It might be fair to say that when an artist attains a stature comparable to that of Raymond Watts, the imperative for critical analysis becomes a moot point; after all, the Mighty Swine has earned his reputation in the annals of industrial/rock, and while an album such as The Merciless Light doesn’t necessarily elevate PIG’s own placement in the genre… well, let’s just say that the Lord of Lard is no danger of being dethroned. Written and recorded in the midst of the lockdowns, there is a sense of immediacy to The Merciless Light that only augments the artist’s renowned directness; it’s a much more rock-oriented album than some of PIG’s more recent offerings, bearing commonality with more sparsely orchestrated efforts like The Gospel or Pigmata.
Sure, we have the jazzy lounge flight of fancy that is “Limbo,” Enrico Tomasso’s trumpet adding that delightfully Latin-esque noir flair to Watts’ sultry, sinful, and sardonic diatribes, as well as the insidious cinematic atmosphere of the title track, Steve White’s scorching guitar leads amid the choir of friends chanting “Save me from the Merciless Light / Pray for the merciful night” making for a sinister yet solemn moment on the album. But for the most part, the real brilliance in The Merciless Light emanates from such rockers as “Veni Vidi Vici,” “Feed the Wound,” “Glitz Krieg,” “The Dark Room,” and “The Judas Chair,” all pounding through the speakers with the voluminous vitriol and venom we’ve come to expect and adore from the Prophet of Pork, the latter track featuring a particularly angular solo from White. Similarly, “Speak of Sin” and “Tarantula” are instant PIG classics as the driving layers of squelching electronics, pianos, guitars, and Watt’s signature baritone croak and croon, while even the slower grind of “Sugar My Pill” is downright catchy with its repetitions of “Don’t get mad, get even.”
One can surmise that the addition of Jim Davies to the pigsty also contributes to the record’s more guttural and grimy guitar-driven approach, although he does well not to bring his singularly conspicuous electro/rock tone into the mix; instead, his more straightforward punk/rock predilections seem to have had an intermittent effect on the songwriting and production to ensure The Merciless Light is lean but still mean. Some may prefer the more extravagant arrangements of other PIG offerings, but the glitz and glam on this record is gleefully gluttonous enough for the staunchest of the debaucherous.