Myth: The term EBM was coined by Front 242.
Myth: The term EBM was coined by :wumpscut:.
Fact: The term EBM was coined by Kraftwerk. Yes, you heard me right, Kraftwerk. That Kraftwerk.
Unfortunately, I can't find the document that I got this information from. It was somewhere on "The Industrial Page", which no longer seems to exist. But if anyone knows of it's whereabouts, please /msg me!
Now that that's out of the way... EBM stands for "Electronic Body Music." No one is completely sure what this means, and needless to say, what Kraftwerk meant by it is pretty different from what it is today. Obviously, EBM is electronic music. The inclusion of "Body" implies that it will move your body, and that the idea is for it to take control of you, make you a part of it. And sometimes it does.
Since almost no one knows of the Kraftwerk/EBM connection, we'll just leave that, and go on to modern EBM.
Modern EBM actually was, for all intents and purposes, started by Front 242 back in the mid-80s. Industrial music, to this point, was pretty much weird sounds, bizarre noises, magickal rituals, and construction work. Front 242 took the modernity (and postmodernity) expressed by all of this, and added a dance beat to it. The world they created was a dark one, full of war, maurading record executives, and mirrorshades. Despite William Gibson's love of darker rock like Joy Division, and Neal Stephenson's preference for speed metal, this could be the soundtrack of cyberpunk.
It was a time of buzzcuts, combat boots, and BDUs. Ronan Harris comments on his song Afterfire in the liner notes of Advance and Follow v2:
"Written at a time when the essential ingredient in EBM was testosterone. This track bears the closest resemblance to the early club tracks from 89/90 electronic orchestrations, cyber designer violence and beats. A reviewer described it as "typical British EBM." No review has made me laugh as much since."
Since then, EBM has pretty much split into two catergories: noisy and melodic. The noise group includes bands like :wumpscut:, Suicide Commando, Hocico, and Velvet Acid Christ. The only thing that really distinguishes them from the more mainstream industrial is that their music is mostly (if not entirely) electronic, instead of guitar based, although all of the above slip in a sampled heavy metal guitar loop or two once in a while.
On the melodic side, we have, essentially, the futurepop bands: Covenant, Apoptygma Berzerk, VNV Nation, Cleen/Cleaner/Clear Vision (hopefully someday he'll stick with a name for more than two albums), Icon of Coil, Echo Image, De/Vision, Mesh, and Angels & Agony.
Of course, not everyone can be pigeonholed like this: Haujobb is probably the most innovative EBM band out there, bringing in elements of IDM and Drum & Bass (their singer, Daniel Myer, is a D&B DJ, in addition to his work as Haujobb and the band formerly known as Cleen), :wumpscut: has many incredibly beautiful songs, contrasting the anger and hatred found in much of his music, Seabound is fairly undescribable, and Funker Vogt combines the distorted vocals and anger of the noiser EBM with the dancy beats and almost trance-like music of the melodic bands.
Now for a metanode!
If you feel I'm missing anything, or have anything to add to this list, /msg me!
Credit where credit is due: first of all, mad props to enth for suggesting I write a history of EBM. Thanks and glitter to Kesper_North who noticed that I hadn't closed a tag properly. Lastly, this writeup is dedicated to InsaneFuzzie, who I was talking to over ICQ as I was writing this, and who was wondering just what the hell EBM is when I mentioned it, and wants to check it out now. :)