In last month’s column, I discussed my love for melodeath and how it got introduced to me by a dear friend of mine who continues to be a major part of my life to this day. Of course, with melodeath going into an interesting direction (trance elements?), we have to talk about one of the more fun yet confusing genres in the metal world.
Also, talking about this genre has made me realize just how damn angry I was back when I first discovered metal. No kid should have the sheer amount of pent-up rage that I did when I was 13/14. Of course, now at 24, my anger has simmered, but it’s still there, hiding underneath the niceties and the spite that seems to power the entire core of my being.
It’s time we talk about Industrial Metal.
When you think about it, industrial metal is what happens when you mix house/electronic music with heavy metal. It’s supposed to be something like the mainstream version of pop music, music that can be played in clubs and on dance floors. It’s the most accessible of the genres, as you can easily get sucked into it and then come out gaining an appreciation for it. Of course, as a young person, I made the distinction that, while they shared similarities between them, house/electronic and heavy metal were essentially two different things that could never be mixed. Back then, I was very much into being a metal purist, so there shouldn’t be any cross-pollination between two distinct genres I may have an interest in.
Fast forward to when I heard a song that would probably define my teenage years for years to come, “Bye/Die” by PAIN, the solo project of Hypocrisy frontman Peter Tägtgren (who I didn’t know did Hypocrisy until about three years ago). I found this song independently from Schmidty, who, at this point, had been the main person who knew about metal and I asked all sorts of questions about the genre. Something about “Bye/Die” clicked in some weird part of my brain and it became an anthem of sorts. That song manifested my rage and angst at being a bullied kid who liked heavy music and didn’t understand the interactions between adolescents as a normal thing. I got teased for that antisocial behavior, which made me more withdrawn until I started doing theatre in high school. When I heard this song around age 13/14, it helped channel some of that pent-up rage into doing something productive – I kept a journal during that time – and it helped center me in a way that I can’t explain. Obviously, listening to the song brings back some great memories, but I also inwardly cringe at how corny it can get. Granted, when you’re a kid, everything seems to be wonderful – until you grow up and you immediately want to go back in time and yell at your younger self for being an idiot.
In short, “Bye/Die” became an anthem and I would hum it constantly – to the point where it drove some people crazy. It was made worse when I eventually learned the song and then I could whistle it back, which was both hilarious (for me) and annoying (for them). Of course, as my interest in metal became a full-time thing, I eventually forgot about “Bye/Die” and moved on to more albums in metal that led me down this weird rabbit hole of sorts. After all, what better example of industrial metal do we have than by bringing in what I like to call the poster boys of the genre?
So, down the rabbit hole of industrial metal I went, and it wasn’t until years later that I would add another band in my repertoire of industrial metal bands, partly I never took the time to actually go outside of what I knew. Granted, when Rammstein seems to be your first point of reference – and the most concrete point of reference – there is really no need for you to venture elsewhere. Of course, it would only be up until very recently where I added another industrial metal band to my repertoire.
Industrial Metal Gateway Albums
PAIN – Dancing With The Dead (2005): Up until today (as I’m writing this), I had not listened to this album in full. Back when I first heard about PAIN, I only knew four songs: “Shut Your Mouth,” “Tear It Up,” “Same Old Song,” and the aforementioned “Bye/Die.” I just knew PAIN existed, but I had no idea where they fell into the scheme of metal and they were out of my periphery. I essentially forgot about them outside of “Bye/Die,” thinking they were one of those one-hit album bands because after 2009/2010 I just stopped hearing about them. Imagine my surprise when it was announced in 2015/2016 that PAIN was coming out with a new album. Of course, once you are pushed in a certain direction by one of your friends, you start paying attention to what your friends are into it. Because I had discovered that Peter was also the guy behind Hyporcrisy, the dichotomy of him being in a death metal and an industrial metal project made me realize that this man has a lot going on outside of him doing music. So, with Coming Home coming out, it got me thinking about past PAIN albums, and how I needed to listen to a past full-length. However, it would take me two full years to get to Dancing With The Dead and, as it would turn out, I was correct in assuming that “Bye/Die” would haunt my teenage years for the rest of my life.
For an album that somehow formulated after Peter dropped dead for two minutes and then came back to life (and, unlike Dead, does not have Cotard’s delusion), this album isn’t about appreciating life. This album is angry and filled with such a petulant disregard for everyone’s opinions that it almost feels poisonous. Peter has no fucks to give – he’s committed to his vision and his own artistic expression, so everyone else can be damned. The anger is so evident that even I was intrigued by just how soaring it was. It is a testament of “I’ve been through worse” and it had the hope of that, eventually, you would conquer everything, confirming everything I was going through in high school. 13-year old Hera was right about something – she just had to keep her rage in check.
Rammstein – Reise, Reise (2004): Sometime in the past, I went back and revisited this album because it had been announced that Rammstein was back in the studio for what could be their last album. Given how Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da was not on Spotify at the time I wrote this, I decided to go back to my favorite album, Reise, Reise, and see if there was anything I wanted to look into. Apparently, I had something to say about its general weirdness in the large scope of context:
… [T]his album feels odd thematically – I find it to be less sexually explicit than their discography up until that point. It is high existential that remains untranslatable to everyone except Germans, and I actually like that. It forced me to actually look into translations that I actually still remember to this day. The songs that get to me the most are “Morgenstern” and “Amour”, just because they are so out of place. “Morgenstern” is about a woman who is considered to be ugly wishing to be beautiful so she can be accepted, while “Amour” is about how love is poison and madness. Of the two, “Amour” was a song I played for a while, as it helped soothe broken hearts and gave me some clarification that I wasn’t alone in feeling like shit. Of course, that song makes absolutely no sense on this album. It is the weirdest thing on an album and it feels foreign as all hell.
I already mentioned that “Amour” seems inappropriate on an album that dealt with the fear of flying, the concept of feeling “less,” the lack of desire, cannibalism, and the dichotomy of America as a superpower (among other things), and I still stand by that statement. The fact that Reise, Reise ends on a love song feels like a throwaway, as if the band just stuck the song there because they could. It certainly doesn’t belong on this album and it certainly doesn’t belong anywhere near the Rammstein mythos. They are here to shock you into having a good time, not feel something akin to an existential crisis. It’s incredibly straightforward, which is why it took me by surprise at first listen.
For an industrial metal band, they are less angry and are prone to be controversial with their wordplay and overall aesthetic. For a long time, Rammstein was the only band I referred to when I needed something industrial to listen to, something accessible without needing to translate the lyrics. I just knew I would have a good time listening to the music, but if I really wanted to know what they were talking about, I needed to find a translation. Given the wordplay and the way they tended to present themselves, I knew, at a very young age, that they validated my blossoming dark humor, and it only got progressively darker with whatever new album I picked up. The fact that one of my favorite songs from the band can either be about hunting or about a predator looking for prey is a testament to their writing. They have stopped giving fucks ages ago, which is why I can appreciate Rammstein as a good band that I still listen to.
Eisbrecher – Schock (2015): I have to give this one to Misha – without him, I would not have chosen to listen to this album or learn more about Eisbrecher.
What is it with Germany and their dourness? They seem to make even the happiest things sad and almost sorrowful. I don’t know if that’s because of their sense of humor or just how they project themselves to be, but it feels like their brand of industrial metal is the kind that sounds fun, but their lyrics are quite the opposite. After years of not moving from Rammsteinland, I was introduced to Eisbrecher by Misha sending me lyrics of the song “Was Ist Hier Los?” (trans. “What’s Going Here?”) one night. After asking him about it and then texting him back the lyrics for the rest of the chorus, I decided to listen to the song and it IS a downer. The song may be great to bop your head to, but watch the video and you’ll find a sense of cynicism that’s so prevalent you can only watch and wonder why the beat is so happy. Because Eisbrecher was releasing a new album at the time I listened to the song, I decided to go back in their catalogue and listen to their last album, Schock.
What a fitting title.
Listening to Schock was interesting because there is a range of emotion going through it. If you listen straight through without a translation, you might find it a compelling album filled with heartbreak, anger, and reflections on life. However, if you decide to listen to the music with the translated lyrics, you get something much darker. For emphasis, on the song “Schlachtbank” (trans. “Slaughterhouse”), you would hear it and think it’s just a normal break-up song where a guy left his significant other after some unresolved issue. However, looking deeper into the lyrics, you get imagery that borders on madness and murder. Considering how the man’s heart is a literal slaughterhouse – he ruminates on his situation, hurting himself to the point where it’s implied that there’s some scars – he can only ask the person he loves for comfort, and then lets her go. Talk about pain felt to the nth degree. At first listen, I understood this song to be a break-up song (my German extends to reading it, but I don’t understand it without a translation or context), but looking further into it made me realize just how masochistic this song was. It was a little unnerving, but nothing that I couldn’t handle. Unlike Rammstein, Eisbrecher is a straight shooter – they don’t use much word play to get their point across. Even without a complete translation to their lyricism, a simple translation of their song title provides some context into what you are into. Still, why is the music so bombastic? What is this – sad club music?
It seems I continue to flex my penchant for translation despite the fact that I really don’t need to do it. However, I like context, so you are getting it and will continue to get it.
Why does it feel like, despite the beats and tones behind it, industrial metal is riddled with enough angst, death, and madness to weigh down its gleefulness? Also, why are we having such a good time with it? It’s because we are human and we are all fascinated by the darker aspects of life. All things considered, this genre definitely has some dark highlights and issues that need to be resolved.
Tune in next month as we continue to talk about (almost) lighthearted things, and how you don’t need alcohol to have a good time – despite what festivals lead you to believe.
Hasta la proxima!