Review Summary: Sadly underrated album that rewards repeated listens.Filth Pig
is very much the dark sheep of the exceptionally dark Ministry canon. As one reviewer close to here (go find) baldly states, “Due to heroin problems the band had a very uninspired output in the 90’s….. with Filth Pig
and The Dark Side of the Spoon
considered disappointments by just about everyone.” A bold opinion indeed, but one likely shared by many weaned on the pummelling electro infused industrial that the band had been developing since the left turn of The Land of Rape and Honey
This album was always one that was going to prove divisive, as it was the follow up to what can only be called (in Ministry terms) the smash hit success of Psalm 69: The way to succeed & the way to suck eggs
in 1992, which went to #27 on the Billboard charts. That release helped crystallise the growing popularity of industrial metal, which was to then be taken to the next level by the explosion of Nine Inch Nails and The Downward Spiral
two years later.
Much was written and documented about the struggles of Trent Reznor to come to terms with his success and create the follow up to The Downward Spiral
, and this parallels the struggles of Al Jourgenson and Paul Barker in creating their own follow up. Both Filth Pig
and The Fragile
were relative commercial failures, but this does not mean either were creative failures. While recording Filth Pig
, long time drummer Bill Rieflin left half way through, and heroin (plus assorted other soft and hard drugs) assumed an increasingly important role in the band’s day to day affairs. There was therefore plenty of personal and creative tension to go around in the Ministry camp, and this helped them to create the most dense and dark album of their career to date.
Gone are the razor sharp guitars and hammering industrial snare of yore, and with them the layered but crystal clear production found in previous outings. In their place we find layers of crackling, rippling industrial fug that lies thickly over most of the record, giving the whole exercise a dirty, backstreet, down-and out feeling. It is almost as if Al Jourgenson went on a four year binge on crack and gasoline, and woke up to find this music on his tongue before reaching for the industrial grade mouthwash. The production has little warmth, combining tinny gated guitars, crunchy doom laden riffing, and a truly crushing and rumbling bottom end courtesy of a rejuvenated Paul Barker (who deserves his place right back at the forefront of the mix). At times it feels like Ministry are channelling Godflesh at their grinding, inhuman best, but there is no mistaking, despite the production, that there is a real organic soul to the record.
While Psalm 69
relied on fast and repetitive snare shots and some thudding programmed beats, Filth Pig
achieves some real groove, due in the most part to some great acoustic drumming by Rey Washam, who came into the process after the exit of Bill Rieflin. Compare Rieflin’s mechanical efforts on Lava
to Washam’s fills that bring Dead Guy
and Game Show
to life to make sense of the difference. The acoustic drumming is just one other way that Ministry were to confound expectations with this album, and show fans eager for Psalm 69 II
that they would go their own way.
provides the beating heart of the album, and perfectly illustrates many of the great things about this record. There is a tense, staccato build up of dry riffs, before the song explodes into technicolour with its dramatic choral fall into despair. The power and layering of the guitars is breathtaking, and the subsequent layering of screeching feedback into an ethereal sonic mosaic sends shivers up the spine. The most telling thing, though is that like most of the album, the song is based around a few simple, churning riffs, played at dirge-like pace, yet is never seems to drag, and when the final loops of feedback ring into the ether, you are left wanting more.
Ministry have an astonishing knack of taking the seemingly mundane, and adding those perfect touches, overlays and flourishes that bring it to life. Whether it is the more obvious reverberating piano cascades the take over mid way through The Fall
, or the trail of feedback that seeps from the end of the solos in Dead Guy
, they execute these touches brilliantly. Occasionally, as with Useless
, despite the eventual addition of a gritty guitar harmony and some creepy falsetto backing vocals, the plodding riff will already have bored you enough to flick to the next track. However, they generally tease out and develop tracks at a pace that draws you in further, much like the small variations in When the levee breaks
that make it a fascinating, rather than monotonous experience.
Songs like Reload, Dead Guy
riff hard enough to tempt metalheads of that persuasion into a vigorous flurry of coordinated head and neck movements, whilst Filth Pig, Game Show
and the dramatic and impressive The Fall
lure you into their web more slowly, before their atmosphere puts you into a trancelike state. Then, just when you feel you have the album figured out, up pops a cover of Bob Dylan’s gentle, country-tinged classic Lay Lady Lay
, which retains the whistful chord progression of the original (plus the acoustic guitar strumming), before making the chorus soar upwards with a glorious lead line that Dylan himself should consider incorporating into his own version if he has a mind to take it to the stage again.
In the same vein as The Fragile
, and even Angel Dust
, Ministry released an album that broke with the successful blueprint of their previous outing, and were chastised and even ignored by many as a result. However, they created an album that melds doomy, low bottom riffs with subtle and sometimes spectacular industrial flourishes, which strikes deep at a mood of frustration and darkness that you might not even know you had, and leaves you wondering at the twisted geniuses that were able to pull it all together. Ministry, I salute you, and let the rehabilitation of the Filth Pig