Review Summary: This malicious debut album is a distinct form of industrial music, pummeling the ears with brutality and revulsion.
Not often is an album title so fitting. Capturing its own essence so perfectly, Filth is a gritty, uncompromising, and vicious record. This is Swans! A musical architect who even considered the noise and alternative rock zeitgeist of the '80s to be a sort of conformity, Michael Gira insisted on running in the completely opposite direction of most musicians at the time. Swans took the liberty of creating their own identity, forbidding anyone else from shaping whom they would become. Filth is the result of that freedom.
Filth proudly exudes ugliness from all possible angles. Every second of the album is drenched with abusive, teeth-gnashing malevolence. Swans put a new spin on the industrial movement with their grisly, coarse instrumentation and their incessant frontal assault on the human ears. The violent and sporadic percussion effectively nails down Swans' persona and ultimately dominates the album's sound. Squalid feedback and ferocious vocals are just the icing on this disturbingly distasteful cake. Filth's unyielding intensity never even shows signs of slowing down. The entire LP is a brutal escapade that goes out with a bang.
Filth's focus truly hardens its foundation. Every single track brings forth the same fury as the last. Consistency is what makes this LP tick. From start to finish, Swans evoke stark images of illness, agony, and torment. "Stay Here" immediately begins pummeling the listener with fierce drums and bitter hostility. Gira's deep voice only escalates the tension by establishing Gira himself as the supreme and authoritative face of the music. "Big Strong Boss" plays out like a masochistic anthem, while Gira's vengeful vocals further Filth's distressing, barren disposition. Even more impressive about Filth as a whole is its merciless exposure of the cruelest aspects of noisiness. Swans skillfully manipulate relentless clamor to manufacture some of the most aggressive and unabashed music of all time.
With harsh songs like "Blackout", "Power for Power", and "Freak" Swans inculcate their audience with irreparable uproar. As the band wallows in its polluted environment, it becomes easier to ascertain the source of Gira's outrage. He is disgusted by the atmosphere that surrounds him, and Filth is a resolute portrait of that wretched ambience. On "Thank You", Swans are once again shot out of a cannon as Gira's curt lyrics beat the listener over the head. The track mirrors a forced trip through a horrid torture chamber with no hope of breaking out.
"Weakling" gives the band the chance to bang on their drum sets are hard as humanly possible, while the closing track, "Gang" revs with bloodthirsty ruthlessness. Just when it seems like the conflagration has officially come to an end, two minutes into the track, Swans return for one last onslaught before slowly burning out. Swans never surrender their fervor for the sake of appeal. Their persistence is truly admirable.
At its conclusion, Filth leaves the listener feeling bruised. Swans' shameless animosity adds a tremendous weight to their songwriting. The blood-curdling ghastliness does not exceed 40 minutes, but is a thrill ride for those daring to make the jump. This macabre series of tracks is the closest you can get to the sounds of a fatal plague. Swans' debut reeks of sickness, and its terror is contagious.
Big Strong Boss