Nine Inch Nails – The Hand That Feeds
Common musical elements of industrial rock consist of heavy distortion droning riffs and a brick-wall of sounds from noisy guitars. The use of heavy distorted guitars, violent vocals and large dense drum kits are very common within this genre, and are constructed to sound brute and harsh. The specific use of instruments such as guitars, drums and vocals means that they are limited in terms of musical experimentation but the extensive use of processing to these individual instruments provides the timbre and sonic characteristic to the genre.
For example the use of distortion and the introduction of bit-crush on the palm muted guitars, synths and the hi-hats introduces a layer of high frequency noise and also degrades the signal to the point where it pierces through the mix. Having more high end presence, evokes excitement and energy into the songs as the song slowly introduces high-passes its way in. The aesthetics of harsh noise and distorted signals can be said to contrasts that of mainstream music such as pop by being somewhat flawed but at the same time embracing those flaws to bring in more alternative crowds who do not.
The use of synthesizers are also common within this genre with the use of basic low frequency oscillators to thicken the sound up or piercing saw wave arpeggios to bolster the high end energy from the electric guitars. The use of a signal generated white noise is also used to give energy to the track and further add more abrasive characteristics such as the hi-hats.
The use of a very brick-walled compression settings on the percussions also introduces a certain dynamic intent where the constant drive of the drums is similar to that of a war drum. The toms and kicks are tuned to be low and punchy and this sort of sound compliments the other heavy sounds from the guitars and the synths. The use of four to the floor playing evokes certain reactions into the audience such as danger, aggression, conflict, tension and can be similiar to the driving force of a marching beat.
Lyrically,”The Hand That Feeds” is a verbal attack on the United States Government, specifically the Bush Administration and its foreign policy, but can be interpreted as speaking out against abusive authority in general. Following the lyrical intent of the song, the use of harsh vocals and screaming are prominent in this genre since it reflects the anti establishment attitude of the song and also compliments the distorted guitars and large drum kit. The vocals in this song also feature delay and reverb to differentiate between the dry instrumentations in the background.
High And Dry – Radiohead
The definition of High and Dry simple equates to being left helpless in a situation because you aren’t given something you need or were promised. The sombre feeling of the song goes well with this message as the song primarily features a very minimalistic production style with clean guitars, washed out percussions and a sombre tone for the vocals.
However, most Radiohead songs have a surface meaning, and then a deeper hidden or even an almost unintentional meaning which seems to reflect the depressing and cruel state of society and the way it has moulded people. The contrast between the heavy distorted guitar and the clean acoustic guitar can be said to be a reflection of this message as the clean guitars have a very pure and honest sound to them while the distorted guitar can be a reflection on anger,hate or even anxiety. These distorted guitars only appear on the chorus of the track and can be said to contrasts between the more sombre tone of the verses while the chorus can be used as a release of all the built up tensions that this track has progressed into. These jumps in contrast calms the listener and signals whatever conflict or event that had just happened has subsided and the use of a reverb tail to indicate the end of the song can be said to indicate a resolution and hope.
High and Dry can also be interpreted as how a person can be shaped by what other people want them to be. With the best intentions, you “turn into something you are not”. For a while, if you’re good, you can appear to be everything expected. This blends well with the overall aesthetic of the track as the song as it utilizes a minor chord progression with a few major chords which creates a facade between of being a hopeful but at the same time a haunting and sad look into social and cultural norms.
The vocals mainly employ a very dry production technique as there is a minimal use of post processing such as reverb, delays and compression. This very dry use of processing gives the track a honest tone to his voice as if untouched by any sort of post processing and coloration done in most tracks of this genre with the use of washed out vocals and pitch correction.