Manuel Neyssensas

The using of electronic devices in industrial metal and the consequences on its sound aesthetic 

Industrial metal is a sub-genre of metal music that emerged at the end of the eighties with bands such as Ministry and Godflesh. Borrowing aspects of industrial music, industrial metal is caracterized by its use of synthesizers, samplers and drum machines, differentiating it from others metal subgenres.

Industrial music originated at the end of the seventies in England and had more to do with avant- garde art movements than heavy metal. In his book Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music, Alexander Reed places the origins of industrial music’s roots at the beginning of the twentieth century with Futurism and noise music.

Jason Hanley has detailed the emergence of industrial music, with pioneer bands Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and Einstürzende Neubauten, being part of what he calls the ”first wave” of industrial music (1975-1983). He then lists some musical criteria as distinctive features defining the genre, such as ”noise sounds, analog synthesizers timbres, repetition, drones, spoken vocal samples”, etc. (Hanley, 2011 : 252). The second wave (1983-1989) saw the assimilation of pop and rock music by industrial bands like Skinny Puppy, Front 242 and Ministry.

With distorted guitars being ”the most important aural sign of heavy metal” (Walser, 1993 : 41), the intrusion of this instrument in industrial music at the end of the eighties was a determining element, provoking a stylistic shift by some bands (Ministry, Die Krupps, KMFDM), whose instrumentation was originally based on synthesizers. By the end of the eighties and in the early nineties, some metal bands began to be attracted by industrial music (Malhavoc, Skrew).

This convergence of these two genres, that might appear antagonist at first sight, gave birth to the industrial metal sub-genre.

Indeed, electronic music (where industrial music belongs), is distinguished from rock music (including metal) by the instruments that are used, but also by the idea of instrumental execution and performance, which are common things in rock.

The aim of this talk is to show how electronic devices, such as samplers and drum machines, establishes the foundations of the creative process during the making of an album. This will be done through music analysis and by taking as an example the band Ministry and their seminal album Psalm 69 (1992). This use of digital instruments has a direct consequence on the sound aesthetic, showing the possibilities of the recording studio and the reality of the assembly of tracks that constitute a rock work. These particular production practices inherited from electronic music help distinguish industrial metal from the other metal subgenres.


University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, France

Finished his Master thesis in 2018 at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, in which he focused on the slovenian band Laibach, that combines avant-gardist artistic methodes with popular music. He is now about to start a PhD thesis, studying and analysing the industrial metal subgenre.