AmeriKKKant by MinistryRelease date: March 9, 2018
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Ever since their inception in 1981, Chicago’s Ministry have set out to subvert the masses with a hefty back catalogue of raucous metal with an industrial edge. Of course, it’s nigh on impossible to refer to Ministry as a band, as there have been multiple line-up changes and even deaths along the way. One constant remains, the enigmatic and notorious head honcho, Al Jourgensen. I’ve been a fan of Ministry since 1992, when they appeared on Perry Farrell’s Lollapalooza tour. Al’s outlandish appearance and the insane ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’ hit snared me and I’d heard nothing like Psalm 69 in my life before. I felt dirty and corrupted listening to that album, but it felt good.
I decided to dip back through the back catalogue as part of the review process and I’m left wondering why I keep collecting this band’s music. I largely ignored their first two synth-pop albums (much like Al) and hadn’t really given the albums prior to Psalm 69 much of a go, this situation still remains. You know already about my love for Psalm 69, the other album I still hold dear, is the follow-up Filth Pig, which isn’t to everyone’s tastes. (Their cover of ‘Lay Lady Lay’ is genius and beautiful). Then came Dark Side of the Spoon, which is an ugly, super heavy album that has a few highlights. Animositisomina lacks direction but nails it when required. Houses of the Mole is an acceptable combination of fast thrashers and melody driven stompers. In 2006, they released Rio Grande Blood, a hideous and hostile album of pure bile. They followed this up the next year with The Last Sucker and it seemed Jourgensen was running out of ideas. There was a hiatus of five years before they returned with Relapse, severely lacking in hooks or focus, time was wearing out for Ministry, as far as I was concerned. 2013’s From Beer to Here contained some ghastly funk and dub tracks, these were the “highlights” of an album that stank the place out with absolutely zero focus.
Five years later and here we are with a new album AmeriKKKant and a new “President” in charge to rage against. Kicking against the prick from the off, opener ‘I know Words’ begins with an evil humming before being joined by menacing guitars and an apocalyptic violin while new bastard on the block Donald Trump provides scattershot samples about making America great again and spouting “I know words…stoopid words”. Al’s got a new regime to rail against and the levels of rage in the album are on a level with that displayed against Bush on Psalm 69.
First proper track ‘Twilight Zone’ tumbles forth with mega blast drums pounding out a deathly beat while heavy as fuck guitars grind out a ‘Scarecrow’ style groove. Donald interjects with hideous snippets of chopped up speech of “I don’t know what I said…I never remember” and threatening waterboarding and the chopping off of heads. No wait, these aren’t samples that have been pieced together to make him look a dick, he actually said these things. This new leader of the free world has inspired Al to get great again, and whilst I’m not thrilled about the circumstances, it’s bloody marvellous to have you back on form Al. The first words Al howls on the album are “Disgusted, and depressed. We know the world is just a mess!” Strap in folks, it’s going to be rough for the next 45 minutes or so. When the wailing harmonica sample winds its way into the cacophony I am utterly engaged with this jaw dropper of a track.
An eerie fairground organ scarily chirps behind devilish grunts and growls before ‘Victims of a Clown’ explodes into a sturdy and insistent groove of chugging guitars, bouncy percussion and a plethora of random samples intoning “let us all unite” and “let us use the power”. The track is an odd collision of doomsday instrumentation and sampling positivity and I find the inclusion of more of that wailing violin to be a masterstroke. The brief interlude of revolting racist samples and gunfire that constitutes ‘TV 5-4 Chan’ highlights how much modern civilisation has (not) moved on. ‘We’re Tired of It’ is a full-on turbocharged thrasher that isn’t a million miles away from Slipknot’s earlier craziness. It’s the album’s throw away moment but doesn’t outstay its welcome clocking in at under 3 minutes.
On ‘Wargasm’, sirens wail, drums of death clatter and a hideous bastard lets us know that “war is fuckin’ sexy”, I’m afraid to find out who said this as it’s probably some Colonel in the U.S Army, given today’s bloodlust. Al jumps in with a neat hook of a “chorus” of “Wargasm Addict” and then we’re back to the samples. It was the sample attack of Psalm 69 that appealed to me about Ministry in the first place, kicking off a 26 year love/hate relationship. Despite Al’s previous tirades against wars it’s all the more disconcerting that in today’s world, with such a loose cannon in charge of America, a war could feasibly fire up at any time with any country, which brings a newfound chill to a track like this. This is the stuff of nightmares, but it finds Ministry give us a focussed body of work and this hasn’t been the case for a long while.
Lead track ‘Antifa’ (alluding to anti-fascist) is another ripsnorter of stomping drums, heavy chugging guitars and some killer effects laden guitar lines to prop up Al’s snarling blasts of vitriol. Coming across like the soundtrack to a riot news montage, the track is ultraviolent and the musical equivalent of a bloody fist fight. ‘Game Over’ takes the pace down several notches to Filth Pig tempos and that’s not to everyone’s taste. Donald T provides the comedy again with a “This is like Watergate, only it’s worse” sample and the track has a brief ‘Lay Lady Lay’ moment with some slippery guitar, but the intensity of the faster numbers is lost somewhat.
Album closer ‘AmeriKKKa’ lurches into view with slow pounding drums and harmonic picked guitars over a disturbing metallic grind. The mix is dense with obnoxious sounds and samples making for mostly uncomfortable listening, the theme once again is going to war and how there is so much all-out aggression in the world today. There are some bluesy solos as the track and album wind to a close. I found much satisfaction to be had with the album, even if I was left with a deep feeling of unease at the state of the world today. I think Al Jourgensen will be pretty pleased with the achievement of messing with heads in this way, that’s what Ministry have set out to do since they ditched the electro pop frivolity of their first two albums.
I can only provide you with my opinion on this latest recording from Mr Jourgensen, I’m certain there will be many who just see Ministry as a live spectacle nowadays with hit and miss reports from a few on metal forums I read. They are a band I have yet to catch live so my thoughts are purely on recorded output and I find AmeriKKKant a total return to form. There are moments were the quality dips a little but the album’s brevity ensures that the overall “enjoyment” to be had doesn’t dissipate too much. There aren’t many artists out there prepared to provide such blatant critique of the eejit in the White House. You can count on Al Jourgensen to step up to the mark though and I hope he doesn’t allow the next few years to sully this album’s value by churning out infinite rehashes of a formula that works so well. For now, AmeriKKKant is prime Ministry/Jourgensen, Al for president anyone?