Ministry

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With Sympathy

Ministry - With Sympathy ©1983 Arista
1. Effigy (I'm Not An)
2. Revenge
3. I Wanted To Tell Her
4. Work For Love
5. Here We Go
6. What He Say
7. Say You're Sorry
8. Should Have Known Better
9. She's Got A Cause

And you thought you had some skeletons in your closet...

Long before Ministry began terrorizing the listening public with jackhammers of sound and heaviness, Al Jourgensen started out his long musical journey as a clean cut new wave dance artist. That's right. He actually existed before that mess of hair and the old cowboy hat. In fact, the inner sleeve photo of Mr. Jourgensen finds him to be a beau that even a churchmouse could bring home. Needless to say, Ministry as certainly gone quite a ways from Point A to Point Z.

On one hand, With Sympathy is a fairly decent collection of early 80s club songs. I admit I can actually sit through the whole thing without shuddering, but granted there's a huge smirk on my face the entire time. Perhaps growing up in the 80s allows me to tolerate this sort of stuff, but it reminds me mostly of something my brother might have listened to as a freshman in high school. The music is exceedingly polite with every single new wave trapping you can think of. There's some strong melodies and quite a bit of catchiness. However, the technology of 1983 makes this record sound extremely dated and amusing for all the wrong reasons. I can only imagine the reaction fans of Psalm 69 finding this in the store and expecting their necks to be ripped out.

Granted, every Ministry fan on the planet needs to hear this album solely to catch Al Jourgensen playing music so polite and white bread that even Mr. Cleaver would approve. The amusement factor is quite high, but it's definitely nothing more than a historical curiosity. Had Ministry not given us "Just One Fix" and shredded the eardrums of countless freaks since, this would be just another lost, forgotten early 80s club record.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2003


Ministry - With Sympathy [CD] - Used @ Secondspin.com

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The Land Of Rape And Honey

Ministry - The Land Of Rape And Honey ©1988 Sire
1. Stigmata
2. The Missing
3. Deity
4. Golden Dawn
5. Destruction
6. Hizbollah
7. The Land Of Rape And Honey
8. You Know What You Are
9. I Prefer
10. Flashback
11. Abortive

And with the abrasive, chainsaw imitation voice of Al Jourgensen at the beginning of "Stigmata", the dancefloor music phase of Ministry was over. Ministry had existed primarily as a new wave group at the beginning of their existence but along the way, Jourgensen deviated into remixing and more abrasive forms of music. Teaming up with Paul Barker, the revamped Ministry undertook a new, much more vicious approach to music that incorporated some new wave dance techniques plastered with the sonic corrosiveness of industrial music. The Land of Rape and Honey is a quite jarring record and one that sets the stage for the Ministry most are more familiar with.

The songs on The Land of Rape and Honey vacillate between the heavy guitar and pulsating, throbbing percussion of "Deity" and "The Missing" to songs that breathe a bit more, such as "You Know What You Are" or "Abortive". "Flashback" demonstrates not all is well in Jourgensen's world as it is a very hateful song. There are moments in the album that tend to lose the listener as the Ministry machine was not completely revved up, particularly if you had heard 1989's The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and checked out their older discography. With some of the songs being utterly capable of tearing down old apartment buildings and others being a bit too sublime to even dent a small Geo, the impact of the album is lessened somewhat. Regardless, the good songs on here outnumber the bad and for anyone who wants to see how Ministry evolved, this is a good item to pick up.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2001

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The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste

Ministry - The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste ©1989 Sire
1. Thieves
2. Burning Inside
3. Never Believe
4. Cannibal Song
5. Breathe
6. So What
7. Test
8. Faith Collapsing
9. Dream Song

This album is simply just one incredible kick to the head and one exquisite way to warp perception just a tad. When this album came out in 1989, I picked up a copy and it completely blew my socks off, shoes first. Not only was this album complete with incredible production values (you have to admit Alain Jourgensen, for all his substance abuse, knows how to tweak knobs), weird samples and voices, and intense music, but it also was the kind of record you couldn't stop playing because there was always something you might have missed on the previous listen. As it stands, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste is still easily my favorite revelation from this Ministry, even a decade later. Since the band hadn't quite delved into their trip through the 90s and the subseqently good (but not great) music, there was a definite freshness to what they were accomplishing.

The album features a bevy of guest musicians, including vocalist Chris Connelly and many others. Their contributions tend to get highly warped by Jourgensen and Paul Barker, Ministry's other mainstay member. Connelly, for instance, sounds nothing like the Bowie-esque crooner of his solo albums in his appearances on the album. But regardless of who appears where, it is the songs that stand out most prominently. With the exception of the tedious "Cannibal Song" and the fairly tepid "Faith Collapsing", every song here is incredible in its own way. "Burning Inside", "Breathe" and "Thieves" have some of the most aggressive moments on the record, using waterfalls of percussion and precision riffs. "So What" is downright creepy but has a strong allure regardless. "Test" actually features a rap over extremely bombastic music, a precursor to a certain Rage Against Inanimate Objects.

Although you know massive amounts of illicit substances were probably used in creating all this finely honed chaos (yes, very much the oxymoron, but Ministry does just that), there is a certain method to all this insanity. The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste is one of the most fulfilling records of the late 80s and definitely one of the finest things Ministry has set to tape in their entire long existence.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2000

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In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up (live)

Ministry - In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up (live) ©1990 Sire
1. The Missing
2. Deity
3. So What
4. Burning Inside
5. Thieves
6. Stigmata

In one of the increasingly rare instances where a live album is as essential as a studio release, Ministry's documentation of their insane 1989 tour on In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up is one of the most bone tearing, intense live recordings I can think of. The tour from which these six songs were taken featured up to nine people on the stage at any given point and the resulting wall of sound is sure to unhinge the doors to your bedroom and cause pictures to fall from the wall. And that's if you only set the volume at "1".

Although I suspect a little studio doctoring took place, the energy and intensity of the Ministry live experience is quite intact. The EP opens up with two of The Land of Rape and Honey's most churning, throbbbing burners, most likely devastating half the audience. The rest of the EP is a bit of a letdown after those two tracks. Regardless, the songs retain the flavor of the original and stay very true to the studio counterparts. There does seem to be an infusion of adrenaline involved but it doesn't detract from the precise performance. The most amusing part may be Al Jourgensen's profanity filled diatribe at the end of "Stigmata", a rant that is sure to offend nearly every special interest group you can possibly think of.

Given the amazing dose of intensity this EP offers, it is as necessary as any of the Ministry studio albums. Ministry is well known for their violent shows and with music this decisively aggressive, it's no wonder why.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2001

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Trip To Hell/Live USA [bootlegs]

Ministry - Trip To Hell/Live USA (bootlegs) ©1990 Imrat Music/Kiss The Stone
1. Breathe
2. The Missing
3. Delty
4. Man Should Surrender
5. No Bunny
6. Smothered Hope
7. So What
8. Burning Inside
9. Thieves
10. Stigmata
11. Stainless Steel Pounders
12. Public Image
13. Land Of Rape And Honey

Ministry concerts kick some serious ass, no doubt about it. A friend's friend came out of a pit at The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste tour covered in blood and vomit, neither one his. I nearly got my arms broken at the Filth Pig tour from being crushed against the barricade. My vertically challenged friend who was smashed in behind me felt up a drunken first grade teacher. Wild things start to happen when Hypo Luxa and Hermes Pan take the stage…

Something peculiar sure went on with these two bootleg recordings of the February 13, 1990 concert in Omaha, Nebraska, on the tour supporting The Mind. Interestingly, the two discs share identical errors in spelling and songwriting credits although they are issued by different companies and, while both successfully capture the ferocity of live Ministry, one is virtually unlistenable.

Take a guess--which do you think would be worse? The version by the famously meticulous Germans (Imtrat), or the notoriously disorganized Italians (KTS)? So much for Teutonic precision—Live USA is possibly the worst-produced CD for which I have ever had the misfortune to spend twenty bucks. Good God, it's horrible. The guitar cuts in and out between dull muddiness and shrieking, cacophonous dominance—cringe factor of 9.8 on the Earsplitting Scale. Vocals are buried. The drums and bass are fuzzy. Matter of fact, the whole disc is buried in fuzz. The solitary highlight is Burning Inside, which is missing from its Italian counterpart—all 1:38 worth of it, anyway.

However, liner notes are what is missing from Live USA--blank paper on the backside of the cover art is more appropriate for a single than a full-length disc.

Even Ministry's trademark piledriver rhythmic attack can't survive this lousy treatment and the songs suffer, although not as much as the listener's ears, and transform an otherwise worthwhile disc into a coaster. A coaster with teeth, true, but still a coaster. Live USA is a crappy, crappy CD that I don't trade in for two reasons. First, no store would give me more than five bucks and one of these days I hope to find some moron who'll give me twenty for it; second, it's a useful reminder that, in spite of being a legend in my own mind, I do dumb things.

Trip to Hell, on the other hand, kicks ass. Free from the shortcomings which destroyed Live USA, Alien (sic), Paul, and company come in loud and clear to bash your synapses into submission. Trip to Hell is far better sonically—vocals, synths, guitars, bass, drums and cymbals are distinct and mixed at appropriate levels—but retains the slightly fuzzy tone that tells you it's not overdubbed in the studio. Another advantage is that all but one of the tracks are several seconds longer than on the other, inferior version, which allows for complete intros and more appropriate ends to the songs. The exception is "Land of Rape and Honey", which is shorter by 28 seconds; however, it ends on a decisive note rather than ever-so-slowly fading out in an annoying manner. Additionally, the mere presence of liner notes is a big improvement from Live USA. They aren't very helpful, but they're amusing--the author thinks that the Revolting Cocks are equally important to Ministry.

Whereas Trip to Hell kicks ass, Live USA licks ass--it just makes me want to break my CD player; Trip to Hell makes me want to mosh and break other stuff, which is good, I suppose. If you are deaf and can't tell the difference between good and crappy production, go ahead and buy Live USA. But if you value your eardrums, buy Trip to Hell.

Review by Jonathan Arnett

Review date: 07/1999

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Psalm 69

Ministry - Psalm 69 ©1992 Sire/Warner Bros.
1. N.W.O.
2. Just One Fix
3. TV II
4. Hero
5. Jesus Built My Hotrod
6. Scarecrow
7. Psalm 69
8. Corrosion
9. Grace

Psalm 69 (a.k.a. The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs) may have been Ministry's "breakthrough" album, but I've always felt this album was a bit of a disappointment following their magnificent and exceptionally creative The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste. Ministry continued modifying their sound, adding in more heavy metal and minimizing the industrial tendencies. To me, this departure from the dynamics and considerably more diverse predecessor was not entirely the most exciting move the band could make. However, that said, Psalm 69 does find Ministry full of vinegar and bile, mostly directed at the George H.W. Bush presidency. The first half of this album rages forward with plenty of gusto and speed metal intensity. In fact, the first five songs on here are rather good, particularly "Jesus Built My Hotrod", featuring the vocal rantings of Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers. But once the tempo slows down for "Scarecrow", this locomotive loses steam.

The final four tracks on this album are ones that I rarely listened to back when it first came out. "Corrosion" and "Grace" are more in line with noise industrial than the metallic numbers before them. Unfortunately, they aren't exactly captivating. The way Psalm 69 runs out of gas halfway through has always been my main reason for knocking it down a few pegs. Ministry had three years to write the follow up album for The Mind and it seems as though despite their enormous cast of characters who were involved in the studio or touring, they had only a few really good musical ideas to bounce around.

On the other hand, the rest of the 90s found the band dealing with drug problems and a pair of even less compelling studio releases, so Psalm 69 becomes their best album of that decade by default. I still defer to the late 80s as the best this band had to offer as their migration into a heavy metal realm wasn't always as fresh or dynamic as their earlier records. But at least it wasn't new wave.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2010

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Filth Pig

Ministry - Filth Pig ©1996 Warner Bros.
1. Reload
2. Filth Pig
3. Lava
4. Crumbs
5. Useless
6. Dead Guy
7. Game Show
8. The Fall
9. Lay, Lady, Lay
10. Brick Windows

After the success of Psalm 69, Ministry took a few years before releasing its successor. During that time, Ministry was the subject of many drug rumors and dealt with some various arrests. Perhaps it was the distraction or maybe a creative void, but Filth Pig was a monumental bummer once it finally hit the streets. While Ministry has spent their existence evolving and changing up their sound from album to album, the devolution of Filth Pig is striking in how much it lacks in dynamics and the subtle touches that characterized the band's earlier works. You could always count on Al Jourgensen to inject samples, effects and much more into a final mix. On Filth Pig, Ministry takes the easier route and offers up a platter of loud guitar, bass and drums. There's occasional tinges of industrialism and whatnot, but they're few and far between.

The biggest flaw with Filth Pig is that most of these songs are rather pedestrian. Oh sure, in a live setting, these songs are sure to plaster the audience with crushing walls of sonic aggression. However, on this studio recording, most of the songs lope along at meandering tempos. Unlike previous records, they don't seem particularly interesting in kicking up dust. Songs like "Game Show" drag on like a Wheel of Fortune marathon. It's not until the last three songs of the album do you get anything remotely interesting. Of note is the cover of Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay", which features a grinding bass sound and the first attempt at any sort of dynamics anywhere on the album. The final track, "Brick Windows", has a good, driving bass line and monolithic beat. But on the whole, Filth Pig is a tedious chore to listen to.

It is unfortunate that Ministry lost much of the layered, nuanced sound that had been their signature. Whatever the cause, the reliance on sheer bombast and volume severely undercut the band's overall impact. Filth Pig is one of those CDs that you can usually find in every single discount bin across the land and there is a solid reason for that. It's a very poor follow up to the band's creative and career peak in the early 90s.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2009

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Review #2:

High expectations can create a negative outlook on any band. The early 90s saw Al Jourgensen and Co. stealing the spotlight from the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Lollapalooza on a nightly basis, having a chart topping single for Warner Brothers, outselling label cash cows such as Madonna and Prince, and an album influencing a genre of industrial metal groups to come. In 1992 Ministry was practically destined for stardom. Instead what followed was a four year seclusion into the studio, low-lighted by a drug bust, various arrests, long time collaborator and drummer Bill Rieflin leaving half way through recording to join R.E.M., and the relationship between Al and Paul Barker almost dissolving. When a new album finally came around to being released, showing almost no traits that were synonymous with the band's previous records, it was a public relations disaster.

The actual music does a great a job at reflecting the troubles Al Jourgensen had been through during that period, making Filth Pig a very personal album. The title track is a pretty depressing look into the world Ministry's frontman lives in, while "Reload" and "Dead Guy" are rants full of anger and bile against those who, to put it lightly, might've treated him unfairly. As a matter of fact "Reload" is the only track that wouldn't sound too out of place on any of Ministry's classic releases. Afterwards things start to go into uncharted territory. Many qualities found here are shared with the stoner doom metal genre. On "Lava" these guys are channeling The Melvins and even surpassing them. Even when you take the CD out of the plastic case you're treated with a photo of a mushroom. They weren't too shy about their vices or the new psychedelic influences they're playing with. With Rieflins' departure to a presumably much brighter and stable environment, in comes new drummer Rey Washam whose more progressively inclined beats adds a whole dimension and making things more dynamic in the tracks he's featured on.

Even the producing tendencies of Hypo Luxa/Hermes Pan have changed. On albums such as The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and Psalm 69, the sound is crystal clear allowing for all the layered instruments and samples to be heard while still being harsh. Here, the trademark dense layering of samples and electronics is gone, everything is heavily distorted, even the drums. In past albums Paul Barker's bass playing was very simplistic, just a few notes played over and over throughout entire songs. His bass is given a new deep, grinding sound, not unlike that of Lemmys'. Taking full advantage, his new found style actually drives songs as evidenced in the Bob Dylan cover "Lay Lady Lay". Speaking of which, they make it their own acid-laced song. Al singing Dylan's lyrics in his distorted demented vocals is definitely a treat. The albums closer ends things a little sarcastically optimistic in stark contrast to the preceding songs.

I understand Filth Pig has been mostly seen in a negative light since its release. On the other hand, this style has resurfaced in recent years and is more accepted than 'industrial metal' these days. Making fans wait years for an album that sounds nothing like what you're famous for isn't usually a good career move. Then again, Ministry never much cared for such conformity and convention. Instead of taking the easy route and following up with something similar to Psalms 69, they shouted a "fuck you!" (probably in a distorted voice) to expectations and released something challenging and fresh while going in a new direction, proving an artist doesn't always get lost at such high levels of success.

Review by Joel Gilbert

Review date: 03/2013

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Dark Side Of The Spoon

Ministry - Dark Side Of The Spoon ©1999 Sire
1. Supermanic Soul
2. Whip And Chain
3. Bad Blood
4. Eureka Pile
5. Step
6. Nursing Home
7. Kaif
8. Vex & Siolence
9. 10/10

This disc is kind of like a fungus . . . it grows on you. The first time I listened to it, I was driving with the windows down in my car, which isn't the best place to listen to a new disc. Even so, I really enjoyed the first and third tracks. The rest I wasn't so crazy about and, after reading a few negative reviews (see above), I was ready to write off Dark Side… as a loser. But then a funny thing happened--I went to the concert and was surprised at both how good the new songs sounded live and how well the sax player fit into the band structure. So a few days later, I thought to myself, "What the heck, it's only an hour out of my life that I'd probably waste anyway," and gave the disc another spin. I'm really glad that I did, 'cuz Dark Side… is actually a decent album.

The nearly universal reaction of Ministry fans whom I know that have listened to Dark Side… seems to be (Hank Hill voice) "whut the hell?" However, it's actually not that much of a departure from Ministry's previous albums. The most radio-friendly song, "Bad Blood," sounds like it's from The Mind… era, which makes sense because that's when its riff was written. "Supermanic Soul" sounds flat and punkish, something vaguely like "TV Song"/"TV II." And all the other songs, with two exceptions, are logical descendents of the drone sound featured on Filth Pig. In fact, I prefer this disc to Filth Pig. The saxophone and banjo add a whole new dimension to Ministry's trademark sound, while the new disc's songs are more nuanced and better produced than on the previous album.

Overall, Dark Side… is a solid collection of tracks. On the downside, "Eureka Pile" is really long and "Kaif" and "Vex and Siolence" tend to blend together; even so, those three songs are still enjoyable. The departures from Ministry's usual style are especially worth a listen. "10/10," which refers to Al Jourgensen's birthdate, is a head-bobber with an off-kilter riff that's positively groovy, man. "Step" is a fun little ditty with preening-rock-star lyrics and copious references to Alcoholics Anonymous literature--and if you're lucky, you may even hear it on the radio.

Dark Side… is not a disc to play and rock out to, like Psalm 69. It's more of a disc that will gain meaning each time you play it. So if you hated it the first time, give it another chance. Toss the disc in your player when you're in a mellow-ish mood, concentrate on the underlying riff, and delegate the vocals and guitar solos to the back of your mind. You may be surprised at what you'll hear.

Review by Jonathan Arnett

Review date: 10/1999

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Rio Grande Blood

Ministry - Rio Grande Blood ©2006 13th Planet/Megaforce
1. Rio Grande Blood
2. Señor Peligro
3. Gangreen
4. Fear (Is Big Business)
5. Lieslieslies
6. The Great Satan (Remix)
7. Yellow Cake
8. Palestina
9. Ass Clown
10. Kyber Pass
11. Untitled

In the latter phase of Ministry's decades long career, Al Jourgensen took it upon himself to write many songs about what a raging asshole Geroge W. Bush is. Jourgensen promised us a trilogy of albums that detailed the utter corruption of the Bush administration, starting with 2004's Houses of the Molé. Rio Grande Blood (the album title is a parody of ZZ Top's Rio Grande Mud) is the second entry in the trilogy and finds the elder statesman of industrial metal leaning very much towards the forgotten world of speed and thrash metal. Rio Grande Blood featured a couple bandmates who had their own healthy career in the genre: Prong's Tommy Victor and Paul Raven (who spent time in Killing Joke as well as several other notable acts). One can picture Jourgensen and Victor sitting around a table of empty beer bottles discussing the peak of thrash metal and saying, "Gosh, wouldn't it be fun to put out an album reminscent of that era?" Maybe the word "gosh" wasn't used, but this is a family publication that corrupts young minds everywhere. Hopefully.

Ministry spent a chunk of the 90s stuck in a plodding malaise but figured out how to rev things back up in the 00s. To a degree, Ministry mostly has focused on sheer bombast and battery since their career peak in the late 80s. Nuance is obviously not in abundance in Jourgensen's thinking. The amusing album opener splices together various Bush speeches that essentially boils down the United States' foreign policy to the basics: desire to control crude oil. "Lieslieslies" takes on the official government position regarding the events of 9/11, throwing in samples from the documentary Loose Change. Granted, while I am positive that we still do not know the true story about the 9/11 timeline, I've never bought into the premise that elements of the United States government plotted the attacks. That said, it amazes me that utterly no one was held responsible for whatever incompetence and negligence occurred on and before 9/11.

Getting back to the music, Rio Grande Blood is actually a somewhat flat performance that relies a bit too much on the heavy impact rather than good songwriting. There are some good moments throughout and one can certainly be impressed by the guitar playing of Victor and Jourgensen. But considering Ministry used to excel at dynamics in the studio setting, even on the most relentless songs such as "The Missing", Rio Grande Blood flounders from time to time. Being angry at the Bush administration is not enough to warrant the diatribes. This album simply needs more depth.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2010

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