Electro-industrial is a music genre drawing on EBM and post-industrial that developed in the mid-1980s. While EBM has a minimal structure and clean production, electro-industrial has a deep, complex and layered sound. The style was pioneered by Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, and other groups, either from Canada or the Benelux. In the early 1990s, the style spawned the dark electro genre, and in the mid-/late-1990s, the aggrotech offshoot. The fan base for the style is linked to the rivethead subculture.
After the EBM movement faded in the early 1990s, electro-industrial increasingly attained popularity in the international club scene. In contrast to the straight EBM style, electro-industrial groups use harsher beats and raspy, distorted, or digitized vocals. In contrast to industrial rock, electro-industrial groups mostly avoided guitars, other than Skinny Puppy, who used E-Guitar Elements since the mid 80s in songs like Testure or Dig It.
Prominent electro-industrial groups of the 1990s include Mentallo and the Fixer, Yeht Mae, Velvet Acid Christ, KMFDM and Pulse Legion (U.S.); Numb and Decoded Feedback (Canada); X Marks the Pedwalk, Plastic Noise Experience, Wumpscut, Haujobb, Forma Tadre, and Putrefy Factor 7 (Germany); Leæther Strip from Denmark; and early Hocico, Cenobita and Amduscia from Mexico.
Since the mid-1990s, some electro-industrial groups added guitars and became associated with industrial metal; other groups, e. g. Skinny Puppy, Download, Gridlock and Haujobb, have incorporated elements of experimental electronic music styles like drum and bass, IDM, glitch and other electronica genres.
Skinny Puppy took inspiration from Nocturnal Emissions, Portion Control, and The Legendary Pink Dots. Critic Jason Ankeny has also noted Skinny Puppy's debts to Suicide, Throbbing Gristle, and Cabaret Voltaire.
Electro-industrial groups tend to feature themes of control, dystopia, and science fiction. Electro-industrial groups sometimes take aesthetic inspiration from horror films, including The Exorcist and the work of Roman Polanski, and the science fiction films Blade Runner and Alien.
Dark electro is a similar style, developed in the early 1990s in central Europe. The term describes groups such as yelworC and Placebo Effect, and was first used in December 1992 with the album announcement of Brainstorming, yelworC's debut. The style was inspired by the music of The Klinik and Skinny Puppy. Compositions included horror soundscapes, and grunts or distorted vocals. yelworC were a music group from Munich, formed in 1988. They laid the foundations of the dark electro movement in the early 1990s, and were the first artist on the German label Celtic Circle Productions. In subsequent years, dark electro was displaced by techno-influenced styles such as aggrotech and futurepop. Other groups to practice the style included Das Ich, amGod, Trial, early Evil's Toy, Mortal Constraint, Arcana Obscura, Splatter Squall, Seven Trees, Tri-State, GGFH (Disease), and Ice Ages.
Aggrotech (also known as hellektro), is a derivative form of electro-industrial with a strong influence from the hardstyle/hard trance music (straight Techno bassdrum and oscillator sounds, especially Supersaw leads from Roland JP-8000) that first surfaced in the mid-late-1990s.
Aggrotech typically employs aggressive beats, prominent lead synth lines, and lyrics of a dark nature. Often, vocals are distorted and pitch-shifted to sound harsh and synthetic. Aggrotech musicians include AciDrome, Aesthetic Perfection, Agonoize, Alien Vampires, Amduscia, Cenobita, Chiasm, Die Sektor, Combichrist, Dawn of Ashes, Detroit Diesel, Dulce Liquido, DYM, Feindflug, Flesh Field, Funker Vogt, God Module, Grendel, Hocico, Nachtmahr, Panic Lift, Psyclon Nine, Reaper, Suicide Commando, Tactical Sekt, Tamtrum, The Retrosic, Ritual Aesthetic, Unter Null, Virtual Embrace and X-Fusion, among many.
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- Zillo Music Magazine · Issue No. 12/92 · Album announcement of "Brainstorming" · Pages 43 · Germany · December 1992. The term was repeated in a review of the same album in Zillo Music Magazine · Issue No. 2/93 · Review of the album "Brainstorming" · Pages 49 · Germany · February 1993.