland” (97)
Is Thirlwell offering a satirical perversion of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic in placing conquests of love on a continuum with fascistic conquests of Europe? Or is he just being the cocksure, grandiloquent bastard we all know and love?
16 Cabaret Voltaire, “Nag Nag Nag”
17. Laibach, “Opus Dei”
18. Covenant, “Tension”
19. Snog, “Corporate Slave”
20. Front Line Assembly, “Plasticity”
21. Download, “Glassblower”
22. Leaether Strip, “Strap Me Down” (15)
We’ll be honest: it never occurred to us that this song might be about bondage (apart from the spiritual sort) when we first heard it as impressionable teenagers just getting into dark electro, but even if it had we’d still have signed up for Uncle Claus’ crash course in pummeling basslines, classic sampling and all-killer, no-filler leads. We’re getting jacked up just writing about it.
23. Revolting Cocks, “Stainless Steel Providers”
24. Meat Beat Manifesto, “Psyche Out”
25. Cubanate, “Oxyacetalyne”
26. DAF, “Verschwende Deine Jugend”
27. Apoptygma Berzerk, “Deep Red”
28. Icon of Coil, “Regret”
29. VNV Nation, “Further”
30. Dive, “Final Report”
31. :Wumpscut:, “Die in Winter” (891)
Rudy may be spending his days putting out album after disappointing album on a yearly clockwork schedule, but if you want to know why people still care after all this time, well you could do worse than to listen to this atmospheric bit of nasty dark electro from the time when :W: was arguably the king of the genre.
32. Das Ich, “Destillat”
33. Project Pitchfork, “Alpha Omega”
34. KMFDM, “Godlike”
35. Killing Joke, “Wardance”
36. Gridlock, “Retina”
37. Die Krupps, “Metal Machine Music”
38. 1000 Homo DJs, “Supernaut”
39. Cyberaktif, “Nothing Stays”
40. Psychic TV, “Papal Breakdance” (870)
Say what you will about PTV’s more indulgent and aimless experimental pieces, but when that odd mix of acid house and psychedelica was in the zone, Gen & co. cranked out some killer tunes.
41. Clock DVA, “The Hacker”
42. Test Dept., “Comrade Enver Hoxha”
43. C-Tec, “Foetal”
44. My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, “Do You Fear for Your Child?”
45. And One, “Technoman”
46. SPK, “Metal Dance”
47. ohGr, “Minus”
48. Bigod 20, “Body to Body”
49. Acid Horse, “No Name, No Slogan”
50. Imminent Starvation, “Tentack One”
51. NCC, “Seven Steps Of Nervousness” (1025)
The title track from these “what ever happened to” critical favourites is a great summation of why that album is still so beloved. These NY kids grabbed the trance elements which were ubiquitous at the turn of the millennium and dashed off into bizarro world: builds to nowhere, cliff-drop tempo changes, choruses compressed into thin bands of anxious freakout.
52. Pig, “The Sick”
53. NON, “Total War” (285)
A song so good it’s almost possible to forget that Boyd Rice is a complete piece of shit! Wow!
54. Die Form, “Rain of Blood”
55. X Marks the Pedwalk, “Abbatoir”
56. Portion Control, “Under the Skin”
57. Forma Tadre, “Looking Glass Men”
58. Steril, “Overgod”
59. Godflesh, “Like Rats”
60. Converter, “Death Time”
61. Aesthetic Perfection, “Pale”
62. Severed Heads, “Dead Eyes Opened”
63. Deutsch Nepal, “Deflagration of Hell”
64. Alien Sex Fiend, “Now I’m Feeling Zombified”
65. Numb, “Blood”
66. Nurse With Wound, “The Self Sufficient Sexual Shoe”
67. The Neon Judgment, “TV Treated”
68. a;GRUMH, “Danger Zone”
69. Lustmord, “Beckoning”
70. Moev, “Crucify Me”
71. Absolute Body Control, “Figures”
72. Flesh Field, “The Plague”
73. Assemblage 23, “Naked”
74. Snowy Red, “Euroshima (Wardance)”
75. Stromkern, “Night Riders”
76. [:SITD:], “Lebensborn”
77. mind.in.a.box, “Stalkers”
78. Interlace, “Soul of a New Machine”
79. Iszoloscope, “The Audient Void”
80. Controlled Bleeding, “Words (of the Dying)”
81. Suicide Commando, “See You in Hell”
82. Attrition, “Acid Tongue”
83. Pigface, “Nutopia”
84. The Invincible Spirit, “Push”
85. Encephalon, “A Lifetime Of Puppetry”
86. Seabound, “Hooked”
87. Malaria!, “Kaltes klares Wasser” (3363)
While the deathrock community’s gone out of its way to embrace the pioneering work of Gudrun Gut and Bettina Köster, its influence on the industrial scene (which had a pretty open-border policy with NDW back then) has been more difficult to locate, and that’s downright criminal.
88. Robotiko Rejekto, “Umsturz Jetzt”
89. Sister Machinegun, “Addiction”
90. Chrome, “Meet You In The Subway”
91. Hocico, “Poltergeist” (380)
The song that launched a thousand awful bands, but we forgive Hocico, it’s not their fault that the deceptively simple template of this song has proven to be easy to rip off poorly, and hard to do well. If nothing else, it makes a good missing link in the evolutionary chain from dark electro to terror EBM.
92. Kant Kino, “The Owner Of This House Lives Here”
93. Velvet Acid Christ, “Fun With Drugs”
94. Excessive Force, “Violent Peace”
95. Funker Vogt, “Tragic Hero”
96. Arzt + Pfusch, “Scumfuck”
97. Necro Facility, “Do You Feel The Same”
98. Spahn Ranch, “Heretic’s Fork”
99. This Morn Omina, “One Eyed Man”
100. Young Gods, “Our House”
101. Noise Unit, “The Drain”