Tuesday Ten: 027: Crossing Boundaries

For this week's Tuesday Ten, I'm looking at the idea of bands who have successfully brought together disparate genres into their sound. There are likely many more bands that have done this other than the ones I have come up with (it was a difficult list to create, frankly), and other suggestions are welcome.


The longest-lived band on this list, so probably the best place to start. To start with Primal Scream were nominally an "indie" band, but all that changed with the release of Loaded and the seminal album Screamadelica – by no means the first album to mix "indie" and elements of the emerging "rave" scene, but it was by some distance the most successful merging of these two disparate scenes. Ironically following the release of that they went backwards, churning out an album of 60s rock, before moving headlong back into more electronic fields, working with a myriad of different artists to get the sound they wanted – and over the years they have continued to evolve and include a variety of different influences.

Another long-lived band, but from a totally different musical sphere. They started out as little more than a competent death metal band (but using samples and unusual effects), but all that changed when they allowed Rhys Fulber from Front Line Assembly to remix tracks from the album, resulting in a sound that was totally different to what they had done before. This evolution continued into follow-up album Demanufacture, where they created an extraordinary fusion of Industrial and Death Metal, with more melodic touches and some highly technical musicianship. Oddly enough, they never touched these heights again, and indeed the industrial influences only decreased on subsequent releases.

Another band mixing industrial and extreme metal are Psyclon Nine. To start with they were just another "harsh industrial" band, but their latest album Crwn Thy Frnictr unveiled as starkly different image. Along with a forbidding, dark atmosphere created by electronics that sound like little that their peers have been releasing, there was also the shock of two black-metal tracks underpinned by blastbeats and guitars – that somehow sounded like the work of the same band, and felt like a natural progression.

Talking of natural progressions, how no-one realised before that merging guitars and vicious breakcore was a good idea is beyond us. Or maybe it is the execution: the album Grist is an astonishing merging of samples of various grindcore, hardcore and metal bands (we've identified The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, Deftones, Botch, Pig Destroyer at least) with a sheer avalanche of breaks and beats that barely lets up for it's 35-minute running time. More please, and as soon as possible!

Drumcorps weren't the first "band" to merge grindcore with electronics, though – The Berzerker came to prominence after releasing a "remix" of a Morbid Angel track that tore the original to bits and made it sound really rather different. Still, the first Berzerker album pushed the envelope even further, with brutal riffs underpinned by gabba-level beats. When they started playing live, it was even more amazing to see that they had a drummer who could actually drum that fast, too. Like many other bands, they never quite kept up the initial intensity, but still remain one of the most extreme bands in existence.

One (well, two, but related) last band to mention in the metal-sphere. Dub War made a big noise some years back with a still-unique cross of metal and ragga that gained them an awful lot of fans, before record label issues scuppered them. Lead singer Benji then resurrected his sound under the Skindred guise, which while going to great lengths to emphasise that this was a new band, was very much in the same sonic realms. Many would think that these two genres cannot mix at all, but it is perhaps testament to how good – and how forward thinking – these bands are and were in how well they do mesh together.

Well, actually, there is one last band who has crossed over to gain acceptance from metalheads. And they come from a slightly unexpected background – classical music. Three classically-trained cellists got together, released an album of Metallica covers, and their sound clearly struck a chord, as their stature has grown ever since. Nowadays they use more than just cellos – when we saw them live they were also using a drummer – and indeed have also got in guest vocalists and instrumentalists at various points, too. Still a truly unique band, they have perhaps even had some influence on the band they originally covered – would S&M have ever happened if Apocalyptica hadn't covered Metallica?

While not the first band to merge industrial and hip-hop/rap (Consolidated have been doing similar for years), Stromkern remain the only band that I can think of that are making any waves at all producing music linking these two disparate genres. Their skill in this has been shown by a steady stream of killer singles, and a couple of dancefloor fillers (in particular the now-dancefloor staple Stand Up).

Another industrial band that made much of their career from adding unexpected influences is Spahn Ranch, a band who are now also sadly long-defunct. Nominally industrial/EBM (call it what you want), they added house and dub influences to striking effect, making their sound instantly recognisable as theirs. They were – and still are – a true "marmite" band, too – generally you either love or hate what they do.

The final band is one of the most enigmatic bands of recent years. Nominally lumped into the "post-rock" scene (mainly because I don't think the music press could really pigeonhole them anywhere else), they were "post-rock" only in terms of being instrumental. Otherwise, their "songs" (more movements, frankly – each track often had two, three or four named sections) were extended into almost classically-structured movements with a really quite cinematic feel, also. Their strong political viewpoint was also somehow shown by the liner notes to their albums, the causes they supported and their strong use of the internet, too.

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