The Gospel is a good name for a Pig album, in that few artists in industrial have inspired as devoted a flock as Raymond Watts. Some eleven years since his last LP Pigmata, 2016 finds Watts collaborating with old and new faces and still showing some of the wit and force of personality that helped build his audience.
The best moments on the record are the ones that play directly into the themes promised in the album’s title and artwork. Opener “The Diamond Sinners” and “Mercy Murder” play out as industrialized spiritual blues, complete with gospel handclaps and multi-tracked vocals serving as choir on the chorus. Plenty of other electronic acts have dipped their toes in these waters (Alabama 3 and even Depeche Mode come to mind), although it should be noted that Watts’ trademark sleazy drawl feels made for this sort of thing. It’s an angle that probably could have been pursued a bit more, while the dirgey electronics of “The Fly Upon The Pin” and the squirming “Saturated” have trace elements of soul, it doesn’t end up being the album’s defining sound.
Far more of the record is given over to middling industrial rock numbers, albeit performed and programmed with gusto. Songs like “Found in Filth” and “Viva Evil” aren’t especially memorable in terms of their structure or melody; their primary characteristic is that they are being performed by Raymond Watts, and he throws himself into them with his usual fitful energy. The production (done in collaboration with ex-Combichrist keyboardist Z Marr) is uniformly decent, and it can be a thrill to recognize the moments that Raymond’s old KMFDM pals Guenter Schulz and En Esch must have had a hand in. But still, too many tracks pass without making a lasting impression: competent musically and sung with panache but without the hooks to draw the listener in.
Uneven as it is, The Gospel still serves as a delivery mechanism for more Raymond Watts, a commodity that can’t be discounted. It’ll be up to any given listener to determine exactly how far that can carry the record, but it’s only when the material rises to his level (like say with the tweaked version of previously released “Drugzilla”) that we really get a glimpse of what has kept so many Pig fans from straying, lo these many years.