The year was 1998. The movie was Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (terrible film, by the way). The soundtrack, however, was a different story.
I was 17; still in high school, working a job after classes to pay for my boat of a vehicle (’76 Ford Granada if you care) and using the rest of the cash to buy whatever I wanted. One of those things I always wanted was music – but of course, this was before the Internet was fast enough to stream or download anything; we were still a year or so away from Napster and the birth of music piracy (SHAME).
So we resorted to the ‘record store’, where it was all about getting the most music for your money. With no way of truly knowing what was good and what wasn’t, you had to count on unreliable resources, such as the ever-enticing album art..
Which, for the record, is how I ended up with a “Bolt Thrower” album – I assumed it was metal of sorts but it could have been jazz-funk classics for all I cared – seriously, look at this art:
It looked like the back of a G.I. Joe action figure box and the cover of a D&D Manual all in one, then they made a baby with a set of Warhammer miniatures. I bought it based on nothing else…and I remember it being ‘meh’ at best (even for a metalhead like I was at the time). But the system worked for Bolt Thrower – they got my 10 bucks!
Anyway – so when it came to picking tunes, I had to base my selection on something. Buying a full album was dangerous ground; if you didn’t end up liking the artist (or the direction they chose to go with their music), then you were shit out of luck – you had 12 more tracks to suffer through and 10 less dollars to live without!
So – that being said – soundtracks ended up being the way to go. You could sample different bands, hear different stuff by bands you’d heard of, and sometimes (SOMETIMES) get more bang for your buck.
It was on all of this seriously hardcore logic and thought that I ended up with a USED copy of the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation official movie soundtrack. I was young, liked video games, and heard that earworm of a title track in the movie (you know the one – MORTAL KOMBATTTTTT!!!!! – which, on a side note, is performed by the Immortals, whom I did not know until a MUCH later point in my life was a side project of Lords Of Acid formed to do basically this ONE song…probably the one song they ever did without all the bust increasing and fucking up the you-know-what stuff. Fun fact!)
It was here I got the first taste of what I later learned was generally classified as ‘industrial’. After the CHOOSE YOUR DESTINY FINISH HIM stuff and the Rammstein track that I was familiar with (discovered them on another soundtrack a year before– truly a proven method), came the bass synth line that I would never forget. As KMFDM’s “Megalomaniac” pumped through possibly the shittiest car speakers ever designed, my whole world changed. It was my first hit; my gateway drug to industrial music and all that came before it and after.
There were a few other gems on that disc – my first taste of the German hardcore techno overlords Scooter (FASTER! HARDER!) and the incomparable Juno Reactor – but those KMFDM guys; they were just the COOLEST motherfuckers in the world at that moment outside the Dairy Queen. It wasn’t rock, it wasn’t techno, it was just AMAZING. It was the Ultra Heavy Beat as I would later learn. All that talk about being megalomaniacal and harder than the rest. It was as if I’d never heard music before this moment – I had formally lost my aural virginity. I would soon take a trip down the rabbit hole into an addiction I would never recover from.
With discovering KMFDM, my official gateway drug (against war? HAR HAR) into industrial music, came the next logical step – buying KMFDM albums. From here I discovered the 745 other artists that early KMFDM used to work with, which prompted me to spend several evenings on my dial-up internet for research (while it sure wasn’t fast enough for music downloads, I could still download words to read with moderate speed – while some retro things are kind of fun and kitschy, dial-up internet is NOT one of those things. May that stay dead forever). This led me to scene-familiar names such as Ogre, Raymond Watts, En Esch, Bill Rieflen, Skold, and so on, which naturally led me into the great side project oblivion and so on and so on until I became a full-blown ADDICT.
Sidebar: them industrial guys sure enjoy their side projects – “oh, well this song has a flute in it and so it’s probably not agro enough for my main band CyberStabb, so I’d better start a side project to release my flute song…let’s go with “Flutewave Synthesis” and put this out so no one thinks we went soft”. Gotta love it. That’s another article for another time.
That’s the one of the coolest things about industrial music, in my opinion – how you discovered your first “hit”. You didn’t hear FLA on the radio, or Front 242 on the MTV, or hear KMFDM in the movies (well except for Bad Boys – anyone else remember hearing Juke Joint Jezebel in the club scene?). It was just like an illegal drug – you couldn’t just go shopping in a normal store or ask some random person for it. You had to discover it on your own because it wasn’t anywhere easily accessible. But once you found it, it was sweet ecstasy. It’s definitely not for everyone, but you knew it was for you – so good for you. And everyone out there has their own version of this story.
Regardless of how you got your first taste, we are all addicts now. A room full of industrial junkies who can sit around and debate the use of dubstep elements in the most recent Front Line Assembly record or get geeked out by the nasty old-school vibe that Youth Code brings to the scene or lament over Combichrist’s decision to go heavy metal. These are conversations that only a select few people will ever even begin to understand or appreciate. It’s like trying to describe to someone who has never been high what it feels like to be high. Don’t waste your time. Enjoy this noisy, stompy, gritty, dirty musical gift the world has given you. Just remember that it all started with a gateway drug. What was yours?