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While industrial music began in mid-70s England, it wasn’t until the early 90s that it hit the mainstream thanks to U.S. industrial groups like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, White Zombie and Marilyn Manson.
By fusing elements of sampling and synths with heavy metal riffs, it hit the perfect emotional temperature to be embraced by Generation X.
But there were many others who never got their full due, despite their talent. So let’s look back at seven underrated industrial bands ripe for rediscovery.
Essential Tracks: ‘Butterfly Wings’, ‘Golgotha Tenement Blues’, ‘Rite of Shiva’, ‘Perfect Tan (Bikini Atoll), ‘If I Should Explode? (Into Gasping Mary)’, ‘Lilith/Eve’, ‘Richest Junkie Still Alive’, ‘Suicide King’, ‘The Soft Collision’
Essential Albums: ‘Concentration’, ‘Gilt’
This Tucson, AZ group added darkwave elements to their industrial churn, culminating in the modest hits ‘Butterfly Wings’, ‘Perfect Tan’ and ‘Golgotha Tenement Blues’ from ‘The Crow’ soundtrack.
As of 2015: the band called it quits in 1997 over record label troubles. Vocalist Scott Benzel is now an L.A. based visual artist, composer and producer. Keyboardist Mike Fisher currently plays in the band Amish Rake Fight.
Essential Tracks: ‘No More Love’, ‘Drag Me Down’, ‘Lonely Again’, ‘Nothing’, ‘Try’, ‘All Wrong’, ‘Empty’, ‘Weaken’, ‘Rearrange’, ‘From Your Mouth’, ‘Happy?’, ‘Tortoise’, ‘23’
Essential Albums: ‘God Lives Underwater’ EP, ‘Empty’, ‘Life In The So Called Space Age’
Combining industrial guitar clang and techno-dance friendly rhythms, this Rick Rubin-discovered Pennsylvania group played a truly unique hybrid of styles.
But despite their catchy hooks, multiple soundtrack inclusions and the Layne Staley-esque vocals of David Reilly, they never achieved massive commercial success.
As of 2015: Sadly, singer David Reilly died from complications from a coma in 2005. Band members Jeff Turzo and Andrew McGee went on to form the rock group Wired All Wrong.
Essential Tracks: ‘Animal’, ‘Other People’, ‘No Fair Fights’, ‘I Apologize’, ‘Tough’, ‘Riverhead’, ‘Makebelieve’, ‘Tomorrow’, ‘Wet Cat’
Essential Albums: ‘Prick’, ‘The Wreckard’
Things looked bright for Prick in the early 90s: the Kevin McMahon-led group were signed to NIN mastermind Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records, resulting in a stellar self-titled debut.
But while the group had a minor hit with ‘Animal’, they were eventually dropped when their second album ‘The Wreckard’ wasn’t deemed commercially viable (McMahon released it independently in 2002).
As of 2015: McMahon still operates as Prick as well as New Wave act Lucky Pierre, and released a flurry of reissues in 2009.
Essential Tracks: ‘Coming of the Century’, ‘Copious’, ‘Sins of the Fathers’, ‘White Vision Blowout’, ‘Infested’, ‘Minions’, ‘Gear’, ‘Hiss’, ‘New Maps’, ‘The Information’, ‘Kaptain Control’
Essential Albums: ‘Course of Empire’, ‘Initiation’, ‘Telepathic Last Words’
This Dallas, TX based group featured two drummers, and combined industrial elements with goth textures and Middle Eastern overtones, forging an eclectic musical stew.
But after three solid albums with hook-laden tracks like ‘Infested’ and ‘The Information’, the group were plagued with record label and promotion problems, and called it quits in 1996.
As of 2015: Former members guitarist Mike Graff and drummer Michael Jerome currently play in Halls Of The Machine. Jerome has also played with notable artists including K.D. Lang and The Velvet Underground’s John Cale.
Essential Tracks: ‘Sex On Wheelz’, ‘A Daisy Chain 4 Satan’, ’Rivers of Blood, Years of Darkness’, ‘Blue Buddha’, ‘After The Flesh’, ‘Kooler Than Jesus’, ‘Do You Fear For Your Child?’, ‘And This is What the Devil Does!” ‘Sexplosion!’, ‘Dream Baby’, ‘Apollo 69’
Essential Albums: ‘I See Good Spirits and I See Bad Spirits’, ‘Confessions of a Knife…’ ‘Sexplosion!’, ’13 Above The Night’, ‘Hit And Run Holiday’
Emerging from Chicago’s Wax-Trax record label that broke bands like Ministry and KMFDM, Thrill Kill Kult offered gleeful blasphemy, sleazy grooves, and B-movie sound bites on tracks like ‘Kooler Than Jesus’ and ‘Sex on Wheelz.’
But their sound also employed elements of disco, house and surf rock, making them one of industrial rock’s most eclectic groups.
While they’ve attained cult status, they deserve more credit as American Industrial progenitors.
As of 2015: The original creative duo of vocalist Groovie Mann and multi-instrumentalist Buzz McCoy remains intact. Their latest release was 2014’s ‘Spooky Tricks.’
Essential Tracks: ‘Surprise, Surprise’, ‘Room 429’, ‘$10 Bill’, ‘Got No Soul’, ‘All the Clocks Are Broken’, ‘It Only Hurts When I Breathe’, ‘The Divorce’, ‘Any Day Now’, ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’, ‘Discount Rebellion’, ‘Two At A Time’
Essential Albums: ‘White Noise’, ‘Ask Questions Later’, ‘Release’
Bridging the line between industrial and noise-rock, NYC’s Cop Shoot Cop mixed sampled sounds with found percussion and two bassists, creating such an unholy racket that no guitars were needed.
Dystopian soundscapes backed vocalist Tod A’s disturbing stories of societal decay and lost souls, making for an intense listening experience.
As of 2015: Another casualty of record company politics, Cop Shoot Cop collapsed in 1996. All former members play in various projects, most notably Todd A’s alt-rock group Firewater. Drummer Phil Puleo joined art-rock legends Swans.
Essential Tracks: ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck’, ’Whose Fist is This Anyway’, ‘Unfortunately’, ‘Broken Peace’, ‘Another Worldly Device’, ‘Cut-Rate’, ‘Rude Awakening’, ‘Man’s Ruin’, Close The Door’, ‘Face Value’, ‘Innocence Gone’, ‘Caprice’
Essential Albums: ‘Cleansing’, ‘Rude Awakening’
Prong are one of the most diverse metal bands ever, covering everything from thrash, groove metal and hardcore on albums like ‘Beg To Differ’, ‘Prove You Wrong’, and ‘Carved Into Stone.’
But their contribution to the industrial genre deserves special mention thanks to albums ‘Cleansing’ and ‘Rude Awakening.’
Tracks like ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck’,‘ and ‘Unfortunately’ blended frontman/guitarist Tommy Victor’s scalpel-sharp riffs with disco drums and subtle electronic samples to dynamic effect.
But despite the acclaim of peers like Nine Inch Nails and White Zombie, Prong never achieved mainstream success, and ‘Rude Awakening’s’ poor commercial performance resulted in a break-up.
As of 2015: Prong rage on with a more contemporary metal sound. Their most recent release is 2015’s ‘Songs From The Black Hole.’ Victor also pulls double duty as the sole guitarist in Danzig.
That concludes my list of 90s industrial bands deserving greater acclaim. It’s a rich sub-genre to re-examine, so I’ve included several honorable mentions that you can check out below.
But let’s hear from you too. What industrial groups would you have added to the list? Tell us in the comments below.
And be sure to check out my lists of 8 Underrated 90’s Alternative Bands, 4 Bands Like Nine Inch Nails, and 5 Underrated 80’s UK Post-punk bands for even more left-of-center artists to explore.
Honorable Mentions: Pain Teens, Electric Hellfire Club, Skrew, Orgy, Drill, Kidneythieves, Dink, Ethyl Meatplow, Sister Machine Gun, Static-X
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