Will Foetus be the new Nine Inch Nails? Or rather, will Foetus be the new old Nine Inch Nails? With the success of new punk rockers like Nirvana and Green Day, a light bulb popped over the major labels’ heads: If the kids like the new stuff, why not foist originators like X or Social Distortion on them? After watching the success of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, Sony must have been thinking along these lines when they had Foetus (ne Jim Thirlwell) sign on the dotted line. A founding father of industrial music, Thirlwell has been releasing his brutal metal machine music under various monikers since 1981. “Scraping Foetus off the Wheel” and “You’ve Got Foetus on Your Breath” are two of the most, er… colorful. And there’s no disputing his influence on Trent Reznor: Check out the tortured vocalese and metallic electronic bombast on “Hammer Falls” and “Take It Outside Godboy,” tracks from Foetus’ new album, “Gash.”
Unfortunately, Foetus shares Reznor’s predilection for juvenile angst, revealed in simplistic self-mutilating lyrics. Still, when he gets away from himself, as on the racial button pusher “Mighty Whity,” Foetus can be convincingly threatening. Indeed, what sets Foetus apart from his industrial spawn — and what may be his commercial downfall — is that he is truly bizarre. “Friend or Foe,” for example, devolves into a syncopated Zepplinesque blues stomp, and “Take It Outside Godboy” opens with a symphonic flourish more typical of, say, the “Gone With the Wind” soundtrack. Ministry notwithstanding, Foetus also stands out from his gloom-obsessed brethren because of his sense of humor. The sarcastic wit and wacky ’40s-style big-band horns (!) displayed on cuts like “Slung” only add dimension to Foetus’ Jekyll-and-Hyde persona.
The greatest problem with “Gash” is that it doesn’t significantly add to the sound Foetus established over his dozens of releases, giving the possible impression that in staying the same, he’s simply playing to a market now open to industrial music. Still, this doesn’t detract from the power Foetus can muster, which, at its savage best, slashes the heartstrings.
Source: Rolling Stone #709, by: Matt Diehl