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25 Years Ago Today, MINISTRY Released Filth Pig

Getting Down and Dirty with a 25-Year-Old Filth Pig


Four years after succeeding in a big way and not sucking eggs with Psalm 69, Ministry decided to get a bit dirtier with their sixth studio album. Most pigs are pretty filthy to begin with, so a Filth Pig must be really filthy, right? So, did this scummy slab of ‘90s industrial metal live up to its filthiness?

The cover for Filth Pig is certainly disgusting. Many troubled youths probably bought it because of the artwork. The poor sap in the photo looks like the loser on a July 4th taping of Double Dare. This is an image Americans can relate to, even when it feels like we’re doing the right thing. He looks so defeated holding his little backward flag. There’s raw meat dripping down his head, but throughout my life, I’ve thought it could be chocolate or a busted open melon. Either way, it’s sad how he looks like he’s crying/bleeding for his country. Unfortunately, this striking capture held up better than most of the music.

The album’s opener, “Reload,” is more abrasive and intrusive than filthy. Somebody done pissed off Al Jourgensen real good. He’s all up in your face like you stole something from his grandpa’s corner store. The lyrics read like they were scribbled on a Burger King wrapper by a homeless methhead, and when he shouts “Reload!” it sounds like “Freedom!” (which works just as well). When the vocals aren’t present, the music is hypnotic, but not at all in a relaxing way. It’s unsettling, which is the point. I promise, next time I won’t even think about pocketing that Clark bar, Mr. Jourgensen. Most metalheads won’t admit it, but I’d bet they’d sooner crank up anything from Metallica’s Reload than Ministry’s “Reload.” In many ways, Filth Pig is the St. Anger of their catalog.

Psalm 69 boasted a collection of songs that were quite repetitive. However, their excitement lit a fire under your ass. Filth Pig’s repetitiousness induces boredom. The muddy title track is a perfect illustration. It’s that weird type of metal that leaves you unsure of what to do while listening. You can’t really mosh, and it’s hard to settle into a good headbanging groove. It’s sludgy for the sake of being sludgy, which can work in metal, but here it’s a turnoff.

The standout number “Lava” would have been at home on Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar, nine months later. I didn’t realize until now how similar their sound was during this era. It delivers an unforgettable thump that demands a quality subwoofer. The robotic sway is a great companion for factory work, but if this was the soundtrack for kids playing the hot lava game in their living room, it would be a terrifying ordeal.

Equally alarming is “Crumbs,” with nasty lyrics like:

“You prob'ly lick more ass than anyone
I guess you like the taste of shit on your tongue
No matter what you order the same thing will come
A plate of refried shit just covered in crumbs”

I don’t know how that appetizing piece of poetry passed me by in 1996, but I suppose it was for the best.

“Useless” was appropriately named, and the cover of Bob Dylan's “Lay Lady Lay” was only worth hearing once 25 years ago (though they still get points for making it their own). “The Fall” is similarly mundane, but it’s fascinating how its horror-movie piano track clings to your brain cells as it creeps away into oblivion.

The guitar duo of Louis Svitek and Mike Scaccia provided the most redeeming moments on Filth Pig, with the accessible, nu metal-ish riffage of “Dead Guy,” and the Sabbath-like doom of “Game Show.” During the latter, it constantly feels like something vehemently terrible is about to happen to you and everyone you know. This is metal that wickedly defies time. The most upbeat, familiar-sounding Ministry song though is “Brick Windows,” which would shine if it reared its banged-up head in another unnecessary sequel to The Crow. I’m glad the record ended on a high note, leaving a sense of cleansing after all the cruddiness.

Filth Pig is grimy and foul and succeeded as an interesting piece of art, but not as a collection of music I want to continually subject my ears to. I didn’t get it then, and in 2021, I really want those long-haired whippersnappers to get the hell off my perfectly edged grass. I was hoping I would have an epiphany and could shout, “Viva la industrial revolution!” with all the other filth pigs in the church of Ministry, but it wasn’t meant to be.

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