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Industrial music
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Industrial music

Stylistic origins: Musique concrete, Electronic art music, Noise music
Cultural origins: Early 1970s, London, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Typical instruments: Synthesizer - Drum machine - Tape loops - Drums - Guitar (in latter incarnations were added Sequencer - Keyboard - Sampler)
Mainstream popularity: Small
Derivative forms: Techno music - IDM - Trance - Synth pop - Glitch
EBM - Futurepop - Hardcore - Noise
Other topics
Notable artists - List of noise musicians
Industrial music is a term that describes a wide range of music, generally mixing rock with samplers and electronic instruments and sounds.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Industrial music today
3 Notable industrial music artists
4 See also
5 External links


Industrial music grew as an offshoot of electronic music known as musique concrète, which was made by manipulating cut sections of recording tape, and adding very early sound output from analog electronics devices. The term Industrial Music was originally coined by Monte Cazazza as the strapline for the record label Industrial Records, founded by British art-provocateurs Throbbing Gristle and later advance further through the artistic mastery of projects like Frontline Assembly, and Download. These original artists have very little musical connection with modern "industrial music". Although contemporary to punk rock in the mid-to-late 1970s such as the Sex Pistols, industrial music was more hard hitting and thought-provoking and less easy to swallow (being basically noise music).

The term was meant by its creators to evoke the idea of music created for a new generation of people, previous music being more agricultural. Specifically, it referred to the streamlined process by which the music was being made, although many people later interpreted the word as a poetic reference to an "industrial" aesthetic, recalling factories and inhuman machinery.

First wave of industrial music

The first wave of this music appeared in the late 1970s in the UK with bands like Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and SPK. Blending electronic synthesisers, guitars and early samplers, these bands created an aggressive and abrasive music fusing elements of rock with experimental electronic music. Like their punk cousins, they enjoyed the use of shock-tactics including explicit lyrical content, graphic art and Fascist imagery. The label Industrial Records controversially used an image of a gas chamber as its logo.

Later, across the Atlantic, similar experiments were soon to take place. Boyd Rice (aka NON) released several albums of noise music, with guitar drones and tape loops creating a cacophony of repetitive sounds. In San Francisco, performance artist Monte Cazazza began releasing albums of atonal rock. In Germany Einstürzende Neubauten were performing daring acts, mixing metal percussion, guitars and even jackhammers in elaborate stage performances that often damaged the venues they were playing.

In the early 1980s, advances in sampling technology and the popularity of synthesised new wave music bought some industrial musicians greater exposure. As much as some new wave bands were informed by the experiments of the industrial bands, the original industrial groups also began to refine their sound. Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle experimented with dance beats, and the Cab's (as they were known by fans) album The Crackdown (1983) was released on Virgin Records to some success.

Industrial rock

In the 1980s the more experimental side of industrial music became subsumed into dance and rock music. Psychic TV, formed from the remnants of Throbbing Gristle, released early albums of Acid House music, such as Jack The Tab (1988). In North America, bands such as Skinny Puppy and Ministry mixed shock-rock performances with electronic samples and heavy metal guitars to create a genre often referred to as "industrial rock". Other notable artists in this genre enjoyed widespread mainstream success in the 1990s, including but not limited to Front Line Assembly, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, White Zombie, and Fear Factory.

Modern industrial music is generally sequenced, making heavy use of FM & digital synths. It is characterized by a deadened snare drum sample and a heavy bass drum sample to a rock or techno beat. Vocals are often distorted and can feature tortured lyrics. The auto-arpeggiate feature of modern synthesizers is used often, to create complex sounding multiple simultaneous arpeggiations from multiple synthesizers which are synchronized with drum machines via MIDI. Reliance on heavy distortion pioneered by heavy metal also typifies the genre. Contemporary industrial music tends to be, but not exclusively, club-oriented

Industrial music today

Today, "Industrial" as a genre name has become largely obsolete. While a few fringe artists are still adhering to the original Industrial Records sound and philosophy, the bulk of the mainstream has fractured into many disparate sub-genres. While most of these sub-genres have roots in the industrial scene of the eighties, they also draw upon other influences, mainly from the electronic music scene. Here is a list of some of the more prominent subgenres. This list is by no means intended to be complete:


Main article: electronic body music

EBM (short for Electronic Body Music; also commonly known as industrial dance): The term "EBM" was coined by Belgian act Front 242 in the eighties; it denotes a certain type of danceable electronic music. EBM beats are typically 4/4, often with some minor syncopation to suggest a "rock" rhythm. Heavy synths are usually prominent, and the vocals are often militaristic. The sound of modern EBM often resembles that of Goa music. EBM acts are typically European (primarily Belgian or German), but now there are many Americans producing it as well. A subcategory is Old-school EBM.


Main article: Futurepop

Futurepop is a relatively recent offshoot of the EBM scene. It involves a fusion of EBM and synthpop, combining the heavier beats of EBM with lighter melodies and more emotional vocals. The term was invented in the late 90's by Ronan Harris to describe the music of his band VNV Nation and other similar acts. This style has largely supplanted "old-school" EBM in the industrial club scene.


Elektro (not to be confused with Electro) is largely a catch-all category that fills the space between power noise, EBM, old-style industrial, and gothic music. The main forerunner for these acts is the legendary eighties Canadian band Skinny Puppy, who produced strange but compelling industrial-gothic electronic music. Typically this is a darker form of EBM; however this can often refer to acts that combine EBM with another subgenre (for example Feindflug, who combine EBM with power noise).


Main article: Darkwave

Darkwave is largely a combination of neo-classical, EBM, and synthpop music. It is reasonably popular in Europe, but is also popular in the gothic scene in the U.S.

Industrial rock (or coldwave)

With its roots in the eighties scene with bands like the Young Gods and Ministry, Coldwave and Industrial Rock exploded on the American scene in the mid-90's. Albums like Chemlab's "Burn Out at the Hydrogen Bar" exemplified the typical coldwave sound: rock-like guitars with prominent synthesizer accompaniment, and live or sampled drums. Lyrical content varies, but is typically cyberpunk-oriented in some fashion.

Power noise

Power noise (also known as rhythmic noise) takes its inspiration from some of the more rhythmic, distorted early industrial acts, such as Esplendor Geométrico. There are also certain techno and technoid (see below) influences. Typically, power noise involves heavily distorted beats, harsh (but not overwhelming) noise, and is usually instrumental. Sometimes a melodic component is added, but this is almost always secondary to the rhythm. Power noise tracks are typically structured and danceable, but often they are more abstract. This genre is showcased at the annual Maschinenfest festival in Aachen, Germany.

Industrial Techno

Industrial Techno is a jarring cross between power noise, traditional industrial, and techno. It often resembles house music in structure, while keeping the harsh sounds, noises, and fast pacing of industrial music. Although guitars are not uncommon, lyrics and a verse-chorus-verse structure are very rare.


Technoid is a relatively recent subgenre. Technoid acts take equal parts inspiration from the industrial scene and IDM music. The end result is usually diverse IDM-styled music with varying levels of industrial influence. German label Hymen Records is largely responsible for the term and the style.

Dark ambient

Dark ambient is largely what the name implies. Unlike ambient in the techno scene, however, dark ambient is almost entirely beatless. Drones are usually prominent, and a bleak mood is usually apparent.

Death industrial

This is basically the industrial version of death metal. Extremely morbid in style, tone, and subject matter, it is also usually quite noisy and disturbing to listen to. It is also closely related to power electronics (see below).

Power electronics

Main article: Noise music

This is often confused with power noise but is completely different. Power electronics is closely related to the noise music scene, and despite the name the music is usually pretty low-tech. It largely consists of screeching waves of feedback and screamed, distorted, often hateful and offensive lyrics.

Notable industrial music artists

See: List of industrial music artists

See also

External links

Electronic music | Genres
Ambient | Breakbeat | Electronica | Electronic art music | House | Techno | Trance | Industrial | Synth pop