Photo: Deviated Instinct
This story originally appeared on Negative Insight, a blog (formerly a zine) focusing on classic hardcore. I read it and thought it was great, so I asked the author, Erik, for permission to reprint it here. If you enjoy it, consider supporting him by buying something from his distro, Social Napalm.
Crrruuuuuuuusssst. The style that made being filthy fashionable. Like many offshoots of hardcore, crust came out in the 1980s, with British bands Antisect and Amebix being the first bands to really codify the sound. Before long, crust itself splintered into various sub-sub-genres such as crusty hardcore (Doom, ENT, Disrupt); grinding metallic “traditional” crust (Axegrinder, Misery, and Effigy later on), and many more mostly not worth mentioning.
One of the many offshoots was a fleeting style in the early-mid ’90s that combined the thickness and filth of crust punk mixed with the harsh and abrasive repetitions of industrial bands like Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, Swans and Skinny Puppy. The resulting industrial crust or “incrustrial” was a hypnotic and unrelenting, cold and distant sound. It was a natural turn in the evolution of the crust genre and paired two forms of music that went together like studs and leather.
At the same time bands on the punk side of heavy music were experimenting with industrial influences, so too were those on the metal side in a parallel progression. Head of David were possibly the first to do this, and their self-titled LP from 1986 was the blueprint for many. Justin Broadrick famously left Napalm Death to join Head of David before forming the most popular industrial metal band going, Godflesh. Pitchshifter were another in the fray, releasing their industrial metal debut entitled Industrial on Peaceville offshoot Deaf Records in 1991.
Within crust, it seemed like a spinoff that had the potential for long lasting prominence within the various sub-genres of crust — except that it didn’t. Just as quickly as it came about, it seemed to fade away. The reasons are arguable as to why it never really took over. Was the industrial element too niche? Unlike heavy metal, thrash metal or goth, industrial wasn’t something that had a huge amount of overlapping interest within the punk scene. Perhaps it was the rise in mainstream popularity of industrial bands like Nine Inch Nails, Orgy, and KMFDM in the mid-’90s that made the punk scene want to disassociate from it. Who knows. But it’s safe to say that the industrial crust genre’s potential was never fully realized.
But where did it all begin? The crossover between industrial and crust likely begins with Killing Joke. Their apocalyptic post punk appealed to everyone from punks and metalheads to fans of industrial and goth. With surprisingly high record sales for such an unusual band and even appearing on popular English TV shows like Top of the Pops and The Tube, Killing Joke‘s influence was massive.
John Peel‘s influence on English music cannot be overstated. His radio show reached millions of listeners, exposing them to a wildly diverse array of non-mainstream music and led to cross-genre influences among many musicians. In addition to punks hearing industrial music, electronic and industrial musicians became aware of crust and grindcore also. The KLF heard Extreme Noise Terror on the John Peel show and contacted them to initiate a collaboration, which led to a new crusty version of The KLF‘s international hit “3AM Eternal,” an infamous performance by the two bands on the Brit Awards, and an unfortunately never-completed album The Black Room.
Early anarcho punk bands became interested in industrial music very early. Crass, already influenced by early sonic experimenters like John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, had dabbled in electronic manipulation of their own on tracks like “It’s You” or the almost-industrial “Birth Control ‘N’ Rock ‘N’ Roll.” “Devastate to Liberate,” a 1985 benefit album for the Animal Liberation Front on which Crass appeared with many industrial and experimental bands, was an important record in bridging the gap between punk and industrial. Flux of Pink Indians left their early anarcho punk sound behind, shortened their name to Flux, and teamed up with dub/industrial producer Adrian Sherwood of Tackhead for their dance oriented Uncarved Block album. Meanwhile, members of The Sinyx and Kronstadt Uprising went in a much heavier industrial metal direction, forming Sonic Violence.
Throbbing Gristle (and its offshoots Coil, Chris & Cosey, and Psychic TV) were denounced in the media as “wreckers of civilization,” which of course helped to bring them to the attention of anyone who was tired of safe, mainstream “entertainment.” A preteen Justin Broadrick (later of Napalm Death, Head of David, Fall of Because, Godflesh, Jesu, and a million side projects) was inspired by TG, later forming his first band Final due to their influence. The more directly political Test Dept, who were often involved in anti-capitalist and anti-fascist social causes (such as supporting the UK miners’ strike of 1984–85) often mixed with English punks who supported similar causes. Australian transplants SPK, one of the first bands to mix industrial percussion with punk guitars, initially relocated to a London squat in 1980. Another Australian, Jim Thirlwell, was briefly based in England before moving his many Foetus projects on to New York.
A 1987 Swans show at the Mermaid in Birmingham was legendary in its intensity. Playing through an extremely oversized PA in a relatively small room, the audience (which included members of Napalm Death and other Birmingham bands) experienced the sheer brutality of a slow, bass-heavy percussive assault, with the oppressive sound waves forcing the audience away from the stage as the walls and floor vibrated and allegedly debris rained down from the ceiling. Napalm Death‘s Swans sound-alike “Evolved As One” (the opening track on From Enslavement to Obliteration) and Godflesh‘s entire early sound came directly from Swans.
Influences also came in from continental Europe. The Swiss, but Swans-related, Young Gods were also influential, combining harsh vocals with metal guitars and industrial dance beats. France’s Treponem Pal were one of the earliest bands to combine metal and industrial, sounding somewhat like a cross between Voivod and Young Gods. And in America, Ministry‘s growing popularity in the late ’80s-early ’90s was undoubtedly influential, with Ministry adding Discharge/Broken Bones founding member Tezz as guitarist for awhile.
A final note within the genre is that the pockets of bands playing this style came from cities that were also known for having influential industrial scenes. Industrial metal greats Head of David and Godflesh came out of the Birmingham scene which spawned Filthkick. New York City’s Swans had made their mark on the underground scene felt prior to Nausea. And San Francisco’s industrial scene was well known for Chrome, Subterranean Records, Nervous Gender, and others long before Depressor came along. Whether that’s coincidental, incidental or intentional is something others can speculate on, but cultural exposure can be a hell of a subconscious influence.
With all that said, here’s a closer look at the bands that played the genre and some of its critical releases…
This article was contributed to by the following powdered wigs: Brian DeMoa, Jake Kelly, Luc en France, Romain TSN, and Negative Insight staffers Max Furst and Erik SN.
“You couldn’t give those records away!” exclaimed one longtime U.K. head who was around to know while discussing Deviated Instinct. The band may have had detractors in their day, but history and modern tastes have been kind to them, as they’re viewed as one of the integral bands of the crust genre.
Formed in 1984 in the eastern English city of Norwich, they first released the Tip of the Iceberg demo in 1986 (recorded in late 1985), which, with its great art, was the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Showing signs of what was to come with an already filthy and raw sound, it also showed off guitarist/vocalist Rob “Mid” Middleton‘s excellent art that would help give Deviated Instinct such an instantly recognizable image.
Along with Mid, the band was mainly comprised of Julian “Leggo” Kilsby on vocals (until Mid took over when Leggo left in 1988) and Steven “Snapa” Harvey on bass, in addition to a constantly changing drum stool.
A second demo, Terminal Filth Stenchcore, from 1987 helped to really establish the band and spread their name. While Terminal Filth Stenchcore was recorded in October of 1986, it was quickly followed up by the seminal Welcome to the Orgy 7″ recorded in January of 1987. It contained four songs, three of which were re-recorded demo tracks. The artwork on this EP was a brilliant stark and macabre pen and ink drawing that would define Mid’s style throughout the era. The music itself is thick, filthy cruuuust with a thin buzzsaw guitar sound. There’s no other way to put it, as it’s the sound that largely came to define the entire genre. The EP also hinted at the most subtle traces of an industrial influence that would develop more later on.
Welcome to the Orgy wasn’t just Deviated Instinct’s vinyl coming out party to the world; it also marked the first vinyl release by a band on Peaceville Records (who’d previously done a compilation 7″ only). Formed by ex-Instigators and Civilized Society? member Hammy, Peaceville would quickly rise to prominence within the crust and metal genres. However, as Peaceville moved toward metal and abandoned traditional punk ethics for a more business-oriented approach (including signing a major label distribution deal with Music For Nations), a great amount of derision was caused within the ranks of those with hardline DIY values. This would best be displayed by Doom’s Fuck Peaceville double LP, which was re-recordings of all their Peaceville-era material.
While Deviated Instinct remained on Peaceville, the label ran a “Deviated Album Giveaway” for 20 autographed albums to be won in promotion of their second album, 1990’s Gutteral Breath. Such promotions were popular in metal, but were far out of place within a scene dedicated to alternative values and anti-rock star/icon beliefs. It was especially relevant for a band whose first album (from 1988) had been entitled Rock ‘N’ Roll Conformity in a display of their stance on being anti-corporate rock and anti-music industry practices.
While the band did agree to participate in the giveaway, it was not without reservation. Mid recalls, “This was something Peaceville talked us into, we always felt really awkward and foolish about anything to do with autographs. I mean why would anyone want their records spoiled by scribbles by a bunch of blithering idiots? Anyway, in the end we just scribbled all manner of nonsensical and random guff all around the lyric side of the insert.”
As the band’s sound evolved, they continued to incorporate other elements. This is best seen on their 1990 EP, Nailed, which was released by fellow crusters Prophecy of Doom’s own label, Prophecy Records. While the production is tighter and sharper than their preceding material, the stench and filth of their earlier deeds still reeks through. Sometimes reminiscent of weirder-mid-period Celtic Frost fused with the blossoming industrial ex-punks contemporary of the time. A subtle groove and bounce slips in under the crusty grinding riffage, hinting at the future to come. This is most noticeable on the track “Void,” a true marriage of the old and the new.
At this point, Deviated Instinct disbanded into several other groups, all of which were heavily industrial influenced. Mid went on to form Spine Wrench; Snapa was one of the founding members of Optimum Wound Profile; and Leggo, who’d left in 1988, was playing in Filthkick. There’s no denying the influence and role that Deviated Instinct played on the short-lived genre of industrial crust.
Spine Wrench was formed in 1992 by former Deviated Instinct guitarist and vocalist, Rob “Mid” Middleton. The initial incarnation of the band also featured Jarrod on bass as well as former DI drummer Charlie. Charlie played in Deviated Instinct for only a brief period, most notably present on Deviated Instinct’s final release, 1990’s industrial-tinged, Nailed 12”. Upon Deviated Instinct’s dissolution in the following year, Spine Wrench was born.
Spine Wrench seamlessly resumed the progression of Mid’s artistic vision at the time. Picking up right where DI left off on that final EP, this band offered a darker, heavier and more mature sound. The music and overarching style were still firmly rooted in crust, a genre Deviated Instinct had helped pioneer, but there were other elements being incorporated as well. The songs were driving and more bleak, the artwork stark and minimal. Above all Spine Wrench was a darker and more nihilistic musical offering than Deviated Instinct. The entire package fit in perfectly with the heavy underground of 1992.
Their first release was a split CD with New York’s Sin (featuring former Nausea vocalist Al Long). While Godflesh were clearly influences for both bands on the disc, Sin took it a step beyond by shamelessly cloning Godflesh in every way possible. Spine Wrench on the other hand managed to create a unique sound right out of the gate. This is mainly due to the human drummer present throughout the recording. While the band would soon take a step closer in the industrial/electronic direction, this release ends up showcasing their influences of the time period without sounding derivative.
As opposed to the guttural approach that was prevalent around 1992, the vocals are raw, primal, and aggressive. Eerie guitar melodies float over the brooding rhythm, reminding the listener of other crust-graduate contemporaries of the era such as Zygote or Neurosis. Spine Wrench even manage to insert some groove elements without sounding contrived or nu-metal.
After the release of this split CD, Charlie parted ways with the band, leaving just Mid and Jarrod to soldier on in a genre where the drum machine was not just socially acceptable, it was en vogue. (Funny side note: Upon his departure from Spine Wrench, Charlie went on to spend the next decade playing in a ska-punk band called The Steptones.) Given that utilizing drum sequencers was right in the wheelhouse of the sound Spine Wrench was gravitating towards, it is safe to assume there was little grief on their end with this change. However, in losing a human drummer, Spine Wrench fell back into the mass of other bands at the time that aspired to capture the power and force of Godflesh. While still a solid offering, the subsequent “Tapping The Vein/Barbed” EP, sees Spine Wrench immediately lose some of that originality that made their initial offering shine as bright as it did.
As the years went on, Spine Wrench would continue to release four more EPs. Their sound would evolve slightly on each release, but never quite managing to fully set themselves apart from the other groups attempting this niche genre. The band began to find themselves again around 1994 on the “Heeldrag/Green As A Dying Whore” EP, inserting an bouncy industrial hook to their sound.
By 1995, Spine Wrench was now a solo project, featuring only Mid handling all aspects of the music. The final release was a split EP with the Japanese industrial metal band, Def.Master. Spine Wrench’s contribution to this record was the six minute track, “Cut.” While still wearing the obvious influences on its sleeve, this track rises higher than most of the output prior to it as it harkens back to their earlier sound. Sounding desperate and lost, it is the band’s last gasp of rotten air on this toxic planet. Spine Wrench ultimately called it quits in 1996.
While Spine Wrench may not have reinvented the wheel, the uniqueness of their vision is there if one looks for it. Mid always did know how to create some killer album artwork and his visual output with Spine Wrench was no exception. Each release bore apt packaging, fitting the grim industrial vibes of songs within.
In the early 2000s, Mid would reunite with Snapa from Deviated Instinct/Optimum Wound Profile to form Bait. Playing a form of discordant crust, they released only two EPs and a full-length before folding and reforming Deviated Instinct together.
The good thing about releasing a split with an immensely popular band is you’re part of a record that gets remembered. The bad thing is you’re almost always regarded as “the other band on that split.” Filthkick are definitely best known as the other band on their 1989 split with Extreme Noise Terror, but that’s not to slag ’em off.
The band was formed by vocalist Julian “Leggo” Kilsby after he’d left his previous band, Deviated Instinct, and relocated to Birmingham. The initial lineup featured Leggo on vocals, Mark Bailey (Extreme Noise Terror, Excrement Of War, Wankys) on guitar, Jim Whiteley (Napalm Death, Ripcord, etc.) on bass, and Ben Mochrie (Cathedral) on drums. This lineup is the one that released the split LP with ENT as well as a session recorded for John Peel’s BBC radio show. It’s a solid dirty, raw, crusty hardcore record. Shortly after the album release Ben left the band and played on Cathedral’s In Memorium demo from 1990. Stick from Doom and Extreme Noise Terror was brought in to replace him.
By the end of 1989, Filthkick dissolved in typical combustible punk fashion after rising tensions in the band came to a head. After the dissolution of Filthkick, Leggo recorded two crusty dirge tracks with Acrasy in August of 1990 in the vein of Deviated Instinct. However, he reformed Filthkick shortly after with new lineups. The first of these featured himself on vocals, Steve Hunt on guitar, Pete Nash (who’d left Doom and Extreme Noise Terror by this point), and Daz on drums. Daz was soon replaced by Clive Meldrum (of Police Bastard the band, not the EP) on drums. This lineup released a split 7” with Japan’s Rise From The Dead on MCR Company in 1992 and also recorded a second Peel session. Again the sound on this release was a crusty form of hardcore.
While Leggo’s new version of Filthkick was going on, the three remaining members of the initial version of the band, Mark Bailey, Jim Whiteley and Stick, were asked to record covers of classic punk songs to contribute to the Punk’s Not Dread LP compilation in 1991. These were recorded under the name Filthkick (Legless), a not so subtle shot at their former bandmate. The comp tracks were the only thing this version of the band did.
In the final version of Leggo’s Filthkick, Steve Hunt exited the band, and Pete Nash slid over to guitar while Neil Griffiths was brought in on bass. Leggo and Clive remained on vocals and drums, respectively. A number of gigs were performed and a demo for an album was recorded called Roadchrist for Desperate Attempt in the US. The album was abandoned by the label; however, Desperate Attempt did use three songs for the release of the single “Hand Crushed Heart.” This release saw the band taking an industrial-tinged direction with a mid-paced metal sound and a vocal style similar to Head of David. The music itself buzzes with an industrial hum, and while less pronounced than others covered in the article, the influence is still very much there.
Objectively speaking, this is one of the weaker industrial crust releases covered in this article, but it is certainly deserving of inclusion. Filthkick are another band from the Deviated Instinct tree along with Spine Wrench and Optimum Wound Profile. Are the other songs from the aborted Roadchrist LP out there? Will they ever be released? Who knows?
Optimum Wound Profile
Formed in 1991, Ipswich, England band Optimum Wound Profile initially began as something of a continuation of Deviated Instinct. After longtime vocalist Julian “Leggo” Kilsby left Deviated Instinct for Filthkick, guitarist Rob “Mid” Middleton took over vocals and the band moved towards a slower, more doom-oriented approach, with hints of industrial influences on their next record Guttural Breath. Following Guttural Breath up with the Nailed EP, Deviated Instinct continued in the style of the previous record, as well as showing more obvious electronic influences by including a Tubeway Army cover.
With Deviated Instinct seemingly having run its course, Mid, bassist Steven “Snapa” Harvey, and drummer Charlie formed a new band with Extreme Noise Terror vocalist Phil Vane. The new band, Bait, did not come to fruition though, but two new bands came out of it. Mid and Charlie formed the industrial-influenced crust/metal band Spine Wrench, while Snapa and Phil formed their own band.
Phil and Snapa were joined by guitarist Rocki Peck (from the Extreme Noise Terror-related Raw Noise), vocalist Simon Finbow, bassist Ian Barnard, and drummer Dom Cattermole. The band took the name Optimum Wound Profile from a heading in the second chapter of JG Ballard‘s experimental novel Atrocity Exhibition.
After recording two demos, OWP signed with Roadrunner Records, which had taken an interest in industrial-influenced music, signing Fear Factory and Skin Chamber, and had begun a business relationship with Gary Levermore‘s Third Mind Records, which released records by Front Line Assembly, Controlled Bleeding, In the Nursery, Will, and Intermix as part of their deal with Roadrunner.
OWP’s debut album, Lowest Common Dominator, was released in 1992. In the early stages of recording, Dom was replaced by new drummer Niall “Vile” Corr. Combining a wide variety of influences ranging from crust to industrial to noise rock, the very diverse record is reminiscent of Extreme Noise Terror vocally, but with discordant (but sometimes oddly melodic) guitar riffs not unlike Head of David at times, pounding drums, and many samples layered throughout the songs.
After a tour, lineup changes occurred with Snapa and Niall leaving. They were replaced by Jason Whittaker of Whiteslug, with all beats now programmed and no live drums. Jason immediately made his presence felt, with at least three songs on OWP’s next release Silver or Lead being new versions of Whiteslug songs.
With new producer Colin Richardson, an experienced metal producer who had worked with Carcass, Hellbastard, Bolt Thrower, Fudge Tunnel, Napalm Death, and Fear Factory, among many others, OWP took a noticeable turn towards metal. An intense record of nearly unrelenting extremity, Silver or Lead combines non-stop crust/metal heaviness with pummeling electronic beats and harsh samples. The record only lets up on the acoustic, but very dark, “Modus Operandi” and a quiet, eerie untitled fifteen-minute electronic outro. Mid from Spine Wrench provided the record’s memorable artwork in his unique, dark style.
Silver or Lead was released in 1993, and although arguably OWP’s best record, it apparently did not meet Roadrunner’s expectations and they were dropped by the label, which began to divest itself of all industrial-influenced bands other than Fear Factory.
OWP signed with German label We Bite to begin work on a new record, but Phil departed to rejoin Extreme Noise Terror.
In 1995, OWP released their third album Asphyxia. Far less metal than the previous record, Asphyxia is slightly more “accessible,” but only by comparison to their previous work. Simon’s shouted vocals and the overall heaviness of the record keep the record from being too overtly accessible, but with more melodic parts, greater dynamics, some quiet songs, and far less crust and metal influences, Asphyxia sounds very different than the more metallic Silver or Lead.
After Asphyxia, OWP began work on a fourth album, Cult of Saints 1425, which never got beyond the demo stage as OWP broke up in 1996.
In 2007, Polish record label Metal Mind reissued Lowest Common Denominator and Silver or Lead, and OWP reformed with Simon, Rocki, and Jason, plus new members Barnie Mills on bass and Malcolm Peck on drums, with the intention of finishing Cult of Saints 1425. However, the recording was never completed.
Although Rocki and Phil Vane reunited to work together again in Death Dealers in 2010, any hope of the early lineup of OWP ever reuniting ended with the untimely death of Phil in 2011 from a stroke at only 43 years old.
Rocki and Simon reunited with original OWP drummer Dom to form These Are End Times, and Jason and Rocki started independent label Antigen Records. Original member Snapa was part of the Deviated Instinct reunion, and with bandmate Mid, formed a new version of Bait in 2003. Although different musically than the original Bait would have been, things came full circle with the revival of the band name, returning all the way to the roots of OWP and Spine Wrench. (Brian DeMoa)
The mention of the band Sore Throat in polite conversations can usually provoke two opposite reactions: the band’s obnoxious sonic extremity and provocative sense of humour either makes you giggle like a schoolkid or sneer offendedly. And fair enough after all, since, as innovative as the idea of a 99 songs piss-taking noisecrust LP may have been in 1989, it still was a pretty immature — if funny — endeavour. However, Sore Throat are rarely remembered for the greatness of their Inde$troy LP that was released in 1989 on Bristol’s crucial UK hardcore label Manic Ears Records. At that time, the lineup consisted of Rich Militia on vocals, Bri and Jon (from Doom) on the guitar and the bass respectively and of Hammy (founder of Peaceville Records and drummer for The Instigators) on the drums. Inde$troy was so much of a departure from Sore Throat‘s typical bursts of thrashy noise that they decided to release the album under the name Saw Throat.
By 1989, the so-called UK hardcore scene — one that encompassed many different sounds — was already losing momentum, and bands, when they were not disintegrating, began to look elsewhere for inspiration. With its long atmospheric ambient parts and its crushing industrial moments, Inde$troy can be seen as one of the most remarkable and unique crust LPs of the ’80s wave, although it paradoxically took the band to give up — momentarily — on their initial programme (basically pissing as many people off with fast unrehearsed chaotic hardcore noises and sometimes insulting lyrics) to achieve it.
Inde$troy is a concept album of Dantean proportions. Made up of just one track, its writing was inspired by bands like Melvins, Saint Vitus and Swans, and I would argue that it is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a crust opera (a terrifying description, maybe, but that somehow fits the work). The track is divided into different parts, like songs or movements that are seamlessly tied together with layers of keyboards, spoken parts, various shouts of pain, feedbacks, additional sound effects and even an actual chainsaw! As a result, Inde$troy generates its own vibe and ambience, a very peculiar atmosphere which confers a real narrative quality to a work which essentially tells an end-of-the-world story. The very dark, oppressive guitar riffs combined with the punishingly heavy, almost sludge-like pace (as opposed to Sore Throat‘s usual thundering speed), the aggressively gruff vocals enhanced by an unusually clear delivery from Rich Militia (the insane screams on the opening of the first “song” were actually performed by Paul from Pleasant Valley Children) and the additions of thick layers of keyboards and industrial elements give the album an apocalyptic quality. The soundtrack of the impending collapse, indeed.
The interplay between form and content matters a lot here since Inde$troy contains none of the usual Sore Throat banter and sense of humour (on the contrary, they even apologize to Heresy and Active Minds in the credits) and focuses lyrically on ecology and how capitalism, in this case the marriage between the industry and human greed, destroys the planet. The lyrics’ tone is angry and pessimistic and you could argue that the addition of brutal, machine-like sonorities and the inclusion of long keyboard parts reinforce the very gloomy and funereal aura of the work and the idea that steel is literally piercing through the Earth. It took the band three weeks to write and record Inde$troy, which was an impressive amount of time for a drunken band like Sore Throat (for comparison, Unhindered By Talent was recorded in just two days). It was produced and engineered at Lions Studios in Leeds between February and April of 1989 by Andy from Gold, Frankincense + Disk-Drive (he also provided the crucial keyboard effects) who used digital technology for the final mix on a sixteen tracks mixing desk. The production of Inde$troy is therefore impressive given the context and the übercrust sound of Sore Throat‘s previous — and subsequent — records. The nightmarish and demented-looking post-apocalyptic artwork, drawn by Steve Hutton (who went on to be an illustrator for children’s books), is equally stunning and aptly illustrates the LP’s music and words.
This heavy and slow grinding indus-infused crust masterpiece was first reissued on cd in 2004 by Rome’s SOA Records and on vinyl (but with a strange blue colour for the cover) in 2007 through a collaboration between German labels Skuld Releases and Epistrophy, so you’ve got no excuse really. (Romain/Terminal Sound Nuisance)
Fans of anarcho punk will know the Sinyx from their cult favorite Black Death EP (self releases in 1981). However, as the hope and optimism for a better future during anarcho punk years dimmed bleaker and darker and the Thatcher Regime carried on, so too did the music. Former Sinyx member Dave “Auntie” Godbald was one of the people whose musical trajectory coincided with the political blight so many others felt. Auntie states in an interview with Fabryka, “The Sinyx had gradually become less political and more philosophical in outlook, matched to a darker, heavier musical style. However, I wanted to move/progress on further than I thought was appropriate with the Sinyx, so I shaved off my Mohican and formed Sonic Violence.”
According to Auntie, the idea for the sound and image for Sonic Violence was to be a more vicious version of Killing Joke. An initial lineup was formed in 1986, but never worked out and folded by the end of ’87. A new lineup consisting of two bassists for the purpose of having one “with as much bass tone as possible to shake the floor/intestines and the other with light strings and razor sharp treble to assault the ear drums and add an edge to my guitar” convened in 1988.
This second lineup initially consisted of former Kronstadt Uprising vocalist Spencer Blake on vocals, his brother Murray Blake on bass (also of Kronstadt Uprising, though not at the same time), fellow former Sinyx member Andy Whiting also on bass, Auntie on guitar and Elmer Barrett on drums. Unfortunately Spencer didn’t work out, so Murray and Auntie ended up sharing vocal duties. This solidified lineup would remain intact until 1991.
Proving their staunch DIY ethos remained unchanged, Sonic Violence self-released their 1989 debut EP, Sacrifice To Strength, on their Sound Violation Promotions imprint. With a thick, all encompassing cement mixer churn to their sound, the band were one of the forefront of this new heavy industrial style.
The band quickly caught the ear of former Instigators drummer Paul “Hammy” Halmshaw, who by then was running the metal label Peaceville Records. Auntie recounts getting on Peaceville: “A mate of mine knew someone in Axegrinder, who were on Peaceville at that point, and suggested that I send in a demo tape. I did so and received a reply that said ‘Fuck Yeah — I want to sign you immediately!'” This led to the release of Sonic Violence‘s first album, Jagd, which came out in 1990. It was another dense and dark release with song titles including the likes of “Blasphemer,” “Tortured” and “Symptom,” among others on the seven-song long-player. Melding heavy music with a punk backbone and industrial, the album was a success to the point that Peaceville wanted more, and the Casket Case 12″ EP quickly followed also in 1990.
Auntie recalls, “After Jagd we had the choice of leaving Peaceville or signing a new four-album contract. I wanted to leave, the others didn’t and that all contributed to my departure from SV. I felt that Peaceville were stitching us up and wanted to see what other options were available to us — possibly Earache or one of the European labels, but a label less death metal orientated.”
At this point, Bill joined on sampler, and the band moved further to an industrial influence and away from their punk roots. Founding member Auntie also exited the band. The band settled on an ensemble of just drums, percussion, sampler and bass. They embarked on a poorly promoted tour in support of their second album entitled Transfixtion (Peaceville/Dreamtime, 1992) and then went their separate ways with Peaceville.
The band soldiered on through 1994, self releasing a 12″ called The Blastecyst Mixes and a split 7″ with U.K. industrial rockers Headbutt (both coming out in 1993). As mentioned, this period of the band had relieved itself from any real discernible punk influence, instead opting for a more straight forward industrial style. Material was completed for a third album, but it never came to fruition.
Attempts to reunite the band did happen. Auntie and the rest of the members, except for drummer Elmer, from the Jagd album reunited for some rehearsals, but nothing more came of it. Auntie states “I now have John (ex-Sinyx) as a replacement bassist and a possible drummer, so hope to be rehearsing again this summer. Material will feature the faster guitar-based material and some new or previously unrecorded stuff.”
The least documented or known band in this article, Mortified formed in 1988 in Honiton, England (located about halfway between Exeter and Bristol) and released their Drivel demo in 1991. As Luc over at Kängnäve wrote, “Their music itself is hard to describe: slow, dirgy, heavy and dissonant — there’s elements of doom metal, crust, industrial, noise rock, an early Godflesh/Pitchshifter vibe maybe, a little Amebix, although this isn’t a remotely accurate description.”
A second demo also from 1991 was entitled Grog (The Next Mourning). This demo led to an an intended LP (also to be called Grog) on Sludge Records from France. The actual vinyl for this release was fully pressed (edition of 250 copies), but LP jackets were never made and the full LP never came out. (I’ve been told that if you write about the operations of Sludge Records you may be threatened with legal action, so that’s all that we will write here.) It’s a shame the release never came out because this is extremely strong material. Slow, grinding thick crust/doom metal with a slight industrial influence compared to other material. The song “Sad” is especially strong with haunting chanted vocals that alternate between male and female vocals sung over a metallic, hypnotic dirge. Truly terrifying music that sounds like it was recorded by Pagans in the moors of ancient Britain like only the English can do. The band themselves describe it as having a “huge oscillating bass sound, metronomic doomy drum patterns, dischord guitars and post modern-esque eerie female vocals. Urban-industrial blended with ’70s doom rock.”
Mortified also regularly played gigs, including a slot opening for Hellbastard in 1992. A final recording session called “Stress” was recorded in 1995 before the band dissolved in ’96 with unfulfilled potential. They would have fit in very well with Peaceville/Deaf Records, Rise Above or Earache, and it’s a shame that nothing came out. It’s both puzzling and a shame that a band that existed for nearly 10 years would have such little physical representation.
Hailing from New York City, Nausea are far and away the best known band featured in this article. Their 1990 LP, heavily influenced by British hardcore bands like Antisect, sold thousands and was a staple in any punk record collection during the 1990s. As many British punk bands dabbled with reggae influences, so too did Nausea with an extended, trance inducing reggae break on the song “Sacrifice” from said LP.
In the late ’80s-early ’90s, NYC was seemingly a perfect breeding ground for a cross pollination between the industrial and crust/anarcho punk scenes. With bands like Nausea and Jesus Chrust not only sharing stages and participating in activist groups with, but sometimes even living together in Lower East Side squats with industrial bands like Missing Foundation and Black Rain, some crossover was inevitable. Although, for a variety of reasons, it didn’t happen as much as it could have, there were some interesting musical hybrids.
Nausea’s willingness to incorporate other styles of music was again seen on the title track of their 1992 EP, Lie Cycle. Brooding and dissonant, the track has the sterile coldness of a warehouse meat locker. While having almost no melody, there’s a hypnotic lock groove that forces the listener to nod along. It’s a standout track in the catalog of one of crust’s most highly regarded bands.
While “Lie Cycle” appears on the final Nausea release, it also foreshadowed what was to come from Nausea vocalist Al Long. Shortly after Nausea’s ending, he formed Sin, a group heavily influenced and in line with the industrial metal of Godflesh. While lasting briefly and releasing only a split CD with another band covered in this article, Spine Wrench, Sin took the industrial sound established on Lie Cycle and continued to expand on it. For fans of this style, it may be worth seeking out. However, nothing can top the industrial churn heard on “Lie Cycle”. (Negative Insight staff/Brian DeMoa)
Depressor has existed in various incarnations since 1992 as the brainchild of Chris Oxford, a onetime Metallica guitar tech and an obsessive fan of heavy metal obscurities. Oxford’s musical vision began as a solo project inspired by the likes of Amebix and Godflesh while retaining enough of its own eccentric personality — familiar, but hardly derivative. Depressor issued several demo recordings between 1995 and 1997; Fuck Yoga Records reissued two of them as the Filth/Grace LP in 2014. Most punks turn up their noses at the very words “drum machine,” but these demos stand up to anything else emanating from the San Francisco underground at the time. Depressor also recorded an LP in 1995 that went unreleased for over twenty years until Fuck Yoga came to the rescue yet again. This session captures Depressor at its best, delivering a haunting hybrid of industrialized metallic riffs and ice-cold programmed beats. Six songs that are positively nightmarish in a way that most crust bands fail at attempting. One can only wonder of the places the Bay Area’s punk/crust/grind scene might have gone had a label such as Prank Records or Life is Abuse released this in the mid ’90s. Perhaps folks might have mentioned Depressor in the same breath as His Hero is Gone or Dystopia… who knows?
Chris expanded Depressor to include a full lineup in 1998; the band made its live debut at Mission Records in 2001. Adding a live drummer compromised Depressor‘s industrial influence in favor of a more straightforward apocalyptic crust sound that eventually verged on black metal territory. Although the full band was great — 2004’s Book of the Dead double EP with Death Angel‘s Andy Galeon on drums is particularly crushing — I still wondered about what could have been had they retained that industrial edge of the early recordings. Regardless, the Fuck Yoga reissues now exist to finally realize Chris Oxford’s euphonic effort in its intended medium — if I can think of anyone who deserves such a reward for their hard work, it is certainly him. Why it took someone from Macedonia to recognize what Bay Area labels never did is beyond me. (Jake Kelly)
The following bands could loosely be considered as having a sound that incorporates punk/crust and industrial, although for various reasons they didn’t fit within the parameters of this article quite enough for inclusion.
Pitchshifter: Discussed in the introduction of the article. Industrial metal band that released many records with their 1991 LP Industrial on Deaf Records being the best.
Execrate: Supposedly there’s a demo from the mid-1980s. The band featured one future member of Deviated Instinct and another who was in the original version of Pitchshifter. The demo is said to be very Amebix influenced. (Not much to do with industrial.)
Skin Limit Show: Released a 7″ EP and album in the mid-’90s. The album (Wound Freeze) sounds like early Pitchshifter mixed with Optimum Wound Profile. Also contains a former Pitchshifter member plus members of UKHC bands Meatfly and Hard To Swallow, among others.
Hybernoid: Industrial metal band from England that existed from the early through mid-1990s. They had three albums and three EPs.
Sin: Post Nausea project for Al Long with a heavy Godflesh influence that also featured Javier Villegas of Born Against. Discussed in the Nausea section of this article. They released a split CD with Spine Wrench in 1992.
Feed: From Sweden with former members of Dom Där, Slaktmask, Tolshock, and Warcollapse. Pretty ’90s commercial sounding despite the lineup.
Counterblast: When G-Anx ended, two members formed Counterblast. Raging Swedish crust with Neurosis and other influences.
Contropotere: Long running 1980s-1990s Italian anarchist band. Their final album, Cyborg 100%, from 1994, has an industrial influence among other styles.
Mone¥i$god: Japanese band existing in the 2000s with the former vocalist of Asbestos. They’ve released two albums thus far.