Industrial metal had its heyday in the 1990s, but rarely did an act bearing samplers and Marshall stacks ever deign to improve upon the template laid out by the likes of Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Godflesh at the tail end of the ’80s. And there were a lot of them—decked in fashion fit for henchmen in The Crow, navigating the mysterious triangle between Lollapalooza, underground raves and goth clubs, buying up all the real estate on Metropolis and Wax Trax! Records. The appeal, even for those who never came close to the conceptual ambition of The Downward Spiral, was easy to explain—punk rock angst with dancefloor-friendly BPMs, primal scream therapy with a hedonistic chaser. Which perhaps to some degree explains why that sound endures through artists such as Uniform, Author & Punisher and Street Sects, all of whom tap into an strangely paradoxical but nonetheless innate need to find indulgence and catharsis at once.
Black Magnet, the machine-metal project of Oklahoma City’s James Hammontree, made a similarly pleasurably punishing debut in September of 2020 with Hallucination Scene, in a strange coincidence arriving the same month as the similarly punishing debut by Arizona’s Realize. Steeped in Broadrick-ian menace and mechanistic bass-kick pulse, it introduced an uncompromising talent whose sophomore effort, Body Prophecy, only further refines and highlights the rare knack for hook-driven immediacy that makes Black Magnet feel unique even among an unusually strong crop of industrial metal bands today, let alone on revered extreme metal imprint 20 Buck Spin.
Largely cut from the same cloth as genre templates as Ministry’s The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and Nine Inch Nails’ Broken, Body Prophecy isn’t an act of redefining extremes, but rather finding new ground in something that worked pretty damn great the first time around. There’s as much Big Black post-hardcore punch as Godflesh apocalypse here—complete with a Broadrick remix added to the tracklist—and at their core these are steeped in as much post-punk groove as proper metal aggression. There’s a sense you could play any of these songs at a goth club now and they’d find a receptive audience, if not a justifiably enthusiastic one.
Every inch of Body Prophecy seethes and sneers, (almost) each of its 10 tracks throttled into the red with punishing guitar crunch and Hammontree’s frayed screams into the void. He covers a lot of ground within that relatively simple idea, whether pushing the riffs forward on opener “A History of Drowning” or letting his electronic beats do most of the talking on the ominous, if slightly more understated “Incubate.” There’s no shortage of antagonistic ear candy to go around, like in the jungle beats that erupt in “Violent Mechanix,” the eerie harmonics that drive “Floating In Nothing,” or the demonic dancefloor strut of “Body World.” At just over a half-hour, Black Magnet takes a breakneck approach to navigating this enjoyably harrowing labyrinth of loins-fluent noise while never breaking its hypnotic allure.
Black Magnet doesn’t attempt anything so vain as wholesale reinvention of industrial rock and likely wouldn’t make any such claims—”Last Curse” borrows a riff from Nine Inch Nails’ “Last,” for instance, and the unsubtle nod in the song’s title is Hammontree’s way of letting us in on the homage. The real revelation is the emphasis on the actual songs on Body Prophecy, which rip and roar and collapse and incinerate, but never without leaving an impression. If nostalgia does play a role here, it’s a fleeting impulse in what’s otherwise a commitment to further exploration of a potently dystopian sound through complementary contradictions of decadence and destruction. At its loudest, Body Prophecy is the most direct kind of noise therapy, but when a rift opens within its field of distortion, an even more bewitching kind of tension remains.
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.