MACABRE MUSIC: MINISTRY’S RELAPSE REVIEWED
13th Planet/AFM Records
Being a Ministry fan has had its challenges in recent years. The drug- and Democrat-induced torpor of the industrial music pioneers’ mid-‘90s output, coming as it did after their inventive ‘80s oeuvre, was off-putting, as was much of mainman Al Jourgensen’s Dubya-dependent turn-of-the-century work, although 2003’s Animositisomina was equal parts terrifying and terrific.
So news of a new and allegedly final Ministry record stirred hope and dread in this long-time rivethead’s, well, head, and the final product is just as frustrating and frenetic as was to be expected.
Relapse finds Al, now mostly recovered from recent health problems that apparently caused him to technically die a third time, making music every bit as heavy and rhythmically complex as ever (his cry of “I’m not dead yet” on the violent if lyrically self-indulgent opener ‘Ghouldiggers’ emphasizes the point), and if he’s not exactly breaking any new ground, he at least delivers the doom-laden goods with good humour and technical proficiency. Credit that also to Al’s A-list team of Mike Scaccia (Rigor Mortis), Tony Campos (Soulfly), Tommy Victor(Prong), and Casey Orr (Rigor Mortis/Gwar).
But having followed the band for 30 years, I’m sensing a certain lack of purpose. Jourgensen is still pissed – at social injustice (‘99 Percenters’, ‘Kleptocracy’), music industry leeches (‘Ghouldiggers’), and his own propensity for addiction (‘Freefall’), among other things – but 2007’s The Last Sucker was supposed to be the last Ministry record, and Jourgensen’s return to his best-known musical vehicle seems, if not reluctant, then merely a professional addendum to a chapter of his career which he no doubt thought he had already closed. Consider Relapse the musical equivalent of these last two seasons of Supernatural in that case; relatively fun (despite its often self-loathing and angry subject matter) but ultimately not essential.