Electronic body music (commonly abbreviated as EBM, also known as industrial dance music[5]) is a genre of electronic music that combines elements of industrial music with dance music.[6][7][3] It developed in the early 1980s in Germany and Belgium[7] and came to prominence at the end of the decade.[6] The style has been characterized by relentless, programmed electronic beats, repetitive bass lines, and sequenced instrumentation.[8] Typical EBM rhythms alternate between the 4/4 beats of disco and more abrasive rock-inspired backbeats.[8]

EBM was generally considered a part of the European new wave and post-punk movement and the first style that blended synthesized sounds with an ecstatic style of dancing (e.g. pogo).[9] In the second half of the 1980s, a youth-cultural scene emerged from EBM[10] whose followers describe themselves as EBM-heads or (in North America) as rivetheads.[11]



The term electronic body music was coined by Ralf Hütter of the German electronic band Kraftwerk in November 1977,[12] and later again in 1978 to explain the more physical sound of their album The Man-Machine.[13] "Body Music" had been used in 1972 by Robert Christgau to describe the amplified beat and art rock component of hard rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Mott the Hoople, Black Sabbath, and Slade: "Bands like Led Zep... make body music of an oddly cerebral cast, arousing aggression rather than sexuality."[14]

EBM stands for 'electronic body music', a term which only really came into use when the Brits and Belgians stepped into the 'sequencer business' with bands like Nitzer Ebb and Front 242. There you could find that sound again, where it was catchily picked up and labelled. In our days all these terms didn't exist, not 'industrial' nor 'post-punk'. [...] To us it was sequencer music, that was what we did. Nowadays people try to squeeze themselves into certain categories that back then didn't exist. We came up with the music first, and the labels came retrospectively.[15]

— Jurgen Engler of Die Krupps

In 1980/1981, DAF from Germany used the term "Körpermusik" (body music) to describe their danceable electronic punk sound.[16][17] The term was later used by Belgian band Front 242 in 1984[18] to describe the music of their EP of that year called No Comment,[19][20] using it alongside their preferred description "Electro Disco Terrorist Music."[21]


The EBM sound was derived from a combination of post-punk sources, including: the industrial music of Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle; the synthesizer-based tracks of New Order and Killing Joke; the work of DAF and Kraftwerk; and the Eurodisco dance sound pioneered by Giorgio Moroder.[8] Daniel Bressanutti of Front 242, who helped coin the term EBM to describe their music, named the synthesizer music of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze as additional influences along Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle's Chris Carter, the "extended rhythmic disco of [Giorgio] Moroder," and the punk scene.[22]



Emerging in the early 1980s, the genre draws heavily on the music of bands such as Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, DAF, Die Krupps,[23] Liaisons Dangereuses, Portion Control, danceable electropop of Kraftwerk, the "extended rhythmic disco of [Giorgio] Moroder,"[24][8] and krautrock.[2] Archetypes of the genre are tracks "Verschwende Deine Jugend" and "Der Mussolini" by Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, "Wahre Arbeit, Wahrer Lohn" and "Für einen Augenblick" by Die Krupps, "Etre assis ou danser" and "El Macho y la Nena" by Liaisons Dangereuses, and Body to Body and U-Men by Front 242.

Front 242 characterized their approach as somewhere between Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk.[20] Nitzer Ebb and Skinny Puppy, both influenced by DAF[25] and Cabaret Voltaire, followed soon after. Groups from this era often applied socialist realist aesthetics, with ironic intent.[26] Other prominent artists include Vomito Negro, Borghesia, The Neon Judgement,[27] à;GRUMH...,[28] A Split-Second,[29] and The Invincible Spirit.[30]


In the second half of the 1980s, the genre became popular in Canada (Front Line Assembly[31]) and the U.S. (Ministry,[32] Revolting Cocks,[33] Schnitt Acht[34]) as well as in Sweden (Inside Treatment, Pouppée Fabrikk, Cat Rapes Dog) and Japan (2nd Communication, DRP). North American bands started to use typical European EBM elements and combined them with the roughness of (hardcore) punk and thrash metal (cf. industrial metal). Nine Inch Nails continued the cross-pollination between EBM and rock music[35] resulting in the album Pretty Hate Machine (1989).

Meanwhile, EBM became popular in the underground club scene, particularly in Europe. In this period the most important labels were the Belgian Play It Again Sam and Antler-Subway, the German Zoth Ommog, the North American Wax Trax! and the Swedish Energy Rekords. At the time, significant artists included And One,[36] Armageddon Dildos,[37] Bigod 20,[38] Insekt,[39] Scapa Flow,[40] Orange Sector,[41] Attrition,[42] and Oil In The Eye.[43]

Between the early and the mid-1990s, many EBM artists split up, or changed their musical style, borrowing more distorted "industrial" elements or elements of rock or metal. The album Tyranny For You by EBM pioneers Front 242 initiated the end of the EBM epoch of the 1980s. Nitzer Ebb, one of the most important artists, became an alternative rock band. Without the strength of its figureheads, the original electronic body music faded by the mid-1990s.


In the late 1990s and after the millennium, Belgian, Swedish and German groups such as , Tyske Ludder, and Spetsnaz[44] had reactivated the style. In the same time period, a number of artists from the European techno scene started including more elements of EBM in their sound. This tendency grew in parallel with the emerging electroclash scene and, as that scene started to decline, a number of artists associated with it, such as The Hacker, DJ Hell,[45] Green Velvet, and Black Strobe,[46] moved towards this techno/EBM crossover style. There has been increasing convergence between this scene and the old school EBM scene. Bands and artists have remixed each other. Most notably, Terence Fixmer joined with Nitzer Ebb's Douglas McCarthy to form Fixmer/McCarthy.[47]


Industrial music sub-genres including power electronics follow the transgressive approach of industrial music (e.g. "demystification of symbols"[48]) and the use of provocative extreme imagery is common (e.g. Nazi paraphernalia;[49] reminiscent of punk's use of the swastika[50]). Appropriating far-left and far-right totalitarian, Fascist references, symbols, and signifiers has been a recurring topic of debate between fans and outsiders to the genre alike due to its stylistical ambiguity that stems from industrial music's contrarian nature.[51] In one instance, military-themed band Laibach "ma[de] no attempt to subvert this image [so] it has the aura of authenticity" so "[m]any Laibach fans began to revel in the evils of the band and to take their stage act at face value."[51]

Within the larger gothic scene continuum, the so-called "dark society," with festivals all over the United States and the United Kingdom, fashion includes the wave style (wide clothes, spiky shoes, Mohawk-style hair, approaching a military look), medieval/romantic style (Victorian and Edwardian fashion-inspired), the "common" style (black clothes), and the fetish style (latex, sexually provocative, sometimes incorporating a sexualized Nazi aesthetic[50]). Highlighting contrast with makeup; wearing a white face with black eyeliner, lipstick, and nail polish is common.[52]

Compared to more feminine-leaning androgynous Gothic styles, classic military style has a "part-human part-machine" gestalt typical of transhumanist or cyberpunk movements. EBM asserts a hyper-masculine image of "triumphalism, combat postures, and paranoia,"[53] and is known for its "tough-guy" or machismo attitudes displayed by both men and women.[54] According to Gabi Delgado-López of Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, the duo who adopted an aesthetic of black leather and military paraphernalia in the early 1980s was inspired by the male homosexual sado-masochistic scene and is not meant to represent "machismo ideology" but part of a "role."[55]

Derivatives and alternative terms


Electro-industrial is an outgrowth of the EBM and industrial music that developed in the mid-1980s. While EBM has a minimal structure and clean production, electro-industrial has a deep, complex and layered sound, incorporating elements of ambient industrial. The style was pioneered by Skinny Puppy, Front 242 and Front Line Assembly. In the early '90s, the style spawned the dark electro genre, and in the end of the decade a strongly techno- and hard-trance-inspired style called "hellektro" or "aggrotech".

Industrial dance

Industrial dance is a North American alternative term for electronic body music, which is also used for electro-industrial music as well. Fans associated with this music scene call themselves rivetheads.

In general, "industrial dance" is characterized by its "electronic beats, symphonic keyboard lines, pile-driver rhythms, angst-ridden or sampled vocals, and cyberpunk imagery".[56][57]

Since the mid-1980s,[58] the term "industrial dance" has been used to describe the music of Cabaret Voltaire (early 1980s),[59][60] early Die Krupps,[61] Portion Control,[62] The Neon Judgement,[61] Clock DVA,[63] Nitzer Ebb,[64][65] Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly,[66][67][68] Front 242,[57][61][65][69] Ministry,[70] KMFDM,[71][72][73] Yeht Mae,[63] Meat Beat Manifesto, Manufacture,[74] Nine Inch Nails,[75][70][76] My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult,[77] Leæther Strip[78] or early Spahn Ranch.[79]

In March 1989, Spin Magazine presented a one-paged article about the industrial dance movement in Canada and the U.S.[74]

See also


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