Al Jourgensen is at it again with his wacky titles (which Ice Cube used to greater effect in 1990).
It may seem hard to believe but there was a long stretch of time (1986 to 2003) where Al (with Paul Barker and other collaborators) produced some of the most brilliantly bonkers, forward thinking albums that never let up on the aggression.
Punky thrash, EBM, post punk and doom were thrown into the mix and look at the results (‘Psalm 69, ‘Dark Side of the Spoon’ , ‘The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste’).
All albums that stand up today as pinnacles of industrial metal.
Barker’s departure in 2003, and the advent of the second Iraq War, saw a much more openly political (i.e. anti Bush) Ministry.
Experimentation was toned down in favour of thrashing guitars (provided by Mike Scaccia and Tommy Victor). The live shows, particularly the so called ‘C U LaTour’, were incendiary stuff (seeing them at the Glasgow Academy remains a treasured memory), while the albums were patchy.
Although vowing to retire the name after the tour, nearly dying led to a long list of medical bills that needed paying off. Hence, a covers album for bargain bin goth label Cleopatra, an album of new material (2012’s ‘Relapse’, a pathetic shambles, which even Al concedes it wasn’t his finest moment) and a tour which saw him collapsing on stage at the Bataclan in Paris.
2013’s Macc Lads referencing ‘From Beer to Eternity’ was as forgettable as the supposed ‘joke’ of a cover. Now, Al’s back, and he’s pissed about Donald Trump. What a surprise.
According to the press release, “Jourgensen remembers his shock while witnessing everyone and everything around him during the recent election process, and awoke on the morning of November 9th 2016 proclaiming: ‘We are making a fuckin’ album – right now.’ ”
While I’m sure that was a factor in a new release, I suspect a recent divorce, reallocation (from his long time base in Texas to Los Angeles) and recurring medical expenses played a larger role in putting out a new album.
Plus I suspect there was pressure to justify those Patreon donations.
‘I Know Words’ is an intriguing opener.
Harking back to the days of experimentation, it’s a sample based piece which chucks in piano, Korg synth, violin and drum machines as well as stretching out samples of Trump’s infamous catchphrases.
It’s easily the most unique piece that’s appeared under the name Ministry in a long time.
However, the DJ scratches (provided by ex NWA member Arabian Prince) and the general production feel cheap and dated, like the whole thing had been recorded on Fruity Loops.
‘Twilight Zone’ carries on in this vein, but tries to be both a traditional song and an atmospheric piece to boot.
Its first problem is that it attempts to rewrite ‘Filth Pig’ (even down to recycling the harmonica line) and is let down badly by the lack of cohesion between the speech samples and Jourgensen’s vocals.
Perhaps that’s intentional, given the title of the song, but I doubt it.
As well as this, it sounds utterly tinny. Similar pieces that were more about building a landscape (like ‘Golden Dawn’, ‘Dream Collapsing’ and ‘Grace’) sounded mighty and booming. This really doesn’t.
‘Victims of a Clown’ has a real Tack>>>Head feel to it – not a big surprise considering the cover of this album rips off Gee Vaucher’s piece for their own album ‘Friendly as a Hand Grenade’ – with the bass and drums.
While this is to be welcomed, it is undermined by the fact that the song itself is utterly formulaic and, with it’s various scratching samples, brings back memories of the worst excesses of nu-metal.
‘We’re Tired Of It’ (oh the irony) sees the riffing sped up and, apart from that, it comes and goes without leaving much of an impact.
‘Wargasm’ cheekily rewrites the chorus of ‘Orgasm Addict’ by Buzzcocks and offers a bizarre spoken word segment by Burton C. Bell, who subsequently appears in the video as a Juggalo.
Heavily influenced by Killing Joke, it has some of the most appalling lyrics ever penned by Jourgensen, while the reaction to Bell’s segments is to think that maybe Fear Factory’s ‘Back the Fuck Up’ wasn’t that bad in comparison.
And the irony of Al writing a song called ‘Antifa’ offering supposedly ambivalent support is too much for a man who wrote a song in support of Hugo Chavez.
While it’s good to see that Al has attempted to reconnect with the music that he clearly loves, it feels dated and limp, and the songs are not the slightest bit interesting.
Whereas acts like Ho99o9 have taken the basic blueprint and made it more obnoxious for a new audience.
Ministry sound fossilised, roaming venue to venue for money so Al can top up his depleted pension funds.
I’ll repeat myself from my previous review: Al, give up.
1 / 5 ::: Christopher Owens ::: 25/02/18