So this is the last Ministry album ever…. Hold on, been here before, who is anyone trying to kid? There is a reason this perhaps unlucky 13th studio album had to exist and it is a completely legitimate one. Al had already broken his promise and ended up putting the sessions together with some of his regular cohorts for this album, perhaps it was necessary due to him kicking drugs, a final burst of creativity that meant he felt driven to do so. However shortly after things were laid down and 18 tracks had been part prepared tragedy struck over the Xmas holidays when long term friend, comrade in both music and using and abusing Mike Scaccia tragically died on stage performing with his other act Rigor Mortis. Obviously Al had to complete the album to honour Mike’s memory and has stated that he will not be working on any further Ministry albums without him. Seems fair and final this time really and that is a great shame as it really is a belter of an album.
There are a lot of nuances from things past and present about this. In fact first number ‘Hail To The Majesty (Peasants)’ with its ‘Your Stupid’ chants reminded of recent RevCo, another band Al claims to be permanently on ice. It’s a slow brooding starter with warped electronic sounds and industrial clanks and an atypical Ministerial anthemic chorus. ‘Punch In The Face’ is a song title that’s pure poetry as is the song has some slow chunky bass work reminiscent of the band’s Land and Mind era with fast sample driven parts, flailing guitars and happy slapping bruising vocals. ‘PermaWar’ was chosen as the single and the video literally exploded on our screens with lots of things blowing up around an uplifting chorus and an impetuously persuasive melody. With samples heralding end of world meltdown and a splash of fragrant bluesy harmonica one can see why it was picked and with genocide, nuclear weapons and terrorism driving it along it’s evident that Al has nowhere near run out of things to say.
With a lot of the songs around the 4-5 minute mark there are some perfect ones for performing live but…. Yep back there again. The likes of ‘Fairly Unbalanced’ would be a pit monster though with its flailing guitars literally bruising around a mass of samples and angry vocals that sound like the rants of someone going postal before the track slews into a warped implosion of coruscating sounds that really are over the edge of lunacy. What has quickly become my favourite track in recent times from the band ‘Side FX Include Mikey’s Middle Finger (T.V.4)’ follows. This is the fastest BPM beast I can remember in ages and it is like one of those Burroughs cut ups in song form with everything hurled together in a contusion fuelled barrage of hateful discordance. ‘I feel like shit’ screams the vocals like Al is going through personal hell of drug withdrawal perhaps. You can imagine listening to this with strobe lights going mental although it would probably kill you or at least leave you falling flat on your arse. What a trip!
‘Lesson Unlearned’ has some great soulful female vocals and sounds like Ministry are wearing flares and platforms and strutting around 70s Harlem, it’s another great song with marvellous harmony to it. Clouds of ganja smoke are all over ‘Thanx But No Thanx’ as heavy sound system dub with reggae sound splash, clash with Sgt Major reciting Burroughs excellent Thanksgiving Prayer before upping the game and rocking out with some Killing Joke sounding tribal chugging bass lines and jagged guitar. It’s another great song from a band at their creative experimental peak and it’s like the drugs are still working even after they have stopped being taken.
‘Change Of Luck’ is also a song of two parts, meandering away with psychedelic instrumental hues before some rugged thundering riffs and vocals before the sassy soulful female vocals breeze in on a beatific chorus. Finally we have the last statement ‘Enjoy The Silence’ leaving us with the questions just how long for, is that really it on the tips of our tongues?
Whereas before I was shouting for Al to shut the fuck up and do what he kept saying he was going to after this, I feel like I need to plead him not to bloody stop ever. Whatever he decides to do we will have to wait fingers crossed I guess. At the moment he is not writing anything as far as we know but has had hands full with one of the biggest battles of his life after giving up the drugs, an invasion of bullying raccoons in his back yard (I shit you not). The problem being Angie’s away and they have already terrorized him and beaten up one of his cats. He has tried to be humane so far but much more I think he may launch a nuke! Luckily they saw sense and did one, phew.
As for this, well considering I gave Relapse an 8 I can but score this a mark more as I raise a beer in it and Mike’s honour!
(9/10 Pete Woods)