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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Al's Not Dead Yet


Ministry - Relapse
2012 13th Planet Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I'm not one to throw stones at Al Jourgensen for putting Ministry to rest in 2008 then coming back four years after. Those of you who support this site know full well I'm subject to my own retreats and returns and you forgive me once I'm back in action. Al had his reasons for shelving Ministry, but the more important matter to address today is if his return should be taken seriously. Well, good news, mutants. Ministry beckons your eardrums and then screams bloody havoc upon them with some of the most agitated industrial metal ever laid down behind the moniker on Relapse.

The first three songs of Relapse are some of the fiercest, zaniest and ultimately finest in Al Jourgensen's noisome career. Certainly the layoff gave him some kinetic itches in his cyberpunk loins as "Ghouldiggers," "Double Tap" and "Freefall" charge up the first fifteen rabies-laden minutes of Relapse. Not that Ministry hasn't been heavy in the past decade-plus, but these three songs alone boast lineage to The Land of Rape and Honey and The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, yet quicker with more nanosecond-timed focus. Even the thrash blast and the pounding bridge on the mid-tempo cruncher "Kleptocracy" is like a rumbling preamble to something you either consider righteous or a tirade against the inevitable right wing takeover coming down the pike.

It's hard not to think these four venomous cuts as a standalone might've made for an all-time Top 5 EP. "Ghouldiggers" is an epic tirade against the music industry, which lends insight as to why Al first laid down Ministry (aside from health recovery issues) and though it takes two minutes of kvetching before the song kicks into gear, it's still hilarious stuff. The writhing pulse of "Ghouldiggers" is only superceded by its unhinged angst. Dogs are loose and they're pissed from being chained. "Double Tap" and "Freefall" are so frigging fast and precise with their ratchet-hammer digital flogging your brains feel like they've taken an overdose of the "Crope" Al pretend-hawks on the latter tune. Consider "Freefall" and the title track his revisit to "Just One Fix" territory where addictions will break you in half and metal is the only soundtrack loud enough to cram the message into your head. Of course, there will be enough potheads out there who take the "smoke more marijuana" soundbyte loop on the "Relapse" remix as gospel.

It's when Relapse opts out for a maniacal cover of S.O.D.'s "United Forces" when the album turns into a strange pill. The cover is fast...crazy fast, but ultimately unnecessary. It throws in a couple extra chorus hails and extends what was an effective statement of underground unity in its original abbreviation. Tony Campos even gets to noodle with the opening bass bars of S.O.D.'s "Milk" and okay, nyuk nyuk, but a bit of a distraction considering all of the adrenalized lunacy opening Relapse. On a personal note, I prefer Al's chunky rip on Black Sabbath's "Supernaut" under his long-ago side project, 1,000 Homo DJs.

Somewhat dominated by Al's unabashed proseletyzing and political barnstorming, it's a bit of a surprise there wasn't a song titled "Nuge, I Hate You" cropping up on Relapse. Albeit you can probably expect a similar endearment aimed towards Mitt Romney depending on the outcome of the next election. Lending a thundering march to the Occupy Movement on "99 Percenters" and urging his listeners to register and hit the polls this fall (and, not-so-subliminally imploring them to go anti-Republican) on "Git Up Get Out 'n Vote," Al Jourgensen does everything in his power to make this reboot count for something. His point-of-view is either your cup of tea (pun intended) or you're more sympathetic to Uncle Ted's red, white and shotgun creed. At least Ministry throws pistons into their platform and Relapse becomes a genuinely loud affair.

The nutjob lambasting on "Weekend Warrior" is dashed with gonzo moshing segments (as are most of the songs on Relapse, to be honest) you can't help but surrender and bang along. Suffragette City isn't all that pretty, so says Al on "Git Up Get Out 'n Vote," yet the entire bit sounds like it could've been a part of MTV's campaign publicizing years ago. Okay, so Ministry's a bit too evil-sounding for "Rock the Vote," thus there's something disconcerting about Al Jourgensen and company throwing out a PSA. Weird enough, though, it works. The frantic pace of "Git Up Get Out 'n Vote" makes it a near classic, but you get the feeling it'll provoke more slam-dancing (sorry, I'm forver old school) than than actual voter turnout.

Still, Al has a purpose with Relapse and the Killing Joke-flavored "Bloodlust" might be one of the freshest summoning-to-arms finales put down in awhile. Devoid of the "Relapse" remix, it would've been a wholly appropriate closer.

Best of all for Ministry's purposes in 2012, the Who's Who lineup behind Jourgensen is tighter than the group's been since the Psalm 69 days. Tommy Victor you know is money. Tony Campos, who's been all over the metal underground including Static-X and Soulfly...he's money. Rigor Mortis and Revolting Cocks shredder Mike Scaccia...cha ching. Even Sin Quirin (formerly of Society 1) gets his licks in as a recurring member in Ministry and you know Al must be feeling a relapse of a different sort with all of this talent in his stable. Indeed, he must be high on life throwing out an album that tears this much ass. Relapse has a few quirks and it could've maintained the same outrageous fortunes of the first four tracks, but in the end, it sounds off, loud and proud.

Now if Al and Ian MacKaye could find it within themselves to kick Pailhead back into action for another EP, ahhhhhhhh yessssss...

1 comment:

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