Belgian Johan van Roy has had one of the longest careers in electro-industrial music, rising from humble beginnings in the '80s EBM scene to become a figurehead of the genre. Part of the same movement that birthed Front 242, van Roy started Suicide Commando as a one-man band in 1986, releasing his first demo tape two years later. Self-promotion throughout the late '80s and early '90s led to a deal with Off Beat and an official label debut, Critical Stage, in 1994. Suicide Commando scored several club hits off the first album, so when the second effort Stored Images was issued the following year, van Roy found himself with a bigger following, leading to a tour. More dance club hits came in 1998 with the release of Construct/Destruct.
His initial efforts were raw, but created the blueprint for what would become his signature sound: sinister melodies and bludgeoning, mechanistic, militaristic beats, topped with harsh, distorted, stage-whisper vocals. It was a sound that would be copied by hundreds of artists in the decades to come. While peers like Front 242 stuck to the resolutely live, old-school EBM sound, van Roy began to incorporate computer programming more and more into his work, as well as numerous samples from sci-fi and horror films. This, combined with his increasing musical competence, culminated in the trance- and techno-influenced style that would come to be known as "hellektro" or "aggrotech." This style is exemplified on 2000's Mindstrip, his debut for Dependent, a label he co-founded. It was also his first album to be distributed in the U.S., via Metropolis. The albums Axis of Evil (2003) and Bind, Torture, Kill (2006) continued the trend. While he lost fans of his early work, he gained many more, with most of his singles becoming huge club hits.
A new era began with his signing to Out of Line and the release of Implements of Hell in 2010. An increased studio budget led to a much more massive, almost symphonic sound, further explored on 2013's When Evil Speaks and 2017's Forest of the Impaled — which gave him his biggest hit to date, going in at number 28 on the German album chart. Single titles like "Severed Head," "Die Motherfucker Die," and "The Pain That You Like" give a good idea of where van Roy is coming from. His nasty, ultra-nihilistic worldview and lyrical bent never varied much from album to album; serial killers were a common theme — Dennis Rader on Bind, Torture, Kill; Albert Fish on Implements of Hell — but his unflinching exploration of the dark side of human nature, combined with the intense, dancefloor-focused music in which it was packaged, gained him new fans with each subsequent generation to discover the dark scene. ~ John D. Buchanan & MacKenzie Wilson