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Top 10 Industrial Metal Albums

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Industrial metal has always been the bastard child of two conceptually opposed musical genres. Industrial music, though sonically extreme, is usually accompanied by an intellectual component that includes some sort of socially transgressive or provocative subject matter. Straight-up metal tends to come straight from the gut and operates on a more literal, though no less brutal, level.

Though some liberties have been taken with the definition of ‘industrial metal’ over the years, the list below takes a look at ten records that helped to both define and expand the genre.

‘Rabies’ (1989)
Skinny Puppy

Rabies Cover
Amazon

Though Skinny Puppy made many good records during their career, ‘Rabies’ stands out as one of the heaviest in their catalog. The crushing highlight ‘Tin Omen’ was inspired by the 1989 Tiananmen uprising and massacre in China. Skinny Puppy’s entire aural and visual aesthetic was designed to disturb the audience. Listening to ‘Rabies,’ you get the sense that you are listening to a group of bad people doing bad things.

Essential Track: ‘Tin Omen’

Nailbomb

Point Blank
Amazon

Nailbomb was a collaborative project between Sepultura‘s Max Cavalera and Fudge Tunnel’s Alex Newport. When their respective bands toured together, Cavalera and Newport found that they shared an affinity for many of the artists included on this list. Although it’s not terribly original, this record delivers the goods if you want a heavy, animalistic album with lots of samples and programmed drums.

Essential Track: ‘Religious Cancer’

‘Trait’ (1993 reissue)
Pailhead

Trait
Amazon

This short-lived and unlikely collaboration between Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) and Al Jourgensen (Ministry) produced the ‘I Will Refuse/No Bunny’ single and the ‘Trait’ EP. A Wax Trax CD version includes both records, thus qualifying it for this list. Pailhead’s blood-curdling blend of hardcore and industrial coincided with Jourgensen’s renewed interest in heavy metal-style guitar, which factored heavily into the rest of Ministry’s career.

Essential Track: ‘I Will Refuse/No Bunny’

The God Machine

Scenes from the second storey
Amazon

We found out about this band back in the day, when Thrasher magazine included cassette samplers with some of their issues. The God Machine were packaged on a tape with songs by Wool and Quicksand. The God Machine’s ‘Black Car’ blew the other tracks away. Their addictive mix of sludgy guitars and ethereal vocals could not be denied. From there, we picked up ‘Scenes from the Second Story’ and obsessed over ‘The God Machine’ for the entire following year.

Essential Track: ‘Home’

Psalm 69: The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs
Amazon

Early Ministry found Al Jourgensen singing in a fake English accent over music that was steeped in the synth pop trend of the early ’80s. By 1994′s ‘Psalm 69,’ Ministry had already developed into the unofficial leaders of the industrial metal movement. For a record that was commercially embraced by the Lollapalooza crowd, the material on ‘Psalm 69′ actually dishes out quite a few Slayer-esque guitar riffs, dance club samples, and discordant drum machines. In some ways, it had the feeling of a product developed specifically to target mainstream music listeners who wanted to be extreme, but weren’t ready to take the full plunge into groups like Entombed and Carcass.

Essential Track: ‘Psalm 69′

Head of David

Head of David
Discogs

Between playing guitar on Napalm Death‘s ‘Scum’ and forming Godflesh, Justin Broderick played drums in Head of David. Their first album, 1986′s self-titled, combined elements of first wave industrial music, heavy metal, and their own UK-inspired depression. ‘Snuff Rider M.C.’ is an exercise in tension with a pounding drum beat, dissonant guitars, and a barely discernible bass line. ‘Head of David’ casts a dreary and grey gloom over the listener, evoking the factory-lined streets of the band’s native Birmingham, England.

Essential Track: ‘Smears’

Blut Aus Nord

Work Which transforms God
Amazon

Essentially a solo project by a French musician who calls himself Vindsval, ‘The Work Which Transforms God’ is a nihilistic and sinister piece of music. Its influence on the current industrial and black metal scene is undeniable.

Essential Track: ‘Procession of the Dead Clowns’

Big Black

Songs About Fucking
Amazon

Though technically not a metal band, Big Black’s music sounds like a sheet of steel being torn apart over abused drum machines. The guitars sound like actual pieces of metal, and the lyrics are equally abrasive, with wise-guy guitarist-vocalist Steve Albini injecting an acidic sense of humor into the songwriting. Filtered through Albini’s misanthropic intellect, scenes from the American nightmare such as ‘Bad Penny’ and ‘Colombian Necktie’ sting as hard today as they did in 1987.

Essential Track: ‘Bad Penny’

‘Cop’ (1984)
Swans

Cop
Amazon

Swans, the impossibly bleak avant-noise band from New York City’s Lower East Side scene, birthed ‘Cop,’ a bleak dirge of a record that paints landscapes of urban despair and loneliness with monolithic waves of sound. Opening track ‘Half Life’ sets the tone for the record: slow, percussive, repetitive, mechanical brutality. ‘Clay Man’ is the stand-out track, sounding like ‘Damaged I’ by Black Flag being played by evil robots.

Essential Track: ‘Clay Man’

Streetcleaner
Amazon

Godflesh were among the first wave of bands inspired by Swans’ slow-and-scary approach. The opening track, ‘Like Rats,’ could be the soundtrack for Armageddon — the final battle between good and evil. At the time, we’d never heard anything like it before; relentless, mechanized drum loops under a wall of guitars, noise, bass throbs, and de-tuned vocals. ‘Streetcleaner’ was the singular vision of Justin Broderick, who never quite matched the dark intensity of this album again.

Essential Track: ‘Like Rats’

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