Only band leader and vocalist Michael Gira and drummer Jonathan Kane remained from the original lineup of the band. Filth is the first Swans release to feature the experimental and noisy playing style that the band's early work would become known for. The album's distinct sound is partly the product of a new lineup featuring two drummers (Roli Mosimann and Kane). It also marks the first appearance of future Swans regular Norman Westberg.
The 1990 CD and audio tape, released under the name Filth (L.P.#1, E.P.#1) 1982/83, featured the four tracks from Swans' first EP as bonus tracks. The order of each side of the Swans EP are reversed on this pressing. The 1990 vinyl re-release preserved the original nine-song track listing.
Filth was reissued on CD, vinyl and digital download formats October 28. An unofficial repress of the album emerged in 2012, from the record label Neutral. Its inauthenticity has been confirmed by Gira
In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, music critic Robert Christgau found the album "fun" and described its music as "no wave with five years of practice, too messy for mysticism and too funny for suicide." In their retrospective review, AllMusic's Ned Raggett wrote, "early Swans really is like little else on the planet before or since.".Punknews noted in a similar retrospective review "the terrifying level of intense brutality" the album delivered.
Its deluxe edition also received positive reviews from websites like Pitchfork.