A black mark on their legacy
Music is rarely, if ever, timeless. Even classics find themselves stained with the paint of their respective eras. Recent decades often fare the worst when looked at in retrospect, likely due to the inevitable forward progress made in production, or just the inclusion of certain sounds and genre stylings that have since been deemed passé, too old to be in vogue and too new to have garnered a nostalgic sheen. Without reserve, the genre and style that has seen the greatest backlash has been the industrial, gothic and nu-metal movements of the mid-’90s and the ’00s. Certain bands, such as Nine Inch Nails, have fared well due to their honest artistic intent, but many adjacent bands have seen their style poked full of holes. PIG is no different and on their latest album Risen, they combine metal, gothic, electronic, industrial and shock rock.
Industrial, and more specifically ’90s industrial, contains certain key qualities that have gone on to become some of the most detested qualities in music. Unfortunately, PIG gives every indication of containing all of these qualities in his music from the mere album cover and tracklist. The album art, featuring Raymond Watts in front of a stained glass window, as if a dark saint, taps into a bastardization of religion that industrial and nu-metal bands have long relied on.
The tracklist continues with statements that are surface level bold, but meaningless in actuality with songs like single “The Chosen Few,” “Truth is Sin,” and “Rise and Repent.” Such bold titles would be acceptable if they were backed up by bold lyrics. Those listening will be greeted with nuanced poetics such as, “We got a social suicide, its coming tonight, with a germ of genocide, you’re cooking it right.” Watts never expounds upon these statements, and pretty much seems content with using religious symbolism without commentary. All of this comes as an incredible shame, especially given the incredible gifts that Watts has provided the genre with on his previous records like The Swining.
Albums that are devoid of quality statements often turn toward technical prowess to conceal its lack of meaningful commentary. Even on some of the less successful projects by Watts, he’s always managed to keep his sound fresh and exciting. Sadly, listeners will find no reprieve instrumentally on Risen with much of the record sounding derivative. “The Revelation (Misinterpretation Mix)” boasts a grinding, heavy guitar riff that seems like a B-side of a KMFDM album. “Truth is Sin” tiptoes dangerously close to a late-era Marilyn Manson song, particularly in the vocal department, where Watts whispers in a low grumbling voice over a synth background. Other comparisons could be drawn between Risen and records from Rob Zombie or Powerman 5000 but without any of the fun or self-awareness — something that Watts has done so well on previous records that it’s jarring to hear him completely lack here.
Other songs range from shocking to decent, with the former containing “Vice Girls,” an absolute jaw-dropper of a song. The vocals are catastrophically overwrought, bordering on parody if a listener was unfamiliar with PIG. The lyrics are another matter entirely, mainly focusing on loose women and their iniquities. Other songs come across as decent like “Prey & Obey (Disobey Mix)” and “Hard Machine (Lard Machine Mix),” though because they are mixes of existing songs it greatly lessens their impact. Rounding out the parade is “Loud, Lawless & Lost” which is a strangely jaunty tune that Watts croons over like a goth lounge singer. The song has an almost carnival-like charm; the mixture of elements is creative, but never quite pulled off, and the whole thing feels rather perverse until the grinding chorus riff, which doesn’t come across as particularly inspired. There was some potential in the song, but sadly it falls apart under the weight of its absurdity as the scales tip past the other side.
The saddest part is that there are moments on this record that could have been exciting had PIG had any inclination to push beyond genre expectations. “Rise and Repent” has a genuinely interesting synth line that is entirely undone by a dull, chanting chorus and simple drum beat that refuses to go anywhere. Sadly, all these moments are wasted in equally unforgivable circumstances. Risen is an undeniable disappointment that is sure to leave fans wondering what happened.