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The 10 Heaviest Moments on Nirvana’s In Utero

on September 21, 2018, 12:00pm
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Nirvana’s third and final studio album, In Utero, is now a quarter-century old, having been released on September 21st, 1993. The band had the daunting task of following up the album that changed the face of rock music — 1991’s Nevermind — but instead of building on that mega-selling disc’s commercial appeal, Kurt Cobain and company chose to get rawer and heavier on In Utero.

[Read Also: In Utero at 25, Nirvana’s Insubordinate Masterpiece]

In Utero would go on to sell 15 million copies worldwide, so it didn’t exactly push away the masses, but in its lyrics, its music, its imagery, and in the weight Nirvana carried going into recording the effort, there is a heightened sense of heaviness that permeates throughout the album. Here, we look at the 10 Heaviest Moments on Nirvana’s In Utero.

–Spencer Kaufman
Managing Editor, Heavy Consequence

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10. Kurt Cobain’s Scream a Minute into “Scentless Apprentice”

Fans who popped in the In Utero CD for the first time would be greeted with the relatively radio-friendly “Serve the Servants” as the lead track, thinking the album just might have a commercial sheen to it, but a minute into the second track, “Scentless Apprentice”, Cobain made it clear that the band wasn’t pandering to any record label demands on their third album, delivering the song’s “go away” scream like man possessed. –Spencer Kaufman

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09. The Second Verse from “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle”

“Our favorite patient/ A display of patience, disease-covered Puget Sound/ She’ll come back as fire, to burn all the liars/ And leave a blanket of ash on the ground”

Cobain could be singing about Frances Farmer, a Seattle-born actress who found fame working for Paramount Pictures in the ’30s before public and media scrutiny of her erratic behavior (later diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia) left her to wither away in mental institutions. He could also be singing about a demonic creature off a metal album cover hellbent on fiery revenge and burning everything to the ground. To be honest, at this point in his career, Cobain probably would’ve felt like a kindred spirit with either one. –Matt Melis

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08. The old man on a cross in the “Heart-Shaped Box” music video

Oh, here’s a nice colorful music video for the album’s first single … wait, what the heck? Is that a half-naked old-man in a Santa hat being crucified while crows peck at the cross? The “Heart-Shaped Box” video was the first visual fans got of the new album, and while the song itself is not among In Utero’s heaviest, the imagery in the video was heavy as hell. –Spencer Kaufman

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07. Dave Grohl’s Drumming on Tourette’s

The song may be a 95-second joke or fuck you (depending on how you choose to color it) directed at the types of unit-shifting suits who dubbed Nirvana “moderate rock,” but it’s also some of the purest, and heaviest, joy on In Utero. As Cobain blurts out random bits of verbal rubbish, Grohl pounds away like his only diagnosed tic is to kick a hole in his kit and destroy the rest with his bare hands. His doing so feels less like a mission and much more like an uncontrollable urge. –Matt Melis

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06. The chorus of “Pennyroyal Tea”

Cobain sweeps the listener into the comfort of the haunting verses of “Pennyroyal Tea” before launching into the pure heaviness of the chorus, delivering the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics that powered many a Nirvana hit. His raspy vocals are provided a mighty backbone by Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. –Spencer Kaufman

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05. Steve Albini’s raw album production

If you wanna sand away and obliterate any pop sheen from your music, it would make sense to go to a producer who also sings and plays guitars in religiously anti-industry punk and noise bands like Big Black and Shellac. And while Steve Albini is famous for being a very hands-off helmsman who doesn’t butt in on the vision of the bands he works with, you just know that the producer enjoyed every second of helping Cobain and co. smash everything the mainstream thought of Nirvana to smithereens one guttural scream or ragged guitar riff at a time. –Matt Melis

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04. The Second Verse from “Serve the Servants”

“As my bones grew they did hurt/ They hurt really bad/ I tried hard to have a father/ But instead I had a dad”

Here, Kurt opens up about the strained relationship he had with his father, Don Cobain, telling Rolling Stone of the song in 1994, “My father and I are completely different people. I know that I’m capable of showing a lot more affection than my dad was.” He later references his parents’ divorce in the song. –Spencer Kaufman

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03. The pain in Cobain’s voice on “All Apologies”

There are so many ways that singers convey their pain to listeners. Cobain, who often complained of feeling emotionally numb during Nirvana’s final days, skipped all the craft and gimmicks and went with the simplest possible method: belting out a cry that sounded more like a wounded animal than the type of voice that should be found charting across popular radio. Whatever you may think of Cobain as a talent, it’s impossible to argue his sincerity or ignore his pain during this song. –Matt Melis

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02. The last 30 seconds of “Rape Me”

Everything about “Rape Me” is pretty heavy, from the song title to the subject matter, but the last 30 seconds of the song are as intense as anything Nirvana ever recorded. Kurt takes his voice into that trademark upper register as he screams the titular line over and over again, one of the most intense half minutes of music you’ll ever hear. –Spencer Kaufman
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01. The Weight Nirvana Felt Following Nevermind

Nirvana

Kurt Cobain couldn’t cope with fame. And that’s fame with a capital ‘F.’ A fame only known by a small handful of acts in music history. So, while the average artist might feel the weight of the world on his shoulders to follow up the most important album of a young decade with something equally beloved, Cobain actually felt the need to forever remove that weight from his shoulders, mind, and heart. As Ryan Bray’s insightful piece explains, the pressure Cobain felt going into the In Utero sessions was not to continue along the band’s heady trajectory, but rather to sabotage the band, come back down to Earth, and make the world rethink everything they thought they knew about Nirvana. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, especially the head that would rather hurl that crown into a landfill. –Matt Melis

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