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In 1992, Ministry made their ultimate breakthrough album with Psalm 69. While the band delivered some of the earliest examples of industrial metal back in the late 80's, Psalm 69 cemented itself as THE essential industrial metal album. The album blended the gritty atmosphere of the aforementioned genre with the speed and aggression of thrash metal, resulting in an instant classic in my book.
Fast-forward four years later, the band dropped Filth Pig. Filth Pig takes quite a different approach to the thrash-oriented industrial metal sound of the previous two albums. This album rather goes in the sludgy direction of fellow industrial metal pioneers Godflesh. Just take a listen to the groovy dirge of "Lava" and you'll see what I mean. Al Jourgensen's vocals are even more raspy this time around, his stark vocals contrast well with the grit of the music. "Crumbs" follows in the same mid-paced sludgy direction, with a bit more crashing percussion and dissonance. Paul Barker gets a short but neat little deep bassline in the middle of the song, which contrasts well with the almost black metal-dissonance that immediately follows.
The crushing "Dead Guy" may very well be my favorite on the album. Jourgensen's vocal attack on this track just bursts with attitude. The crunching bass/guitar interplay that opens up the track is absolutely killer. The following track, "Game Show" is a lot more misanthropic with downwards chromatic guitar licks and an atmosphere that expresses a strong sense of doom. Granted, most of the album does have a very stark gloomy atmosphere.
While not quite in the same league as The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste or Psalm 69, Filth Pig is a great album that showed the band trying something a bit different. The album title certainly fits, as I can't think of much else that fits the definition of filthy industrial metal quite like this one.
This was the first album by the band that I ever saw in stores, and the striking album artwork made me wonder what kind of band Ministry was (at the time I was 15 and into very different genres) but I never got around to doing so. I finally listened to it this year, after going through TMIATTTT and Psalm 69, two albums I immediately enjoyed, and arrived to Filth Pig with high expectations. Those expectations were pretty much crapped on after one listen, for this is not the brutal Ministry from before or after. I happen to also love sludge and slow tempo stuff, but not with the name Ministry attached to it. It was a new direction for the band, and it wasn't a good one.
Musically speaking, nothing seems to be missing here: mechanical sounds, screaming distorted vocals, layers over layers of noise, all key ingredients to the Ministry sound. It's just that here, they're all controlled, almost harmless. Like they all took the biggest chill pill and recorded the album in the wake of its effects. It seems Al Jourgensen was sharing some of his downers with the rest of the band while recording Filth Pig...
Not everything is negative though, it has its good moments. The drums are not spectacular but they work well (I love them in "Dead Guy"), and the guitar work of Mike Scaccia -may he rest in peace- has always been dear to me. Uncle Al's lyrics are vicious and full of hate, and they have some brilliant passages ("You wanna lie like a dog/You're gonna wake up with fleas" -from "Reload") and some incomprehensible gibberish ("Lava"). But after several listens, the album as a whole is not a memorable one, and even though repetitiveness is par for the course in the industrial genre, when you mix that with a slow tempo, it turns into a droning, hypnotizing and boring affair. You're always left awaiting the pummeling onslaught of noise that we kind of expect from the band, but it only comes in small doses.
Filth Pig was a commercial failure when it came out, and I can see why: the band wanted to go in a more mainstream direction, away from the industrial foundations of their previous work, and a clear indicator of this was the cover of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" used as the album's torchbearer (it's an interesting, trippy version for sure, I was never a fan of the original). In the end, it didn't work out the way they wanted. To me, this album has 3 great songs, 2 decent ones and the rest is completely toothless and forgettable.
Ministry would stumble again with their next album, Dark Side of the Spoon, until finally regaining their heavy, dirty and distorted footing with their 2003 album Animositisomina.
Highlights: "Lava", "Dead Guy", "Brick Windows".
This album is near and dear to my heart, for one reason or another. It was a transition album into the “darker” genres of music, and a favorite in late-night drugscapades. Plus I have a t-shirt (with the cover artwork) that is just about shredded with age, and have gotten many a great comment on it. My favorite was a little kid in the Bronx, who saw the shirt and said, “look mommy, that guy’s got spaghetti on his head!” His mother halfheartedly agreed and quickly moved the child away from me. So forgive me for going a bit too in-depth here, as this piece of plastic is something I’m more intimate with than your grandmother – which is pretty damn intimate indeed.
All that schmaltz aside, “Filth pig” was a big album for Ministry. Their cover of Dylan’s “Lay lady lay” made it onto alternative radio. At the time the term alternative conjured up something radical and different and cool. I was 14, if that helps you understand my frame of mind. Alternative radio would play things that basically broke down into three categories:
One-hit Blunders: Everclear and Seven Mary Three (I know, who da fuck?)
Obnoxious Stalwarts: Dave Matthews Band (I hate those bastards) and Pearl Jam (hate them for no real reason other than bad Morrison-ripoff vocalist)
Cool, Metal/Industrial Motherfuckers: White Zombie and Nine Inch Nails
You can guess where Ministry fit in. That’s right, the DMB category! Wrong, dumbshit. Yep, “Lay lady lay” was edgy enough to be alternative, but quite palatable by Ministry standards. Sure, “Jesus built my hotrod” was on the radio, but not as constantly. And they had a video for it (which sucked)! Alien Jorgenson moved more toward a groovy, somewhat post-rock approach to the industrial metal he had helped invent. Gone are the pounding, sample-heavy tracks of the past. Hello more fleshed out, organic SONGS that sound less cut and paste. And he started using clean vocals again, but of course had them distorted to hide the fact that he sounds like a whiny bitch when he “sings.” Distorted clean vocals, you say? Isn’t that somewhat of an oxymoron? Fuck you, I reply.
Does that mean “Filth pig” is better than the albums that came before it? Well, a record composed of chimps giving each other the shocker (two in the pink, one in the chimpy stink) would be better than the synth-pop stuff Ministry was putting out in the mid-80’s. As a whole it is more listenable but less evilly abrasive than “Land of rape…”, but less stuffed with great tracks than “Psalm 69.” So kind of in the middle. The reason it is kind of in the middle is because of the songs that are kind of in the middle of da pig. Some are tedious, some are just a bit too weird for most. “Useless,” “Crumbs,” and the title track tend to drone on and hurt the brain. “The Fall” and “Game show” are long and odd, like a trollpenis. Not bad, mind you, but not an everyday listen and not everyone’s cup of trollpenis extract.
Where “Filth pig” shines is its tracks filled with chunky, malicious, and almost stoner groove. “Lava” has a riff that could sink a battleship with low vox that grumble along in a Southern fashion. “Dead guy” is another awesome track with great lyrics (from what I can make out). “Reload” is a violent opener with some of the chunk intact, but is short and sweet and mean. The aforementioned “Lay lady lay” is a cool psychedelic take on the original and deserved to be the single, and the final track “Brick windows” does a nifty job of merging the experimental side with the industrial groove. And there’s decipherable lyrics to boot! Fantastic, sayeth I.
So there you have it. On an overall scale, there’s only 5 excellent tunes out of ten. Which makes scoring the album on a scale of ten really easy. Half-quality half-not wouldn’t normally justify a great score, but somehow “Filth pig” really works well as a whole. So that adds a point. Plus, nostalgia adds a point. And the cover art, nifty American flag design on the disc, and my torn up shirt adds another. Plus, everyone thought it was me on the shirt (why, I don’t know), but I won’t add anything for that.
I forgot to mention the production and the playing of particular instruments. Oh well. The production is quite good, and it is a Ministry album, so take the various instrumental positions for what you will.
That leaves “Filth pig” with a grand total of… drum roll please... 8 out of 10
Originally posted at www.globaldomination.se