Icons of Filth


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The first wave of British punk, circa 1977, spawned a number of bands that possessed a social consciousness and expressed their concerns through song. The Clash, the Sex Pistols, and the Damned all stirred up their fair share of controversy with lyrics commenting on social ills or championing left-leaning causes. Nothing could prepare the Queen's subjects for what was to follow, however. Extremist punks like Crass, Conflict, Discharge, Flux of Pink Indians, and Icons of Filth took their cue from American hardcore bands, mixing anarchist philosophy with powerful thrash-and-burn instrumentation to create some of the most invigorating punk rock ever heard.

Whereas some of these bands -- Crass readily comes to mind -- were naïve idealists, forming communes and spinning off side bands, others, such as Conflict or Discharge, were more nihilistic in nature. In the early '80s, anarchist punks were forced to form their own record labels to get their music out, since no corporate label wanted to touch them. Conflict formed the Mortarhate label, and aside from the band's own albums, they also released a number of singles and an album by fellow travelers Icons of Filth (all of which were reissued on CD in 2000 as the Mortarhate Project by Go-Kart). Throughout the years, Icons of Filth have grown in stature rather than sinking into obscurity, becoming one of a handful of artistic touchstones for underground punks wanting to bring politics into their music. With the revival of bands like Discharge and old mates Conflict in 2001, it was only natural that Icons of Filth should also re-form and stroll into the recording studio.

Nostradamnedus is the result of the band's renewed efforts, the first album from Icons of Filth in nearly 20 years. The bandmembers seemingly haven't lost a step through the years. The usual lyrical preoccupations are found on Nostradamnedus, anarcho-leftist rhetoric about animal rights and vegetarianism and racism and so forth, but Stig, Daffy, and the boys have updated their perspective to appeal to a new-millennium zeitgeist. While songs like "Riddled With Guilt" or "Treadmill" hit your brain like sticking a fork in an electric socket, others, like "Henry Ford," tickle your cerebellum with not-so-subtle thoughts of Luddite sabotage. Musically, the band covers its lyrics with a loud hardcore punk drone, powerful instrumentation nearly burying the vocals in the mix.

Once you get past the bad joke hidden in the album's title, Nostradamnedus stands as modern classic of hardcore punk, if only for the title track and "Airwaves." Pointing directly at the fools who take every world event and match it to one of Nostradamus' many prophecies, the band cleverly wraps up the past and future in a package with a neat little bow. After all, if the future has already been foretold, why bother to try and change it? "Airwaves" takes the corporate media to task but, fittingly enough, the band saves its worse barbs for punk itself. Singing, "rock & roll has lost its soul and now everything's diluted/Bands with fans, big money plans/Your pockets empty, looted," Stig sums up the critical relationship between company-driven rock & roll and the audience. Heralding the dawn of a new era in underground punk, the geezers of Icons of Filth prove that sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks.

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