Release Year: 1989
Ministry has evolved several times throughout the years. They went from being a copy cat new wave band to being at the forefront of the industrial metal movement. For their fourth album the band went in yet another direction: heavy metal. Some of the industrial elements are still there, but the music is more guitar driven as opposed to synth. The result is one of their most brutal and strongest albums to date. This is when the band was on top of their game and when they managed to creep you out with just a riff.
Their previous LP was aggressive as hell, but they went even further and harsher for this one. “Thieves” opens the stellar album with the shuttering riff that’s reminiscent of rapid fire bullets going off. Hearing it you know you’re in for a brutal ride. The riff builds up the tension until Jourgesen begins screaming “Thieves! Thieves and Liars! Murderers!” sounding furious and intense. After the verse, everything picks up and turns into chaos, which fits perfect with the line “inside outside, which side/we don’t know.” It’s an amazing track and one of their all time best. The chaos continues with “Burning Inside” with its heavy shuffling riff and maddening drums. Jourgesen sounds like he’s dunked in water since the vocals are obscured as he sings about drug addiction. The music drives the song creating this huge tension that feels like it’s bound to snap and cause massive damage.
“Never Believe” goes back to their industrial side with a stark dark synth riff that’s made for a Goth nightclub. Soon enough the dirty guitar takes over and brings it back into the world of heavy metal. The vocals, done by Chris Connolly, are delivered like a weird sermon. The whole thing has a tinge of horror to it, but it’s pretty subtle. “Cannibal Song” sounds pretty disturbing. It relies on distorted voices, eerie sounds, crows cawing, and garbled samples that are hard to make out, but unnerve you just because it sounds so weird. The vocals don”t make anything better since Jourgensen keeps stretching and wavering his voice to make him sound deranged while singing. The heavy bass is your only saving grace since it keeps you moving. Otherwise, it’s the eeriest track on the album. “Breathe” is another intense track, which finds Jourgensen turning a simple action into a violent command. The best is when he demands “Breathe! Breathe! Breathe, you fucker!” With the pounding music and aggressive attitude, the whole song hits you in all the right places.
Then there’s “So What,” which is the ultimate Ministry song. Everything about this track shows why Ministry were one of the heaviest, most disturbing bands out there. It uses samples from the Ed Wood film The Violent Years and Scarface for most of the lyrics and it’s fucking effective. One of the creepiest things about the song is the sinister laugh that echos throughout the track. Though the song starts off on a slightly muted note then it roars up and punches you in the jaw repeatedly until you’re singing “So what?” with Jourgensen. There are even moments when it lures into a sense of calm before snapping out of it and punching you one last time. It’s a brutal, violent song, which is funny since it’s about cultural violence, and one that Ministry fans still love today.
While the album is amazing, there are some lackluster moments. Ministry mixes rap and metal with a mediocre result on “Test.” The music is great with slaying guitars, but it keeps repeating while Tommy Boyskee dishes out a very 80s rap flow over it. The song is okay, but something you have to get used to. Otherwise, it catches you off guard. “Dream Song” is a bit better, but pretty weak as a closing track. Rather than being hard and brutal, it’s oddly ethereal with sensual singing, not from Jourgensen, and a bit weird and creepy with various samples clashing together. It’s a little creepy, but it’s still not as harsh or brutal as the rest of the album. You’d think with so much strong material here, the album would end in a mass of destruction and chaos.
Ministry have a lot of strong albums in their catalog, but this has to be their best. It’s a brutal record packed with more violence, aggression, and destruction than a Michael Bay movie. The songs are killer, Jourgensen sounds pissed off as hell, and the whole thing is downright horrifying. Some of the music alone makes you shiver, but you love every minute of it. Not everything on the album is a hit, but at least they’re still listenable. They just may not be songs you turn to when you want some classic Ministry. Either way the album is heavy hitting and show why Ministry were one of the most brutal bands around.