Over the last two decades, Ministry has often found itself credited as a pioneer of industrial metal, a far-more-metallic Nine Inch Nails. More guitars, more screaming, more heroin, less self-indulgent whining.
But in reality their sound accomplished so much more: Ministry managed to create an entirely engrossing body of work with a perfectly lifeless rhythm section. The computer-generated drums are never meant to sound anything but. The guitars, always recorded through a ridiculously brittle distortion, hammer their repetitive riffs home with metronomic precision. With every track, Ministry sticks a finger in the eye of the basic, sloppy, improvisational rock 'n' roll ethic.
A few elements make the band listenable. The brisk tempos are one, giving the music urgency despite the band sounding like a collection of factory machines. Two is Al Jourgenson's vocal approach - his rhythmic screams certainly add no warmth, but he delivers his words with a passion and spite that draws listeners in.
Three, the band slices and dices recordings of political speeches, dubbing in a word here and a phrase there for a truly quirky effect. And four, if a band releases an album called The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, you have to like them.
All told, after a few listens, Ministry's music is quite innovative and even catchy. So it's a little disappointing that their new release, The Last Sucker, is their last - the record's an hour-long blast of furious, Bush-hating energy that showcases all the above strengths.
True, Jourgenson's rants aren't exactly ready for publication in an academic journal. Greed! Power! Corruption! Heh heh, the vice president's first name is "Dick"! Halliburton! Halliburton! Halliburton! But in an age when most musicians can't write about anything but themselves, it's easy to appreciate a focused political statement, however juvenile.
"Let's Go" captures the band's chaotic fury, with some great lead guitar playing to boot. The intro to "Watch Yourself" slows the tempo without losing intensity. And so on.
But there are a few deviations from the basic Ministry sound. The Doors cover "Roadhouse Blues" proves a smashing success, even if it's completely out of place alongside the rest of the CD, with a full-speed rambunctiousness that doesn't destroy the bluesy feel. One could bob his head to the lively rhythm and synthesizer melodies of "Die in a Crash." There's a choral arrangement lurking in the mix of "End of Days (Part 2)," and the track closes with a lengthy excerpt from Dwight Eisenhower's famed "military-industrial complex" speech.
It's easy to respect a band that quits on a positive note. But The Last Sucker will leave fans wanting another.
Ministry - The Last Sucker