Industrial Music

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.

13 Above the Night – My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult

Release Year: 1993

Rating: 8.5/10

When a band wants to change their sound it can have disastrous results. It may not sound good and some fans will feel betrayed. But Thrill Kill Kult takes that risk with every album they release. Whether it’s industrial metal, swing, new wave, disco, or techno, the band always gives fans something new and unexpected with each record. Somehow they make it work without being cheap or straying way too far from their roots. While there are hints of the creepy, eerie sound they started out with on their fourth album, this record is drenched in club music that wants to make you sweat.

The thing I love about Thrill Kill Kult is they have their own brand of weird dance music that’s actually interesting and rarely repetitive, which is a big reason why I’m not a fan of EDM. And this vibe is found all over this album. Though it’s not my favorite song “The Velvet Edge” represents the cool, sexy, mood of the band. It begins in a fury of noise with lots of distortion and screaming. It then mellows out with some weird wonky synth that’s both slinky and playful. It’s also kind of sleazy, which fits in with the band’s attitude. They also let the sexy fly on tracks “Dirty Little Secrets,” which has breathless singing, and “Disko Fleshpot,” which explores various realms of sex and lust. These tracks show even though the music may change, their sensual themes stay the same.

The band throws fans for a loop with tracks like “Dirty Little Secret” and “Blue Buddha.” The former song has this groovy, cool-cat groove that’s made for a Jazz lounge. It’s really smooth and has a bit of a swing vibe, making it sound like something that should be played in an 40’s underground club. It’s not the best track on the album since it gets dull after awhile, but the different sound further shows how the band isn’t afraid of pushing the boundaries. The same goes for “Blue Buddha.” This one has more of a hip-hop/funk flavor. Similar to the other tracks, it has a great groove and is really playful with the lyrics. Again, not the best on the record, but not terrible.

The creepier side of the band comes out on “Delicate Terror,” which has electro pulsing music with synth made for a horror movie. The main sample of “Join the children of hell” adds a sinister layer to the track. Otherwise the song is drenched in excess as Groovie Mann sings “Hypnotic mouth talks on fantasy phone/Sanitarium Borderline/Gone today and here tomorrow…/Killed his taste for switchblades.” “Dementia 66” is also on the eerie side with ethereal sounds and unsettling chanting. Groovie Mann even sounds ghoulish when he’s singing. The whole thing sounds like something that should be playing during a ritual or sacrifice, especially with a weary voice pleading “Oh god help me” in the background.

Most of the album seems to be inspired by dance music, house music in particular. The band have always had elements of dance in their work but it’s represented best on this album. “Final Blindness” was made for a rave with the out of control electro music and blaring sirens that signal some sort of chaos. All that’s missing are the glow sticks. “China de Sade,” “Starmatyr,” and “13 Above the Night” all use electronic music as a basis and then throw in dashes of disco, hip hop, funk, soul, and a lot of groove to create an eclectic dance beat. There are also lots of samples thrown in and are mixed so well they become their own rhythm. What the band does flawlessly is mix and transform sounds so you’re never sure what to expect next. Not only does it make the music more interesting, but it keeps listeners on their toes.

Even when the band slows things down they want to keep listeners moving. On the awesome and sensual “Badlife” Groovie Mann sings “He’ll castrate your soul/and penetrate your mind” while the slick music keeps its mellow groove. This has always been one of my favorite songs: not only do Groovie Mann’s soft vocals sound sexy, there’s also this underlying creepiness to it with the distorted noises and howling that sounds like ghouls in distress. The closing track “Savage Sexteen” is another stand out entry on the LP. It’s pretty catchy and again has that cool vibe and slickness the band exudes. Just as with the other songs, you can dance to this one and admire Groovie Mann’s wordplay like “Sinderella pussy cat.”

Each Thrill Kill Kult album is a fun, unique experience. Some of the same themes, samples, and sounds expand across their entire body of work, but they always have something new up their sleeve. This album takes dance music as a basis and adds on top on of it with different genres, moods, samples, and vibes. Some of the tracks are creepy ala classic TKK, while others are sensual and sexy, a mood the band plays with so well. Even if every song isn’t catchy or memorable, 13 Above the Night is still a really fun album to get loose and dance the night away to. After listening to this record, you can’t wait to hear what comes next.

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.

With Teeth – Nine Inch Nails

Nine_Inch_Nails_With_Teeth_StandardRelease Year: 2005

Rating: 9/10

Things were kind of iffy for Trent Reznor with the release of his double album The Fragile, but coming back clean and sober in 2005 he released With Teeth, which up until his 2013 release was his finest work of the later part of his career. There are tons of elements here that sound like classic Nine Inch Nails, but there are other elements to the music that keeps everything fresh and the listener interested in the album. Though some fans were initially unhappy with the release, I find it’s a strong album with stellar songs.

Even though Reznor is clean and sober on the record, it doesn’t mean the darkness is completely gone from the music. The opening track “All the Love in the World” sets the insecure tone of the album. The moody, mellow drumbeat gives way to Trent’s cracking vocals during the first verse as if he’s nervous or unsure of what’s coming next. Though sometimes Reznor can sound a bit whiny during the chorus of “Why do you get all the love in the world” it still has a somber mood and it doesn’t take anything away from the track. What’s interesting is how midway the tempo picks up, the piano sounds upbeat, the musical sound is overall bright. Trent still laments not getting all the love in the world, but instead of sounding whiny, he playful, like he’s teasing someone. Still, it’s a great way to open this stellar album.

Things get intense with “You Know What You Are” with the frantic drumming, the siren like music, and the pure chaos of everything. The way Reznor screams out “Don’t you fucking know what you are?” gets your blood pumping and your heart racing. To contrast, there’s a quiet musical break that acts as the calm before the storm since the chaos comes back towards the end. It’s an awesome song that shows whether sober or not, Reznor’s still got it. “The Collector” has some of the most interesting lyrics. During the chorus the way Trent sings “I’m trying to fit it all inside/I’m trying to open my mouth wide” makes it sound like he’s talking about a blow job, but it’s been suggested he may be talking about whether or not he wants to keep making music. Either way, the booming drums and the grooving bass pulls you into the song. “Love is Not Enough” is an amazing track with pulsing drumbeats and a growling bass that sounds ready to attack. The guitar plays violently while Reznor screams “Now you have anything left to show/no, no I didn’t think so.” It’s just an awesome song and I love how he croons at the end.

Though a lot of the record deals with struggles of overcoming addiction and throwing yourself into the world clean and sober, there are several references to obedience and standing up for yourself. This is found in “The Hand that Feeds.” It’s a catchy track that talks about not following the masses and having the balls to fight against authority for what you believe. More references to obeying are made on “Everyday is Exactly the Same.” The somber piano during the intro is similar to “Something I Can Never Have” and it’s just as bleak. If there is one song about getting over drugs it’s this one. He talks about doing what he’s told, while feeling like the world is waiting for him to fall. It also seems to reference suicide when he says “I’m writing on a little piece of paper/I’m hoping someday you might find/Well I’ll hide it behind something/They won’t look behind.” Still, these brief mentions of obedience foreshadows what he wold talk about on his next album.

One of the most deceptively sensual songs is “With Teeth.” It begins with a sick bass line and a roaring guitar riff that each have a cool groove to them. Just like his previous song “Sanctified” the lyrics refer to a dangerous, sensual woman, but since it’s Reznor its more than likely he’s talking about drugs and their effect. But what makes this song really stand out is the musical progression. During the middle another guitar comes in, lighter than the others with a twang to it. Then everything abruptly stops making you think the song is over. Piano playing fills up the silence and let me just say no matter what song it is, Reznor always makes a piano sound like it’s crying. Then the music comes crashing in louder and more chaotic than before.

The LP ends on a somber note with both “Beside You in Time” and “Right Where it Belongs.” Both are soul crushing songs that are so moody, you want to crawl in a hole and stay there. “Beside You in Time” has this cool stuttering effect to the music that makes it sound like the record is skipping. While the music is a bit intense the lyrics that seem to reference dying and meeting up with someone in the afterlife brings the mood down. “Right Where it Belongs” is hands down the most depressing track on the album. The somber piano sets the mood while Trent’s muted vocals weave through the song. The lyrics may be about seeing the world differently from your previous outlook and not being sure which version is real. It’s one of those songs that make you reflect on it after it’s over. A crushing end to a stellar album.

Overall, the album gets 9/10. It’s a fantastic record that served as a great comeback for Nine Inch Nail. Though Reznor is sober here, he shows he hasn’t lost any of his edge. In fact, his new outlook on life provides interesting material for these songs. There are some tracks that make you think of classic NIN, but there’s enough new stuff and different sounds to keep the LP exciting. Some songs are angry, some a depressing, but none of them are dull. If you haven’t heard this album or didn’t like it the first time give it another try, maybe you’ll find it’s better than you thought.

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.