Consequence’s Industrial Week continues with a look at how the genre influenced film in the 1990s and beyond. Keep up with all of our Industrial Week content, including our Best Industrial Albums of All Time list, and check back for more lists, artist-curated features, essays, and more.
Most genres of film inspire a certain sound: You think of a Western, and Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly theme echoes in your head. Imagine a romantic comedy, and Etta James’ “At Last” comes to mind.
And as industrial music broke into the mainstream in the 1990s, it coincided with a growing trend in the world of film. Directors have used this medium for years to tell stories about dark futures for humanity, from 1927’s iconic Metropolis to Stanley Kubrick’s equally iconic A Clockwork Orange (1971). However, filmmakers like Alex Proyas, the Wachowskis, and even Steven Spielberg found themselves turning to industrial artists and industrial sounds in their depictions of dystopias, ultimately infusing the two genres together.
In discussing this, you really have to start with The Matrix (1999), because Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s genre-defining classic didn’t just blow our minds, but delivered a platinum-selling soundtrack. Starring Keanu Reeves as the unexpected savior of a human race unaware it’s been enslaved by “the machines,” the film blends an awe of technology with a healthy fear of it, which is why the hard electronic sounds of Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” or Ministry’s “Bad Blood” prove to be such a natural fit for the world of the story.
The Matrix didn’t come out of nowhere, either — while the Wachowskis had a singular vision, the aesthetic they invoked was similar to films released earlier in the decade. Proyas’ cult favorite The Crow (1994) is set in a city on the brink of complete collapse, its grimy crime-filled streets making it all the more appropriate that bands like NIN and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult are featured in the soundtrack — in fact, the film features a performance from the actual members of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, all the better to enhance the film’s tragic story and violent action.
The Crow wasn’t the only bleakly-themed film of the era that looked to the world of industrial music. The soundtrack for the Michael Jai White-starring Spawn literally emulated the genre by pairing bands including Metallica and Korn with producers such as The Crystal Method and Orbital, creating a completely original album infused with that sound. And maybe one of the most notable uses of industrial music in film is the 1995 Mortal Kombat — its tone and aesthetic are very much in line with these films, in part thanks to The Immortals’ “Techno Syndrome” kick-punching pure unfiltered industrial dance beats at the audience.