2016. So much has already been said about this year – some good, a lot bad…but before this takes a hard left turn, I am not here to talk about any of that. This website is not a place where you come to read about some jackoff’s political musings and rambling opinionated nonsense. You’ve come here because you like the industrial – and to read about some random jackoff’s rambling opinionated nonsense about THE INDUSTRIAL. Right???
That being said – this time of year the internet becomes overloaded with ‘best of’ and ‘top 10’ lists celebrating the best and worst of the year in passing. I’m not going to try to disguise it – this is a similar list.
As a semi-seasoned DJ from Eastern Washington preferring the industrial persuasion, the concept of the ‘album’ has changed a lot for me. It used to be all about buying an album, picking the songs you liked the most, then skipping around on the disc when you put it in the CD player. Obviously now with everything being so ‘a la carte’, you can simply preview and buy the tracks you like the best. This is very helpful when building playlists for club nights – you don’t need the whole album; just the cuts (damn it I TOLD myself I’d never call them that!) that will keep the dance floor buzzing and grooving. It becomes more and more rare that albums are purchased in full for this simple reason.
However, there comes a point where you’re listening to the track previews on an album and everything sounds great and you simply can’t choose the ‘best’ track, so you go all in and get the whole shebang. Here’s where I discovered something – any time I bought an album this year that I felt I would enjoy, it seemed like the individual tracks I played off of it would fall flat on the dance floor, or get skipped over on a mixtape. It’s like they were missing their friends that made it cooler by association. This is what inspired me to make this list – despite the album becoming a bit of a relic as digital music and streaming services become more and more the norm – sometimes listening to a piece of musical art from start to finish in the order that the artists intended the tracks to be heard and hearing how it all flows together is essential to the true appreciation of it. Sometimes the tracks simply belong together – either thematically, musically, or both – and don’t belong with anything else.
On the other hand – sometimes a track by itself stands out so well that it doesn’t even NEED any friends, like the awesome kid in school who got all the girls. It’s just like ‘look at how awesome I am’ and the dance floor loses its mind when it comes on even if they don’t know whose song it is or what the hell is even happening. Most of the time an artist recognizes this and puts out these tracks in the form of an EP with a few throw-in tracks, or more commonly just drops the single online - perhaps with a remix or two. There was a few standout songs this year released in this manner (i.e. NOT on LPs) that got some seriously heavy rotation in the Doktor’s office – either at the club or by my lonesome - that are also worth highlighting.
Obviously I didn’t hear EVERY album this year, nor EVERY single, so this list may not be a true ‘best of’ in any capacity, but these are my favorites and since I’m a guy on the internet I feel the need to share them with you. I’m sure you’re thinking SHUT UP ALREADY LET’S SEE WHAT YOU’VE GOT ON HERE SO I CAN DISAGREE WITH YOU.
Well – here goes! (FYI most of the links listed below are Bandcamp links to the albums/tracks – because Bandcamp rules.)
The Doktor’s Fave Five Prescribed Albums of 2016
5- Daniel Deluxe – Corruptor
Now, not to get into any genre debates or anything, but this falls more under a ‘darkwave’ or ‘synthwave’ banner, but it’s dark & electronic and it’s fucking AWESOME, so I wanted to give it a should out here. It’s very much an 80s retrowave vibe – right down to the awesome album art. This album sounds like the soundtrack to a crazy dystopian cyberpunk future that we never got. Heads up – it’s all instrumental with no lyrics and minimal samples, so it can get a bit repetitive, but it’s groovy as hell and totally worth it for the visuals it conjures up. Give it a listen if that sounds like it would be your thing. And if you don’t know it would be your thing, check it out and see if it would be your thing. I didn’t know it was a thing I’d like until I heard the thing, now it’s kind of my thing. Check out this thing!
4- Entrzelle – Total Progressive Collapse
Sometimes a record isn’t a revolutionary masterpiece or a musical breakthrough or even wholly original. Sometimes you just LIKE something for reasons that may not make sense to some. That was the case when I heard this album. Entrzelle is a band I hadn’t heard of before picking up a free Alfa Matrix sampler on Bandcamp; of all the bands I heard on there, they stood out the most to me. I picked up their newest full album and was not let down at all. It’s different enough to feel unique, but doesn’t stray too far from the EBM/Synthpop tropes we all know and mostly love. A little bit of Funker Vogt, a little bit of XP8, a little bit of Rotersand (not a bad set of bands to draw parallels to) – all done with a very epic and bold feel. The whole album invokes visions of an industrial musical film in the vein of ‘Repo: The Genetic Opera’. They describe themselves as “Explosive. Cinematic. Industrial.” – and I could not have said it better myself – this album is all of those things.
3- PIG – The Gospel
I was never the biggest fan of PIG – I always preferred Raymond’s work with Sascha & company in their 80s & 90s stint in KMFDM. Therefore, I was not prepared to buy this album or even enjoy it. But I did – on both accounts. Alluding to my earlier statement about an album vs. a collection of tracks; this record falls in the former by far. From the church bells at the beginning signifying the start of the Sermon of Swine from the Priest of Pork, through the classic crunchy 90s industrial guitar riffs and the Marilyn Manson-esque ballads, even continuing through a couple of tracks with a choir of Raymonds! The typical themes you’d expect from PIG are there – sin, drugs, and depravity – but the whole package is delivered as if we are sitting in the Church of PIG hearing what’s been on Watt’s mind for the last several years. As a rivithead born from the Ultra Heavy Beat, I really dug this record - it was the closest new music to that golden age of KMFDM that I grew up in, but it doesn’t feel dated like I expected it to.
2- Youth Code – Commitment To Complications
Now shit gets real. This is some straight up menacing music here. You’ll hear purists gripe about how industrial music used to be noisy and loud and blah blah Coil this and Skinny Puppy that. Youth Code – particularly on this sophomore release of theirs – embodies that and yet somehow modernizes it. It’s no coincidence that this was the only non ‘old school’ band that Haujobb, FLA, and Skinny Puppy took on tour a couple of years ago. The lyrics are demonic in delivery, cryptic and poetic; the music is unnerving yet tolerable. Listening to this album is like watching an art-house film – you don’t always understand what the fuck is happening and at times are straight-up appalled by it, but after it’s over you fucking LOVED it and want more. This whole record is an assault from start to finish; listen to it loud as hell – it will feel like you got in a fight with it after the record ends with an appropriate metallic SLAM. Great shit – you’ve got to hear this whole album if you haven’t already. DO NOT LISTEN TO INDIVIDUAL TRACKS LIKE I DID THE FIRST TIME!
1- Combichrist – This Is Where Death Begins
1- Kanga – Self Titled
I had no idea fully what to expect when I bought this album. I discovered Kanga as one of the artists providing a remix for Aesthetic Perfection’s ‘LAX’ release, so when I was poking around for new music I thought I’d give the album a try since I had heard literally NOTHING else of hers. And boy was I satisfied. I described Kanga to a friend as NIN meets Lorde, but I hate drawing parallels like that because I feel like it cheapens her as an original artist. What Kanga had put out for her FIRST record is nothing short of incredible. She captures so much raw energy and emotion in this relatively short album (45 minutes) and does so with some amazing production behind it – all while still having some dance floor appeal (important for a DJ!). It’s not often that you can make the Nine Inch Nails comparison and have it actually feel like it can even compare to Trent’s work, but here you have it. I got the same feeling listening to this album as I did the first time I heard Pretty Hate Machine over 20 years ago, and that album still remains one of my all time favorites, which is why I couldn’t justify putting anything above this as my favorite album of 2016 – sometimes it’s all about how something makes you FEEL. Jump on this if you haven’t yet – I think she’s going to blow up big (or as big as our scene tends to allow, anyway).
And, as promised, the Doktor’s Fave Five Individual Doses (tracks released as singles or on EPs)
5 – Shame – Faderhead (from the EP – The Universe Has Spoken)
Faderhead is always a fun conversation starter with people in ‘the scene’ – you truly either love or hate his music. In my situation, I’ve mostly enjoyed his stuff as it tends to get people on the dance floor, but there truly wasn’t much innovation or uniqueness to what he brought between albums. In my opinion, his EP The Universe Has Spoken changed what to expect from Faderhead going forward. I dug the HELL out of this track; groovy, dark pop hooks, and still danceable while seemingly evolving his sound to a more synthpop direction. If you hate his vocals, however, you will likely still hate this. Side note - I’ve spun this song at both industrial & non-industrial club nights and it got asses grooving both times. Give it a chance.
4- The Monster – William Control (from the EP – The Pale)
After seeing William Control open for Combichrist a few years ago, I gained an appreciation for his aesthetic – his whole ‘Neuromancer’ persona and his obvious love for the darker side of both life and music. Recently, he disbanded his dark emo band Aiden to focus solely on William Control and this EP is the first product of that. After hearing this track in particular, it was pretty obvious to me that we are going to get a much more fully realized version of what he is putting together musically. This track is bold and brassy, contains William’s trademark macabre lyrics, and manages to be both light and dark – very futurepop/VNV Nation influenced it seems. This particular track made me more of a fan of William Control and I will be very excited to hear a full release.
3- Love Like Lies – Aesthetic Perfection
I am a full-on self admitted whore for Daniel Grave’s music, and I would not complete a list of my favorite stuff in 2016 without some AP on it. With Grave’s decision to stick to releasing singles rather than albums going forward, there wasn’t a lot to choose from. It came down to LAX or this track, and after a lot of thought I went with Love Like Lies. It sounds to me like a mash-together of all of the recognizable bits peppered throughout AP’s discography –melodies strewn between throaty, angry vocals, heavy pop-influenced production, and a great dark groove backing the whole thing up, Reminds be a bit of one of my favorite Aesthetic Perfection songs “Inhuman”. If you’re not a fan of AP, this song will not change your opinion one bit, but I dug it so much I bought it on limited release CASSETTE TAPE. Don’t ask me why.
2- There Is No Water – Alter Der Ruine (free single)
RIP ADR. If you haven’t heard, Alter Der Ruine went on an indefinite hiatus earlier in 2016. Huge bummer, as they were really blossoming into something special. We will always have THIS song, which they released as a free single. I would have paid like $5 for this song. When the bass groove hits at the beginning, you’ll know right away how you feel about this jam. From there, it’s pretty typical ADR…until the GUITAR shows up. Then this track goes from synthpop/industrial jam to the funkiest Daft Punk-esque track I’ve ever dropped in a goth club. So unexpectedly awesome and it makes me miss this band even more already. Their last two albums are pretty great as well, but this track just rules. I can’t get enough of it.
1- Atrophy – 3Teeth
Oh, 3TEETH. What did we do to deserve your awesomeness? This song is brutal, heavy, crushing, and just AMPS me when I listen to it. It’s raw and angry and everything we’ve learned to love about 3TEETH from their first release, but it feels even MORE influenced by ‘Psalm 69’-era Ministry and early, angsty Marilyn Manson. This had to be the #1 pick for me this year – I owe most of my industrial music discovery to those 90s era industrial metal bands and it is SO cool that not only did the subgenre not die out, but it is being resurrected by the audio/visual assault that is 3TEETH. Listen to this song several times, get hyped for their sophomore album release next year, then hail our new industrial metal overlords.
And that concludes your appointment for today. Here’s to an awesome 2017 filled with even MORE great music! Feel free to leave me any comments or recommendations below – and have a happy new year!
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The Doktor's residency covers the Spokane side of Washington, where in addition to writing various industrial-related musings he performs sound surgery as DJ Doktor Reaktor of Elektro Grave Entertainment.