Industrial Rock

All posts tagged Industrial Rock

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

filter-crazy-eyes

Artist: Filter

Album: Crazy Eyes

Release Date: 4/8/16

Rating: 9/10

Few survivors of the industrial rock scene have remained as consistent as Filter. Since their debut in 1995, the Richard Patrick-led project have pumped out one great record after another. With the industrial scene eventually fading into the background of metal or goth-techno by the late-90s, and genre pioneers like Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails taking long hiatuses, there was little representation of the golden age of industrial rock; save for Filter. Despite waxing and waning mainstream attention, the band have retained a core audience that spans the likes of alternative, industrial and heavy metal listeners.

At the core of Filter is Patrick, the one-time Nine Inch Nails guitarist who exited the band on the eve of their most commercially-successful era. He formed Filter, looking for a less synth-driven and more guitar-driven sound. Their iconic 1995 debut, Short Bus, dropped at the height of the industrial-alternative crossover, when the sound was at it’s peak popularity. The follow-up, 1999’s Title of Record, was a massive success propelled by the crossover hit, “Take A Picture.” But for much of the 00’s, addiction issues and an evolving alternative scene kept Filter out of the limelight, despite releasing the underrated gems The Amalgamut and Anthems For the Damned. In 2011, Filter came back hard with the slamming The Trouble With Angels record, boasting a return to the sound that brought Filter to fruition. 2013’s The Sun Comes Out Tonight further featured the rage and socio-political disdain that was synonymous with industrial rock. Few artists have captured the heaviness of the original industrial scene as well as alternative rock sensibilities quite like Filter.

With their latest release, Crazy Eyes, Filter dive head first into a classic industrial rock sound with pulsating synths, distorted bass lines, mechanized drums and grinding guitars, matched with a primal rage against a failing system. Tracks titles like “Pride Flag,” “The City of Blinding Riots” and “Your Bullets” quickly indicate the social commentary that’s to come, while “Nothing In My Hands” and “Welcome To the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)” tease up the anger and disdain.

Crazy Eyes opens with the classic industrial slammer, “Mother E,” a synth-heavy stomper that finds Patrick screaming the refrain; “I got my reasons and my reasons are sound,” as a wall of swelling synths build to a head-banging groove. “Nothing In My Hands” looks at the Ferguson and Michael Brown case, while capturing all of the socio-political angst the industrial scene had/has to offer. From there, the more accessible, and dare I say, poppy, “Pride Flag,” keeps in tune with the album’s feel, looking through the glass at a society spiraling into chaos.

Filter mastermind Richard Patrick, circa 2016. Photo courtesy of blabbermouth.net.

Filter mastermind Richard Patrick, circa 2016. Photo courtesy of blabbermouth.net.

Tracks such as “The City of Blinding Riots” and “Welcome To the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)” feature a more atmospheric, KMFDM/Combichrist-esque stomp, while “Take Me To Heaven” and “Head of Fire” boast a more groove-heavy bass-driven feel, with sneering hooks in the vein of NIN. “Tremors” is also write with Ministry-style mechanical percussion, circa Land of Rape and Honey.

Most of Side B on Crazy Eyes leans a little more in the rock direction, with tracks like “Kid Blue From the Short Bus, Drunk Bunk” and “Your Bullets” featuring the more classic Filter sound of heavy alt-metal, most prevalent on Title of Record. The album concludes with “Under the Tongue,” a slow-building heavy groove tracks that spirals into a wall of distortion, before descending into the acoustic comedown of “(Can’t She See) Head of Fire, Pt. 2.”

All in all, Crazy Eyes may be Filter’s strongest album since Title of Record. While the last few records clearly showcase Patrick showing his teeth and muscles, it’s few and far between they feature his ability to write really interesting songs. Crazy Eyes ebbs and flows, and although it’s consistently heavy and brooding, both sonically and lyrically, it ties together many small concepts into a central theme. Standout tracks are difficult to pinpoint, but would certainly include “Mother E,” “Welcome To the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)” “Your Bullets” and “Pride Flag.” For fans of the golden age of industrial rock, this will surely spark an interest in a scene long stagnant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRV51e753f8

Nine Inch Nails circa 1994. Photo courtesy of www.rollingstone.com.

Nine Inch Nails circa 1994. Photo courtesy of www.rollingstone.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

By 1994, a paradigm shift took place in popular music, particularly that of rock and roll. Alternative music went mainstream, and Gen X music was at the forefront. Where acts like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and AC/DC that once reigned supreme had now fallen into parents’ record collections. New acts like Nirvana, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam were among the crop of new “rock heroes,” all containing the same punk rock ethos and anti-establishment philosophies. And at head of this movement in 1994 was none other that industrial crossover act, Nine Inch Nails.

Lead primarily by the project’s mastermind, Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails had firmly established themselves within the alternative scene by the early 90’s. Taking influence from industrial pioneers Ministry and Skinny Puppy, and infiltrating alt-rock audiences like that of Jane’s Addiction and The Cure, NIN had carved out a very particular niche in the scene. Their debut, 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine, along with show-stopping performances at the inaugural Lollapalooza Festival tour, had landed them a large crossover audience between the industrial and alternative scenes. However, it would only prove to a glimpse of what was to come.

After the release of the Broken EP in 92, NIN clearly proved to be the darkest and heaviest of their peers with still a glimmer of commercial appeal. After breaking from their former label, TVT Records, Reznor and co. landed on the relatively new Interscope Records. Their new found freedom would prove productive, as the music had taken a turn in a much darker, menacing, and ultimately more satisfying direction for Reznor.

Relocating to Los Angeles and renting the infamous house where the Manson family had murder Sharon Tate and her entourage nearly two decades prior as a recording studio, NIN’s follow-up was shrouded in darkness and mystery from the get-go. From these sessions, The Downward Spiral was conceived and birthed. Where Pretty Hate Machine was still minor key yet up tempo and laid with pop hooks, The Downward Spiral was bleaker and far more experimental in sound.

The Downward Spiral is one of the heaviest albums ever made, yet has little to do with metal in a traditional sense. Sure, grinding distorted guitars are present and strung throughout. But the overall sound, the wailing atmospherics and layers of indefinable samples, only add to the noise, creating a mood that is often heavier than metal itself.

Opening with a sample from George Lucas’ THX 1138, the album kicks off with the industrial-metal slammer, “Mr. Self Destruct,” setting the angst-ridden and nihilistic tone of the album. After descending into pure noise, the drum and bass lead “Piggy” creeps a bit slower but equally effectively into the psyche of the listener. Reznor lifts the “God is dead”¬† mantra of Nietzche as a line in his bleak railing against Christianity and organized religion on “Heresy,” and offers one of the most memorial slamming percussive assults ever recorded on the punk-ish “March of the Pigs.”

The album then takes its first of two dynamic left turns, going into the danceable Goth anthem, “Closer.” One of the only songs on The Downward Spiral to feature a notable hook, “Closer” may have had the naughtiest one of all time: “I want to fuck you like an animal, I want to feel you from the inside.” Despite this, the song became an unexpected hit, and the highest charting single for the band for the next 11 years. A very artistic video was directed by Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) and featured heavy overtones of the juxtaposition of sex and religion in various manners. An edited version became a hit and went into regular rotation on MTV.

The album continues the angst and nihilism, painting the picture of an individual who is strung out, finished with love and religion, and in the throws of madness and addiction. Tracks like “Ruiner” (featuring one of the best guitar solos of the era), “The Becoming” and “I Do Not Want This,” indicate the character’s transformation, slipping further away from who they once were. The controversial “Big Man with a Gun,” pokes fun at male misogynist portrayals in pop-culture while reaching a new extreme of sonic and lyrical torment. The quieter and peaceful instrumental, “A Warm Place,” breaks the wall of noise only briefly before leading into the creeping “Eraser.” The sludgy Godflesh-like “Reptile” best portrays the anguish in Reznor’s voice before leading into the title track, leaving the listener to question whether the album’s character had actually committed suicide or just slipped completely,

Finally, it concludes with the second and final left turn, the relatively quiet and folk-sounding “Hurt.” Somber and gentle, yet painful and confessional, “Hurt” provides a look through the eyes of an addict, who as Reznor had explained is “left with only themselves at the end of the day.” The song would prove to be a popular hit among NIN fans, but would even see a far broader and unexpected audience when it was covered by Johnny Cash in 2003 as one of the last recordings he chose to make before passing away.

Despite its overall intensity and austerity, The Downward Spiral had helped break Nine Inch Nails into the mainstream. A few months following it’s release, the band took part in the 25th anniversary of the Woodstock festival, playing live to an estimated 5 million viewers and 100,000 in attendance. Their popularity soared, and the following Self Destruct tour, as well as the Outside tour with David Bowie only expanded their reach. By the end of the decade, The Downward Spiral would go on to sell over 5 million copies.

The pressure for a follow up proved to be a bit overwhelming for Reznor at the time. As he succumbed to the demons he addressed on The Downward Spiral, Reznor spent the most of the latter half of the 90’s battling depression and addiction. It would be 5 long years before The Fragile was released, and the music scene had drastically changed. The core audience was there, but the mainstream attention had mostly disappeared. By 2005, Reznor had kicked his demons once and for all and released the mega successful With Teeth, bringing the band back as one of the most important acts of the alternative and industrial genres. Their success would continue as the release of three more albums followed through the end of the 00’s. In 2013, Nine Inch Nails released their eighth album, Hesitation Marks, to positive reviews. The band, now 25 years into their career, still remains relevant and powerful despite entering into what’s quickly being considered classic rock.

20 years after its release, The Downward Spiral still holds up, and will still ruin your day if listened to in its entirety, almost like the Dark Side of the Moon for Gen Xers. It’s influence has stood the test of time, and it still remains a key gem of the band’s now massive discography. Tracks like “March of the Pigs” and “Reptile” are still staples at live shows, and it’s hard to find a “Greatest Albums of the 90’s” list without seeing it in a relatively high position. The underground appeal is still in tact as well, with an array of new post-hardcore, post-industrial, metal and Goth acts citing it as a key influence. And at the rate NIN are going these days, more of their records are bound to reach the level of iconography¬†The Downward Spiral has.