The Black Box: The First 13 Years – Review

Black Box: The First 13 Years

by Scott Hefflon

While many bands have altered the course of music history, few labels maintain such a high level of direction and intensity that their name is synonymous with an entire genre. To be considered the epitome of punk rock, hardcore, thrash, or grunge is to be king shit of an entire sub-cultural movement. That honor is rightfully bestowed upon Wax Trax! Records for defining the now over-used word INDUSTRIAL.

To quote the Black Box booklet: “Through the years, the definition of industrial has evolved from a convenient tag for experimental noise/music to an all-encompassing adjective describing anything with a mechanized sound or distorted vocal. Even though these parameters characterize most industrial music, they hardly envelop the vast array of artists who have at one time or another called Wax Trax! their label. This collection is an attempt to capture the essence, enthusiasm and sometime insanity which was and is Wax Trax! first thirteen years.”

The 76 page booklet summarizes a story from which even a die-hard fan will find new information. Famous for its side-projects, Wax Trax! seemingly has the limitless, international link up for pairings and grouping of big name, creative psychos. The list is so incredibly intricate, you’d need to study the booklet to get it. Suffice to say, whatever name it’s under, Wax Trax! releases the best crossovers of industrial, dance, house, techno, ambient noise, metal, hip-hop and cyberpop.

While the boxed set is painful to the budget of most average, under-paid music enthusiasts ($70 for the steel box, $46 for slipcase), the Black Box consists of three CDs (41 songs, 3.5 hours of music) and a 76 page, fully illustrated book. The steel box has lots of other great, gimmicky stuff, but there are only 10,000 numbered copies (minus one for me), so good luck finding that collectible. Before the unavoidable list of characters begins, it’s important to note that many of the tracks in the set are outtakes or remixes found only on 12″ or 7″ single collections you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to find. Save yourself the trouble – just buy the boxed set.

Here’s the list. Keep in mind, even if you don’t recognize the pseudo-band name, you’ll probably recognize its members. Revolting Cocks, Ministry, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, The KDF, 1000 Homo DJ’s (with Trent Reznor), Meat Beat Manifesto. The Young Gods, KMFDM, Front Line Assembly, Coil, Laibach, Pailhead, Pig, Excessive Force, Chris Connelly, Sister Machine Gun, Lead Into Gold, Psykosonik, Strike Under, Psychic TV, Doubting Thomas, Greater Than One, Mussolini Headkick, Fred, Divine, Hope & Kirk, Controlled Bleeding, In the Nursery, Foetus, A Split Second, Wreck, PIP, Cyberaktif, Clock DVA, Acid Horse, Pankow.