Prisoner, by Keith Baillargeon
Prisoner, by Keith Baillargeon
New Music

Top 10 artists that combine industrial with metal & hardcore

7 mins read

Emerging architects of a sonic dystopia where death metal, doom, and crust collide with industrial chill, Richmond, Virginia, PRISONER are about to unleash their second album, “Putrid | Obsolete,” slated for a March 15 release via Persistent Vision Records.

Being a deep dive into the murk of environmental decay and a wake-up call wrapped in the dirge of progress, “Putrid | Obsolete” is crafted with the kind of care that belies its name, under the guidance of Ricky Olson and Brad Boatright.

The addition of Adam Lake amplifies the band’s gravitational pull towards the electronic abyss, his synths and samples a new vein in the band’s muscular arm.

On the brink of this aural assault, PRISONER joins us to share a beacon for the like-minded: a roster of artists who fuse the mechanical with the organic, shaping the landscape of their musical ethos.

Prisoner, by Tony Lynch
Prisoner, by Tony Lynch

From Godflesh’s groundbreaking industrial metal to the ethereal partnership of Neurosis and Jarboe, each influence hints at the depth of PRISONER’s own explorations.

Check out the full list below.

Godflesh – “Go Spread Your Wings”

This band is always mentioned when people talk about industrial metal, and for good reason. There were definitely several bands before them that blended hard rock, electronic music, and noise, but Godflesh changed the game and remains the most relevant band in the genre.

It’s very hard for me to pick a favorite song or album from this band, but “Go Spread Your Wings” is definitely up there. The last track on “Selfless”, it pretty much is it’s own album (at 24 minutes, haha). The first few minutes are pure percussive noise and horrifying drone sounds.

Then a slow, pounding drum machine with heavy guitar and distorted bass smashes in and takes you on a funeral march for another 10 minutes or so until the song just collapses into chaotic noise and then more of the scary drones from the beginning of the song.

This is Godflesh at their most experimental production level and putting to use a decent recording budget on Selfless.

Neurosis and Jarboe – “His Last Words”

Neurosis has always been one of the best heavy experimental bands and this record with Jarboe of Swans is life-changing.

Again, hard to pick one, but this one hits very hard emotionally. The synth work on this track is incredible, so many little eerie layers and textures.

The bizarre production on the drums really brings everything home. It sounds as if there are parts where the whole track is reversed, others where everything is phased or chorused out.

The guitar is heavy but doesn’t take over the whole track, which can happen with a lot of metal. It just builds off the rhythm and throws creepy, discordant hits off and on. Jarboe does some even more incredible, terrifying vocals on some of the rest of this record, but delivers a particularly haunting melody on this song.

Oranssi Pazuzu – “Ilmestys”

Oranssi Pazuzu is one of the best newer metal bands to mess around with combining modern extreme metal and synthesizers/samples.

On their earlier material you can hear the mixture of black metal, progressive rock, and industrial rock. Their record “Mestarin Kynsi” from 2020 is definitely a Prisoner favorite.

It’s hard to tell what instrument is the source for a lot of the things you hear on this one. There seems to be a lot more electronic stuff happening on this record compared to the records before it. It’s almost like King Crimson and Skinny Puppy birthed some rotten abomination.

Ministry – “Scarecrow”

When I try to think of the first big band to combine industrial music and metal I generally think of Ministry.

In the early 80s they started off as a synthpop band, then shifted toward more dark, noisy electronic music, and then decided to mix in metal and punk music. All their early material is great and every album has a totally different feel in a great way.

The late 80s into the mid 90s was their peak for the heavier material. Psalm 69 and Filth Pig are probably the best examples of the mix between heavy riffs and electronics.

At some point, someone had let Al and Paul just have complete control of the mix, and they knew exactly how to produce these records to an extreme of distortion; something that was very refreshing to hear in widely released rock music.

Altar of Plagues – “A Remedy and a Fever”

This band’s discography is spotless, but on their last record, Teethed Glory & Injury, Altar of Plagues really lean into electronics and are incredibly innovative in how they incorporate them into their take on black metal.

The build up and denouement of this track showcase a lot of the ‘lighter’ side of what electronics can bring to heavy music. The traditional instrumentation uses a lot of negative space and these calmer sections are injected with a wide array of complex emotions from the seemingly limitless palette provided by the electronics.

But the reason this is a stand out track is because of the mind bendingly overwhelming climax of the song. Even though the drums, guitars, and bass are all at the height of their power, the punishing synth elements feel like they are strangling everything else, almost as though they are escaping the very speakers you are listening to and crawling into your skull.

An amazingly composed and produced moment that is well placed in the dead center of the record. I still remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard this track.

Nine Inch Nails – “Last”

Another band that has a massive discography with lots of different sensations attached to each record.

The Broken EP is the heaviest, fastest and more aggressive overall. As a musician I have been heavily influenced by NIN since childhood.

The meat grinding guitars in particular are generally very easy-to-play riffs – power-chords and single notes. It’s definitely important to the songs but it doesn’t take over and take away from all the other amazing elements happening.

This is when they started taking from Depeche Mode’s page of production work, which was groundbreaking in its own right of how to mix electronics together like a big-ass arena rock band (praise Flood!).

Last switches on a dime from real and electronic drums, passages of just samples and synths and then back to real bass and guitars, and it all hits without a single sacrifice of aggression.

Yellow Magic Orchestra – “Stairs”

The album from which this track appears is a gem, and a uniquely wild ride. “Stairs” is grimy and harsh but still somehow saunters with a fever-dreamed King Crimson-meets-David-Bowie swagger, while predating and evoking artists like Skinny Puppy, Ministry, and Bjork.

The bass work from Haruomi Hosono is criminally good, and it’s especially mind-blowing that he is able to walk in between these looped heavy piano arpeggiations with this kind of plodding, insistent sophistication that never waylays the tune or oversteps the music as a whole.

Skin Chamber – “Burning Power”

Skin Chamber was a short-lived side-project of Controlled Bleeding in the early 90s, just produced two albums. They were definitely channeling early Swans and Godflesh, just ridiculously blown-out, discordant guitar on top of distorted drum machines and noise.

This is one of my favorite examples of speeding up industrial metal to sound more like punk/hardcore at certain moments.

They still play a lot of slow, pounding drones, but Skin Chamber gets a bit more energetic in terms of tempo than a lot of industrial sludge bands of that time period.

Skinny Puppy – “Choke (Live)”

It’s hard to pick just one example of how Skinny Puppy t

ook the basis of electronic dance music and completely flipped the script, but I keep coming back to Choke. These theatrical Canadians created the first real standout tracks of just raw heaviness, weirdo antics, and unbridled aggression – borrowed from their metal-band contemporaries and then warped through their absolutely sick brains and creative mechanics.

And all from standing behind a bunch of blood-drenched keyboards, samplers, and drum machines. Is the end result metal? Probably not, but it’s just as thick, heavy, and impactful.

What stands out here is how they pushed themselves to perform it at just as grand of a scale as any live metal band out there, and in the late 80s it’s astounding that they were able to have it hit just as hard.

Nobuyoshi Sano – “Growing Wings”

A song that rewrites one’s concept of the word “haunting”. There’s a certain madness to the string motif that gets amplified against this perfectly reverb-less vocal performance.

When music is this heavy without using any traditional form of rhythm section, it’s magical.

Sano’s ‘Drakengard’ soundtrack makes me envy anyone in the position of being able to hear it for the first time. In the best way, imagine a “Pendulum Music”-era Steve Reich composing a horror soundtrack in collaboration with Chelsea Wolfe.

The hard-panning production is crazy with ambition and the screaming-loud-silence of its most intimate moment is chill-inducing.

Prisoner, by Keith Baillargeon
Prisoner, by Keith Baillargeon

Catch PRISONER live at the following dates:

Mar 13 – Richmond, VA @ Fallout (w/ Listless)
Mar 14 – Norfolk, VA @ Chichos Backstage (w/ Listless)
Mar 15 – Raleigh, NC @ The Pourhouse (w/ Listless)
Mar 16 – Asheville, NC @ Static Age Records (w/ Listless)
Mar 17 – Birmingham, AL @ The Firehouse (w/ Listless)
Mar 18 – Atlanta, GA @ The Catacombs (w/ Listless)
Mar 19 – Tampa, FL @ Deviant Libation (w/ Listless)
Mar 20 – Hollywood, FL @ American Legion 92 (w/ Listless)
Mar 21 – Orlando, FL @ Stardust Video & Coffee (w/ Listless)
Mar 22 – Columbia, SC @ New Brookland Tavern (w/ Listless)
Apr 27 – Richmond, VA @ Wonderland (w/ Disrotter)
May 8 – Richmond, VA @ Gallery 5 (w/ Rid of Me)
Jun 14 – Richmond, VA @ Cobra Cabana (w/ Nuclear Tomb)

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