Al Jourgensen

Everyday is Halloween Anthology – Ministry

Release Year: 2010

Rating: 6/10

Every band has a slow period between recording albums and touring. This makes it prime time for random compilation records to keep sales up. Greatest hits, remix, and sometimes rarities albums are what artists turn to hoping fans will eat it up. That must have been the case with this Ministry release. The band wasn’t satisfied with a straightforward compilation with only their singles or only remixes. They decided to do a hybrid release mixing hits with remixes and covers. Now the question is was it worth it?

This album isn’t sure what it wants to be. Is it a retrospective? A cover album? A remix record? The first half is nothing but classic Ministry songs re-recorded and remastered. Why? I don’t know. The songs, “NWO,” “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” and “Stigmata” all sound similar to their original counterparts. Sure, that may be the point, but it makes them unnecessary. It’s not like the band change the tracks drastically. Usually, it’s more distorted vocals that are hard to make out and louder gritty guitars. The remix of “Everyday is Halloween” is pretty good, but since it has more of a heavy metal vibe, it sounds like a Rob Zombie song.

You would think the saving grace would be the covers. Well, they’re not horrible. The band plays it straight with most of the songs, like “Paint it Black” and “Sharp Dressed Man.” They keep the same format and vibe of the track and add in lots of guitars. The same goes for “Thunderstruck” and “Stranglehold.” Whereas the latter track has an industrial groove, the former is pretty true to the original. The only problem is Al Jourgensen’s vocals don’t exactly work with the song. While these covers aren’t terrible, they’re pretty bland and forgettable.

The “Iron Man” cover is actually the best cover on the album. They take the unmistakable riff from the classic Black Sabbath track and integrate it with their fast paced, synth electro madness. Instead of keeping the dark and gloomy mood, they turn it into something chaotic, wild, and destructive. They really make the song their own without shitting all over the original. It’s something both Sabbath and Ministry fans will appreciate.

One of the strangest, yet more entertaining covers is Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” As you would expect, it’s the complete opposite of the original. It’s insanity incarnate with Jourgensen screaming “They try to make go to rehab/and I said/No!/No!/No!” It’s kind of an ironic cover since he had his own drug problems over the years. With the hard driving music, brutal nature, and aggressive vocals, the cover is certainly unique. It’s not necessarily good, but it’s so ridiculous and intense it’s hard not to like it.

Even though it’s an interesting idea, the album is unsatisfying. The remastered songs are pointless and most of the covers are bland. It seems like they needed to release something, did some covers, but needed more material to pad out the LP. It would’ve been better off if it was released as a short covers EP. The album is one of those forgettable albums that gets old after the first few tracks. After listening to this, I’m convinced cover albums are never a good idea.

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The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste – Ministry

Release Year: 1989

Rating: 9/10

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.

Big Sexy Land – Revolting Cocks

Release Year: 1986

Rating: 7.5/10

With one of the most offensive names in rock music, Revolting Cocks formed in 1983 by Al Jourgensen, Richard 23, and Luc Van Acker after a bar fight in Chicago. Since then the band has continued to make music throughout the years. Their debut album showcases the sound and feel Jourgensen’s band, Ministry, would move to shortly after the release of this LP. Considering the main players in the band and the music they make, it’s hard not to make the comparison to Ministry. If anything the album can be viewed as a stepping stone to the Ministry that’s known today.

Named after the Heysel Stadium disaster of 1985, “38” begins with rapid fire percussion followed by a deep, funky bass that gets the groove going. Though apparently Jourgensen did none of the vocals for the LP, somehow Richard 23 still manages to sound like the frontman only with a slight British accent. The whole thing has a cool industrial groove to it that makes you dance. Unlike some of the later material, it’s not intense or super heavy, a theme that runs throughout the music. “We Shall Cleanse the World” has an upbeat feel and reminds you 80’s club bangers. Here, samples Jourgensen would use in his other work makes an appearance. The vocal delivery is commanding, which works well with the lyrics: “Cross the city very fast/No time to lose, no time to lose/Cross the city very fast/You’re the only driver who can do it.” The entire thing has this Big Brother mood to it that’s a bit unsettling.

Attack Ships on Fire” has similar if not the same music as the opening track: the same mix of synth, heavy percussion, and that sexy bass groove. What really makes the song is the whole creepy vibe to it. The vocals are a whisper, which are then twisted and distorted you can barely make them out. Then, he screams “Someone somewhere wake me up!” sounding tortured and distressed. The music also features a lot of weird noises, like random laughing and moaning, reminding you of disturbing Ministry songs, which of course some of their best.

The LP features a few instrumental tracks, but they command your attention as much as the other songs. On “Big Sexy Land” the light synth and various samples used really reminds me of songs from Pretty Hate Machine. The band gets really creative on “Union Carbide,” both mixes, by remixing the samples to create its own rhythm and hook. The way the music twists, turns, and changes sometimes right in the middle of it, keeps your interest and keeps you moving, which seemed to be the band’s goal at the time.

When the LP was remastered in 2004, it featured the previously unreleased track “You Often Forget” and it’s not as strong or memorable as the original songs. The music is jarring and sounds like a record skipping. The vocals themselves are layered on top of each other making the whole thing disorienting and hard to listen to. Clocking in at 8:30, the song grows dull after a while and can’t hold your attention like the other tracks. When you hear it, you understand why it was left off of the original release. After this, the rest of the LP doesn’t hold up. “TV Mind” and “No Devotion” aren’t bad tracks, but with similar synth music and deep grooves, everything sounds familiar and is easy to tune out.

Whether it was intentional or not, Jourgensen laid out the foundation for later Ministry albums. While the music for this project is more groove oriented instead of brutal, the two bands sound pretty similar, but what else would you expect with most of the members in this band? The first half of the LP is strong with ear catching sounds, but it all starts to run together by the second half. None of the songs are out right, but they become forgettable. With Ministry supposedly at an end, maybe Jourgesen will round up these guys for another album. Once could only hope.

Fix: The Ministry Movie (2011)

fix_poster_9-1Release Year: 2011

Rating: 8/10

Ministry is a notable band, especially when it comes to industrial music, which they helped to popularize. But like any long lasting group they’ve had their share of problems, which are captured on this film. If you were looking for a history of the band or footage of them having fun backstage before rocking out live you’re in for a surprise. While it does show the guys backstage this film digs into the crazy, unbelievable mind of Al Jourgensen.

Right from the beginning, the movie makes it clear this won’t be a happy story when then drummer Reynolds Washam talks about the “rock star” treatment that was missing from their 1996 SpincTour. It then cuts to a clip of Al Jourgensen in a viking helmet screaming his lungs out. From there, several artists, such as Trent Reznor, Lenny Kilmister, and Maynard Keenan, talk about how Ministry has influenced their own musical endeavors. There are even some bits from the band’s record label at the time and how they were signed and what they thought of the music. Somewhere between these interviews and various clips of the band on stage, it turns into a showcase for how crazy Jourgensen is.

The frontman isn’t shy about expressing his displeasure with touring. He goes on about the people who want to use and abuse you and that the best part about making music is the actual recording of it. He also talks about why record companies suck and how life on the road is tough, especially when you’re sharing a bus with five other guys. He said the same thing about touring in his book that came out last year and as a fan it’s a little heartbreaking to hear. You always want to think the band you’re seeing live is having a good time and when you learn they’re not, you just wonder why they keep going. It’s the same thing with Jourgensen. Throughout the film he’ll address the fans as idiots and various other names making you wonder why he even tours anymore. But this isn’t the most shocking footage. That comes when Al’s drug use is highlighted.

Anyone who has followed the band knows Jourgesen doesn’t hide his substance issues and the same goes for this film. Not only does he openly talk about why he does it, he even shoots up several times in front of the camera. Nothing is left to the imagination as he burns a spoon for another hit of heroin. Spliced between these clips are shots of Dave Navarro and Casey Chaos talking about their behavior on drugs, which is parallel to the way Jourgensen acts. Another thing you learn about the frontman is he is super paranoid. There are shots of him backstage trying on bullet proof vests because he thinks someone is out to get him. There’s even a point where he explains why he wears a top hat (so no one can aim for his skull) and how he has one for everyone in the band. Again, it makes you question whether he should continue to play live if he thinks someone is going to assassinate him.

There are several points in the film that become uncomfortable. Most of them are the shooting up scenes already mentioned, but another one shows Al sticking his dick in a cooked chicken. Try to process that for a minute. It’s not the first or the last time his junk makes an appearance. There’s also a scene where he talks about how groupies are supposed to be handled that’s kind of disgusting. After you’ve seen yet another clip of Jourgensen taking drugs you begin to wonder if the real point of the film was to show the disintegration of the rock star. Whatever the point it’s something you won’t forget anytime soon.

Overall, the film gets 8/10. There’s no doubt the movie is interesting. There are some light-hearted scenes of the guys goofing around backstage, but the entire thing is tinted by Jourgensen’s issues. He comes off as a crazy guy who should be standing on the corner talking about the end of the world most of the time. He’s paranoid, superstitious, and full of drug problems (at least he was in this film). Hearing him talk about touring and his reasons for not doing certain songs is disheartening for fans and leaves you wondering why he even bothers to continue if he hates it so much. It’s an eye opening film that takes you into the mind of the Ministry frontman.

Twitch- Ministry

Ministry_twitchRelease Year: 1986

Rating: 8/10

By now Ministry fans know that the band didn’t begin as the brutal, hard rocking guys they are now. Their first album penned them as a faceless new wave, much to Jourgensen’s dismay. But with their second album, Al had more control and while it’s not their most brutal release it’s still great and shows the direction the band were headed. It’s far from their best, but there are plenty of songs that display the growth of Jourgensen and crew, while keeping a few of the elements found in their debut.

The opening track “Just Like You” starts off with this cool beat that sounds like a military march that eventually transitions into a mid-tempo dance beat. While it’s not as heavy as some of their later releases, the music is still heavier than their prior album. Still, this track shows the beginnings of the band fans would come to know and love. The lyrics make several references to the dark side of politics with one line in particular attacking Ronald Regan: “1980’s was run by a person who’s crazy — like you!” This is similar to what Ministry’s later albums would focus on. What I found interesting about the song is how the vocals sound similar to Thrill Kill Kult’s Groovie Mann. It could be because the two previously formed a band prior to Ministry. Also, Jorgensen is still trying to pull off the faux British accent. It doesn’t work, but it’s not as distracting as it was on the previous album.

“We Believe” has electro synth dance music with a beat that sounds like something from Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine. Reznor has previously stated that Ministry had a huge influence on the band, so I wonder if this is one of the albums that inspired him. Either way the music gets you moving since it has a techno industrial feel to it. The vibe of the song in general is dark and gloomy with the vocals coming off as creepy; what Jourgensen does best. “All Day” is one of the best songs on the album. It’s more synth based dance music with samples that could be from the movie Full Metal Jacket. It has more a funk and dance feel found on their first album, but both the music and the lyrics are so catchy it grows on you quickly. The song itself is about how people waste away most of their lives at a shitty job, while the big boss is living the high life off of them. What’s strange is the hard breathing at the end; it’s so random. Still, it’s one of the best songs from the album.

The second half of the record falls flat. The songs are okay, but they’re kind of dull and don’t stand out like the other tracks. While “Over the Shoulder” has cool music, the vocals are so weird and distracting. I’m not sure what Jourgensen is doing here, but it sounds like he’s putting on faux Barry Gib vocals. The song overall isn’t bad, but the vocals really take away from the track. “The Angel” and “My Possession” are decent enough, but they’re easy to tune out. The previous track has the typical 80’s synth music, while the latter has catchy music, but nothing else notable. If anything, it sounds like these songs are something Jourgensen threw together in a hurry to shut up the label executives.

The closing track “Where You At Now” sounds the most like the Ministry we know today. I love how he shouts “I’ve seen God!” at the beginning. It’s so jarring and wakes up the listener. The brutal, metallic sounds and heavy beats really sound like something they would do on their next release, especially with the extensive use of samples and yelling. The rest of the track consists of two different instrumentals that are more or less sound experiments. It all flows together so well that you don’t even notice the song has moved on to a different section. It’s one of the more interesting songs on the album and one that acts as a doorway to their best music yet.

Overall, the album gets 8/10. While this is far from their greatest release, it’s way better than their debut. It’s still not violent and brutal like their later albums, but it’s closer to the sound they were aiming for. The second half of the record is pretty weak, but it starts off strong with several good tracks that are catchy and groovy. Though Jourgensen has since dismissed the record it’s actually a good example of what Ministry wanted to do later on thanks to the extreme vocals and samples. It’s a pretty good introduction for anyone trying to get in the band and something that every fan should check out at least once.