Ministry

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.

Playlist: What a Knock Out

Music and fighting seem to go hand and hand. But I’m not talking about a fight for your rights, your inner self, or anything like that. I’m talking about songs that take pride in knocking someone’s teeth in. Not all the songs on the playlist specifically reference physical fights, but the music, themes, and lyrics still get the mood across. So Vaseline your face and crack your knuckles, here are songs to start a fight to.

“Mama Said Knock You Out” – LL Cool J

This was one of my favorite songs when I was younger solely because of that memorable hook. It was so much fun running around the school yard shouting “mama said knock you out” until someone tattled on you. Both the song and the video featuring LL Cool J in a boxing ring spitting into the microphone are iconic. He may not be talking about an actual physical fight, but the theme of the song is perfect for this playlist. Cool J says inspiration for the song came from a conversation with his grandmother about his critics. Many of them felt his career was over and she told him “Oh baby, just knock them out!” She’s even featured at the end of the video telling the rapper to take out the garbage.

“The Fight Song” – Marilyn Manson

This song is meant to mock school fight songs, but Manson’s harsh vocals and the punchy guitars still get you riled up. The way Manson screams “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” at the end of each verse is so vile and aggressive you’re ready to break something. The song itself is actually a commentary on the Columbine shooting and condemning America’s obsession with violence. The video itself received some backlash since it pits goths against jocks in a mock football game. Some saw it as a direct echoing of Columbine, which doesn’t make any sense. Still Manson didn’t let it get to him on this stellar track.

“Move Bitch” – Ludacris

Ludacris is always great at providing music to stomp someone to. There’s “Get Back” and “Stand Up” that have similar themes, but it’s this single that’s the best. Whether you’re stuck in traffic, walking behind someone slow, or just ready to start brawling this is the song to get you pumped. How many times have you actually wanted to tell someone to get the fuck out of your way? It’s a simple song with thumping music and a lot of cursing to get your blood flowing and the punches going. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun even if you’re not looking to start a fight. Is it just me or does it seem like Luda wants to start a riot with his songs?

“Fighter” – Christina Aguilera

This song may not be about fighting someone, but it still applies. What has got to be Christina Aguilera’s best song to date, the track talks about taking all the bad and internalizing it. As a result, she comes out stronger, smarter, and better for it. This is an anthem for the ages, which is exactly what Aguilera wanted. Her powerful voice matched with the blazing guitars and harsh vibe of the music makes this a kick ass song ready to pump you up and face the world.

“Punch in the Face” – Ministry

Can’t get more straightforward than this song. This song is straight to the point with Al Jourgensen repeating “Nothing satisfies like a punch in the face/nothing quite like another punch in the face.” It’s not the best Ministry song, but it’s oddly satisfying when you need to blow off some steam.

“Fight” – The Cure

It’s hard to imagine any of the Cure guys getting into a nasty brawl, but it’s actually happened quite a few times during the band’s history. Similar to other songs here, this is more about fighting those inner demons and pain that aims to bring you down. The music is pretty intense while Robert Smith shouts “Fight! Fight! Fight!” begging you to not give in to the pain and the nightmares. I used to think the song was about former Cure bandmate Lol Tholhurst, who Smith had a falling out with, but that song is actually called “Shiver and Shake.”

“Fight Music” – D12

This song is all about getting into a fight and throwing down. It doesn’t try to mask its violent intentions and Eminem makes it clear what they want with the first line: “This kind of music, use it, and you get amped to do shit.” Like most songs featuring the infamous rapper, the track is not only violent, but obscene with references to Bizarre having sex with his grandmother, guns spraying, and even threatening to blow up Dru Hill. Anyone whose a fan knows it’s just another day in the life of Slim Shady, who is ready to take on anybody and everybody no matter the consequences.

“In Your Face” – Children of Bodom

With the way Children of Bodom attack their guitars, it seems like they would never back down from a fight. They’re practically begging for one in this stellar track. Everything about the song is seething with aggression from the roaring guitars and of course, Alexi Laiho’s howling vocals and anguished yells. Just from the title of the song alone you can feel the attitude steaming off of this song. At one point Laiho even says “Say one, more word, I double dare you (bring it on)/It’s my world, you’re in it, it’ll take you down in a minute.” Even if it’s exclusively about knocking the shit out of someone, it still exudes that adrenaline rush that happens right before the first punch lands.

“The Last Fight” – Bullet For My Valentine

Bullet are never hold back with their songs. Many of theme have violent themes and images, so it’s a little odd how this track about fighting doesn’t shed any blood. If anything it sounds like they’re doing their best to avoid a fight, but in the end they’ll fight one last time. The song can actually be construed as a fight for anything whether it’d be physical or not making it all the more universal. Personally, I don’t think it’s one of their strongest songs, but when they bash it out in concert you can’t help but pump your fists in the air.

“You’re Going Down” – Sick Puppies

I honestly don’t know much about Sick Puppies. I’ve seen their name quite a few times, but never bothered to listen to them. While searching for songs for the playlist this one came up several times and it’s pretty perfect. With the main hook of “One of us is going down” it’s clear what the song is about: getting down and dirty in a fight. Judging from the lyrics and the aggressive tone of the song, these guys aren’t backing down from a fight anytime soon. With such a straight forward title and the violent nature of the song, it’s no wonder the WWE has used it in their events.

“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” – Elton John

The song is pretty self-explanatory. Elton John wants to meet up with the guys and raise some hell. Whether that means getting drunk, causing trouble, and getting into fights it doesn’t matter as long as he “gets a little action in.” Rather than running away from a fight or trying to release some anger, John and crew are looking for a fight to have some fun. Elton John has a lot of popular songs in his catalog, but this is one of his most well known. It’s no surprise to learn it was based off of pub fights at the Aston Arms. Why does it seem like pubs and fighting go together like peanut butter and jelly?

Which one of these fight songs gets you riled up? Which brutal song did I miss? Let me know in the comment!

 

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.

Playlist: On The Flip Side

The b-side can be a wonderful thing. Though some of the results are a little harrowing, often times it’s the flip side is more successful than the single. Something about not having the pressure of making a hit single or pleasing radio stations invites artists to experiment and lets loose, which leaves us with some amazing songs.  There was no way I could cover all of the best or notable b-sides in this playlist, so these are just a handful of tracks from some of my favorite artists. So sit back, push play, and get lost in the whimsical world of the b-side.

“Dangerous” – Depeche Mode

This b-side to the already steamy “Personal Jesus” is one of the band’s sexiest songs. It doesn’t have anything to do with the content, rather it’s all about the sound. The hard electro beat and Dave Gahan’s smooth baritone vocals just makes the whole thing sound sexy as hell. Something about it puts a twist in your spine and gives you goosebumps. It even sounds a bit dangerous, especially with the slinking rhythm. In terms of style, the song has the same dark, cold vibe that took over the Violator album. Most would say “Happiest Girl” is the band’s best b-side and while it is good, it’s this gem that’s always been my favorite.

“10:15 Saturday Night” – The Cure

The Cure is one of those bands with a ton of amazing b-sides. I actually made a list of ten of my favorites a while ago. Since that list has all my favorites, here’s another stellar b-side from the band I didn’t talk about. This song features the unmistakable cry of Robert Smith and the “drip, drip, drip” line that pounds into your head. It was this song that convinced Chris Parry to sign the band to his newly formed label Fiction. And though it was the b-side to “Killing an Arab” you could still find it on their debut album. Still, you gotta give credit to the track that started the long and wonderful history of The Cure.

“Pink Ego Box” – Muse

Muse is another band with an insane amount of great b-sides, which is why I also made a list of favorites. While this b-side to “Muscle Museum” didn’t make the cut, it’s still one of their better tracks. It has a pretty simple beat and guitar riff while a young Matt Bellamy wails on about online relationships. The song doesn’t get intense until the end when the rough guitars start screaming along with Bellamy who yells “You turn me on” repeatedly. There’s actually an earlier version of this song  under the name “Instant Messenger” that had an AOL clip saying “You’ve got post.” It had to be removed for copyright reasons, so the band renamed the song. The second title is way more intriguing anyway.

“Into the Groove” – Madonna

This song was originally the b-side to the Madonna single “Angel.” Only later when it was featured on the soundtrack to her film Desperately Seeking Susan was it released as a stand alone single. Either way this is still one of Madonna’s best songs. It celebrates and emulates the club scene she was so fond of in her early years. With the high energy and the blazing synth, you can’t help but get up and dance whenever it comes on. It’s become a fan favorite over the years and is a track Madonna rarely leaves out of her setlist. The song has been remixed, reworked, and reimagined since it was first released, but nothing beats the original that helped make Madonna a megastar.

“Get Down Make Love” – Nine Inch Nails

There are more remixes than b-sides in the NIN catalog, but during the Pretty Hate Machine era, Trent Reznor and company did an industrial cover of this Queen song for the b-side of “Sin.” Whereas the original tries to be sensual and sexy, this version is nothing but raw, harsh, and creepy. The song has all the pulsing synth and electronic that makes NIN songs distinctive and it opens with a odd sample of a doctor asking about a patient’s sexual history. Moaning can be heard throughout the track and if you listen close enough you can hear the actual Queen version albeit played backwards. The experience is weird and eerie, but when you look at songs like “Closer” did we really expect Reznor to treat love and sex nicely?

“Tonight We Murder” – Ministry

Some of the most terrifying and heaviest music comes from Ministry and this song fits both those labels. Released as the b-side to “Stigmata” this track sounds like pure hell. Al Jourgensen cackles, wails, and screams like he’s being tortured while the intense music thumps and grinds to the beat. Everything keeps getting more brutal as Jourgensen steadily loses control as he’s singing. The best is the hook where he sounds evil when he repeats “tonight we murder/tonight we murder.” It actually sounds very similar to Thrill Kill Kult‘s early material, which is no surprise since the two previously worked together.

“Again” – HIM

This melancholy track first appeared as the b-side to “In Joy and Sorrow,” but was later released on a limited edition of Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights. The track is pretty standard for the band: dirty guitars, Ville Valo’s soaring sweet vocals, and Gothic inspired lyrics. This is yet another song that seems to explore the realm of love and death like most of their material. It easily would’ve fit on their third album. The song was later featured in the film Haggard, which was directed by Bam Margera (remember him?) This doesn’t come as a surprise since Bam was obssesed with the band and eventually became friends with Valo.

“Carry Me In” – Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant is a current band I know of that actively releases b-sides. All of them are pretty solid, but one of the best is this b-side to their 2011 single “Shake Me Down.” Singer Matt Shultz sounds weary and weakened as he sings “Love/carry me in/held down by my words/and weight of my sins.” The music starts out kind of frantic especially the beginning, which kind of has this spaghetti Western vibe. Right when you think the song is over, everything slows down to a lull and Shultz continues to mumble his way through the rest of the song. What started out as kind of bright ends on a melancholy note.

“You’re so Vague” – Queens of the Stone Age

I originally wanted to go with “Born To Hula,” but it’s a re-recording of a Kyuss song, the band Josh Homme used to be in. So, I went with this Rated R b-side instead. Using a play on the Carly Simon single “You’re So Vain,” Homme uses his sweet, soothing vocals to sing cringing lyrics like “Green eyed boys/lick the razor blades/girl I think I love you/and the mess you made” and he sounds hypnotic while doing so. There’s even a cool twist on the hook where he sings “Baby you’re so vague/that you probably think this song ain’t about you.”  As usual with QOTSA songs, the music is fucking awesome with guitars that move at a dragging pace, but still manage to sound sexy as hell. Then again don’t most of their songs sound sultry?

“We Will Rock You” – Queen

Did you know that this massive Queen hit started out as a b-side? What’s now considered an anthem for every sporting event across the world was originally the flip side to the equally popular “We Are the Champions.” Its simple stomp clapping beat, Freddie Mercury’s passionate vocal delivery, and Brain May’s searing guitar solo at the end are what makes the song unforgettable. It’s a timeless track and definitely among the band’s best. Both songs were actually written after one show during their 1977 tour when the band walked off stage and the crowd clapped and sand “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to them. Let’s just try to forget the horrible cover versions.

“Sick of Me” – Green Day

This b-side to “Hitchin’ a Ride” finds the classic snotty Green Day attitude as Billie Joe laments a dying a relationship. Though it’s a good song, it’s pretty similar to their other tracks from this time: simple three chord rock with a catchy hook. Still, there are some great bratty and funny lyrics like “Like a dog/that just pissed in your barbecue/sick of me.” This couple tries to make it work, but by the end Billie admits “I’m sick of you too.” Since it follows the winning Green Day formula, it should appeal to most fans. The track was later released on b-side compilation album Shenanigans.

“Fingers and Toes” – Biffy Clyro

If there’s one current band dedicated to the art of the b-side it’s Biffy Clyro. For just about all of their albums, they’ve released a companion b-side LP. They have so many it was hard to pick just one, so I went with on my favorites from their last release Similarities. What instantly catches your attention is the opening line “ladies ask why I’ve got/no fingers and toes.” From there the music kicks up and gets pretty intense, but what’s great about this is they do it without a mass amount of distortion. And even though the music has amped up singer Simon Neil’s voice remain calm throughout. Biffy is definitely one of those bands where their b-sides are just as good, sometimes even better, than the a-sides.

“Throw Them to the Lions” – Siouxsie and the Banshees

Released on the flip side to “Dazzle,” this b-side is the exact opposite of the single. Whereas the a-side is very upbeat and almost whimsical, this one greets the listener with a minute of noise and distortion before Siouxsie Sioux’s soothing voice comes on. Everything about the track is pretty chaotic and all over the place. The music is really dirty, harsh, and intense making it a stand out track. The song also manages to be catchy with Sioux’s warrior cry of “hey/hey/hey” midway through. Sioux and crew have quite a few good b-sides, but this one has always been my favorite.

“Aneurysm” – Nirvana

Though the song did eventually see a wider release both on Incesticide and From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, this Nirvana track was originally released as the b-side to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” From Kurt Cobain growling “Come on over/and do the twist” to the whirring guitar riff that opens the song, it has become one of the best tracks in the band’s entire catalog. The song has several references to Cobain’s ex-girlfriend Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill along with poking fun at pop music conventions and even his own drug use, which was nothing but a rumor at the time. The best part comes when Cobain lets loose a ragged and weary howl right before the end. It shows how Cobain knew how to transfer a lot his pain into kick ass songs.

There are a ton of b-sides I missed, so let me know which one is your favorite in the comments!

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.