Back in late December 2012, long time partner in crime of Al Jourgensen Mike Scaccia sadly passed away and this was what would be the second tolling of the death bell for Ministry after their initial disbanding back in 2009. Not wanting to create new music under the guise of Ministry, Al decided to release something for himself with no constraints, which was an amalgamation of all his work over the years. From the first, crude and much ridiculed synth pop album back in 1983 to the brutality of Psalm 69 and to the insanity of Revolting Cocks and Lard, Al decided to lay it all on the table and say fuck you to expectations. The result is the aptly titled “Surgical Meth Machine” because frankly, now simply limiting his narcotics to booze and weed, it could be called the result of a lifetime of smack, crack and speed. Like with any Al record, there is bound to be some form of insanity, let’s see what this one brings.
From the off, “I’m Sensitive” is firing the shots and giving no fucks. Ridiculing the currently over-easily offended by everything generation which seems to be the prominent population of social media these days. Lyrically, it’s a defiant middle finger to what people think and taking things to heart and the music which goes with it is just that too. An unholy vortex of entropy, chaos and intensity, the blistering speed and fury delivered in the harsh electronic noises, guitars and drums combined with Al’s signature distorted vocal lines make this an explosive opener.
From here, “Tragic Alert” keeps the intensity up. With a full on, relentless riff fest and thunderous delivery, it is an aural assault which aims to desensitize whoever comes across it. Filled with powerful riffs and scathing vocal delivery, it cuts deep and doesn’t care if you bleed out. “I want More” slows it down slightly with a sinister sounding intro which brings an ominous atmosphere with it. Sounding like a lost track from the Psalm 69 recording sessions, it has the classic metallic edge Ministry are known for and as expected, it is a lot of hate all wrapped up into a single track which has some sharp delivery and real frantic lead playing to top it off.
“Rich People Problems” is rather amusing in terms of the samples and lyrics and it flows on perfectly from the previous track. With its anger and tongue in cheek envy edge to it, the attack on materialism and socialites is fantastic. If you listen closely to the chaos, you can hear some stunning riff work from the guitars and the wild and rough guitar solo helps bring a reprieve from the intense chaos of the record so far. This momentary reprieve is shattered with “I Don’t Wanna” as legendary frontman and Lard vocalist Jello Biafra returns once again to collaborate with Jourgensen. With all the insanity of Lard, this track lands right in the ‘Last Temptation Of Reid’ territory with its complete nonsensical, nihilistic and illogical delivery. It’s a slice of classic headfuckery served up on an industrial platter.
From here, things get weird. Al brings in more synth and electronic elements to bring a different kind of heavy and intensity to the Surgical Meth Machine. “Smash And Grab” is a chaotic slice of classic industrial grade techno with some pace to it and all the chaos of the fully distorted mess in the first half of the album, still seething with the venom and anger Al is known for and from here, it just gets more intense. “Unlistenable” is exactly what it says – a dissonant mess of atonal and nonsensical noise… Pretty much a metal version of modern electronic and dubstep. Intense, chaotic and overpowering, it just smashes into you until the hillarious interaction at the end where Jourgensen shits on everything apart from Devo… Yes… Devo. This paves the way for the surprise inclusion of the 80’s outfit’s “Gates Of Steel”. It does stay kind of true to the original, with the same progression, bright sound and bouncy feel, but in true Jourgensen style, it has a nastier sounding edge and it’s probably the longest moment of calm on the release.
This flows into “Spudnick”, a heavily space influenced track with all the samples and the play on words title which has a lively kick to it and keeps the intensity dialled down, almost like it is a continuation of the Devo Cover. This finally fades out and into “Just Go Home” which is basically a homage to surrealism and drug use. With heavy references to hallucinogenics and amphetamines, it is all over the place with garbled electronic noise, distorted samples and a real full on surging electronic drum beat backing it up. The pseudo-techno edge to it helps with the mind melting experience and like I said earlier, it’s a different kind of intense. This builds into “Just Keep Goin” which keeps the rapid pace up and maintains the surrealism and the chaotic vortex which whipped up several tracks back and from there we come to the final track. “I’m Invisible” is the synth pop era Ministry styled track which features Jourgensen’s slightly disturbing crooning and some slightly odd melodies which don’t quite sound in tune or key, but still work together brilliantly, a fitting end to a truly maddening record.
Surgical Meth Machine is the results of a man who is unchained from the weight of expectations and standards holding him back. Al has released a pretty intense album, but it is an album of two very distinct halves. You may love the metal friendly first half but hate the electronic second half or vice versa, but one thing for certain is that it is intense and it will blow you away no matter what you like. And if you hate it? Well, As Al said himself, ‘He Doesn’t Fucking Care!”