Thought Industry – Mods Carve The Pig: Assassins, Toads And God’s Flesh (1993 – Metal Blade Records)
— Daterape Cookbook
— Smirk the Godblender
– To Build a Better Bulldozer
2013 marks the twenty-year anniversary of the release of Thought Industry’s Mods Carve the Pig: Assassins, Toads and God’s Flesh. It was an album that was so ahead of its time that’s there’s still really nothing that sounds like it. Take the abrasive, confrontational nature of Ian McKay and Minor Threat, mix it with a bit of Primus’ penchant for off-kilter rhythms and cool basslines, combine that with a little alt. rock and then mix the whole thing with stream-of-consciousness lyrics about drug abuse, murder, drunk & disorderly fun and plenty of other similar topics and you’re on the right track. Even with that description, you’re not going to get the entire picture. The final track, ‘To Build a Better Bulldozer’, is an instrumental that sounds like Cynic mixed with Primus. Don’t take my word for it, though, check out the posted songs and then get the album at the Metal Blade Web Store.
Thought Industry were a band out of Kalamazoo, Michigan that played a very strange version of progressive metal. Their initial demo was released under the name Desecrator, and was a strange hybrid of old-school Rush, John Arch-era Fates Warning and a bit of Metallica’s heaviness but it barely hinted at where the band would eventually end up. By the time they changed their name to Thought Industry and released their second demo, their sound was starting to take a more recognizable form. It was basically a progressive punk version of Metallica, but the band still weren’t satisfied. By the time of their debut, Songs for Insects, the band had moved even further into their own sound by building their songs around crazy rhythms and time changes that were delivered through a punk, metal and industrial package — mixed with a Mr. Bungle-ish sense of anything goes.
That still wasn’t good enough, though. For the band, Metallica style riffs and rhythms were still too normal; regardless of the fact that they were augmented by punk, industrial and breakneck changes. Thus, Mods Carve the Pig, was released in 1993. It dropped the overt metal influences and conventions and traded them for an abrasive sound that can only be called ‘progressive’ . The rhythms and structures were more alt. rock than metal at their foundation, but the breakneck changes were still present and the rhythmic strangeness had been increased 10-fold. This would be the last album by the band that could truly be considered ‘heavy’ and was also the final one to feature original drummer Dustin Donaldson.
The band’s third album, Outer Space is Just a Martini Away, marked a seismic shift in musical direction for the band. It dropped any pretense of heaviness and moved in a punky alt. rock direction that was still progressive and quirky, just different. This is the album that began the revolving door of musicians as all of the originals slowly moved on, eventually leaving Brent Oberlin as the sole founding member. Some have described this as kind of a Pixies meets Fugazi while on acid kind of vibe — the description fits.
By the time Black Umbrella was released, original guitarist Christopher Lee had already left to pursue other musical endeavors — with second guitarist Paul Enzio leaving shortly after its release. If Outer Space is a Martini Away was the acid trip, then Black Umbrella is the regretful morning after. It is easily the band’s most conventional and depressing album. The strange lyrics had been replaced with tales of alcoholism and regret, and the random effects that had always been a part of the band’s sound had totally been dismissed. It still retained a bit of the band’s quirky personality, but it was definitely done in a subdued, stripped down alt. rock style.
The band’s final album, Short Wave on a Cold Day, ditched the depressing, stripped down alt. rock of its predecessor in favor of an atmospheric, synth-laden, alt. rock sound that definitely shares a little bit with Ok Computer-era Radiohead without being an imitation. This album is largely considered the best of the band’s albums (not featuring the entire original line-up).