Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel - Nail
May 5, 2020
"Nail" is the peak of JG Thirlwell's (Foetus) London era and a seminal milestone for industrial music. It is one of those works that were at least a decade ahead of its time, had a significant influence on more recognized acts, but is still unique and inimitable in terms of charisma and personality. It could be described as a nihilist industrial melodrama in six acts. Not one of the depressing and serious one, more like a black comedy drama. Thirlwell juxtaposes orchestral pieces with cluttering machinery, cacophonic swing/blues, and his deranged "singing" spans from agonizing to wild and aggressive. Both in his music and lyrics, he continuously butchers and twists references from both classical and pop culture with unmatchable wit, from Shakespeare quotes, "Mission Impossible" samples, Charles Manson odes, and classical music quotes. "Nail" is an album driven by hatred and pitch-black pessimism, but even in the most brutal and explosive bits he never lets his instincts fully take over. By careful listening, it's evident that each song has been carefully written and crafted to provide the most overwhelming experience possible, but at the same time balance the violent outbursts with catchy passages and tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. It actually amazes how Thirlwell could arrange, sample, perform and produce everything on this record by himself in 1985. His production and sound-making skills were already top-notch by the beginning of his career.

The opening sets a dark and cinematic tone with the Wagnerian composition "Theme from Pigdom Come", but the raw and sick rockabilly "The Throne of Agony", one of the most known Foetus anthems, kicks in to totally change the mood. After a sudden explosion ("!"), "Pigswill" starts with Thirlwell's grumbling over clanging percussive noises and bombastic symphonic inserts in a rollercoaster ride of tempo changes. The mood gets quiet again with the swingy doo-wop of "Descent Into the Inferno". The first half is catchy to the point it's even cheesy, but as we descend into the hell, the song progressively gets more and more absurd, fast-paced and pounding. The journey continues with "Enter the Exterminator", an atmospheric track with whispered vocals and creepy sounds that slowly morphs into an unsettling rendition of "In the Hall of the Mountain King". "DI-1-9026" is a restless and funky ride with jazz inserts and schizophrenic instrumentation. After two interludes, the album closes with "Anything (Viva!)", a perfect finale that starts with an awkward "Fee-fi-fo-fum" over a dry backdrop of mechanical noises and then evolves with increasingly bombastic industrial-symphonic inserts and choirs that lead to an intense ending.

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