Six Things We Learned At Ministry's London Show

Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen
Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen (Image credit: Getty)

It’s been four years, but Ministry are back in the UK. This isn’t some sort of fevered cheese dream – they’re really back! The industrial metal pioneers have blazed a trail of desecration and dirt across our puny isle for the past week, with Californian groove kings DevilDriver riding shotgun. Here’s what we learnt when the double-headed beast landed in London on Saturday.

1. DevilDriver have still got it live

Despite a complete line-up shuffle with just vocalist Dez Fafara and guitarist Mike Spreitzer remaining, DevilDriver can still deliver a premium arse-kicking when they please. The Forum’s cavernous, ungodly sound swallows the first two songs, leaving everyone pitting to what is essentially a two-song-long drum solo from Austin D’Amond. When newbie Daybreak, er, breaks, everything comes together just like the Beatles promised (over who? Over you, mate); The DevilDriver frontman’s lowly belches remain as potent as they are on record, complimented by his much-cooler-than-your-Dad dance moves. The new band members have gelled and they’re having a laugh, churning out the groovy, anthemic metal of Before The Hangman’s Noose and the always-destructive Clouds Over California as if they learnt them in potty-training breaks. But next time, throw us a bone from Pray For Villains, eh lads? That record’s up there with Lamb Of God’s best. Just saying.

2. Ministry are a class act… kind of

The electronica-tinged Hail To His Majesty (Peasants) beckons Ministry on, with the roar of “HAIL! To his majesty!” revealing a massive photo of Lemmy on the screen flanking the stage. Rapturous applause ensues – obviously. It’s fucking Lemmy. A classy move on Ministry’s behalf but, then again, this was preluded by 10 minutes of WWII footage. Make of that what you will.

3. Al Jourgensen actually looks like he wants to be here

Uncle Al, Ministry’s ridiculous ringleader, has made no secret of his disdain for live performance; he used to leave the stage during Stigmata, fleeing to a bar so nobody could find him; fan favourites were often omitted in favour of new songs, leaving stone-cold classics untouched for entire tours. Tonight, Al’s up for a laugh. Arriving kitted out in a military jacket and gasmask, he tears through Hail To His Majesty (Peasants) like he actually wants to be on stage, screaming “I’m Al fucking Jourgensen” as a statement of intent rather than just any old lyric. He pretends to be an aeroplane. He stalks the stage as a cantankerous, middle-aged demon, pointing at his followers and, much to the bewilderment of the front row (your writer included), even hopping onto the barrier and administering high fives to the congregation. This is very un-Al. He seems happy. We like it.

4. The songs. Oh, the songs

Tonight’s gig is basically an industrial metal edition of Doctor Who, dragging us through nearly three decades of iron-clad classics. Even newbies like Punch In The Face and Permawar get the lungs lubricated and the pit moving; shit like Rio Grande Blood and Waiting is just what the Doctor ordered – he’s not a real doctor, his sonic screwdriver’s not even got batteries in it – but when classic-era Ministry kicks in? Christ, man. Thieves. Just One Fix. Stigmata. This is as good as it gets. Rare cuts like The Missing and Deity are plastered onto the earholes for our delectation, and it’s still not enough to satiate our selfish palates. There’s no, er, No W and nothing from Filth Pig or Dark Side Of The Spoon gets played anymore – with good reason, as Al doesn’t really remember making them – but the idea of Ministry, on this form, ripping through Supermanic Soul or Dead Guy is a naughty thought indeed.

5. If this rock ‘n’ roll thing doesn’t work out, Al should be a recruitment consultant

Assembling line-ups with similar proficiency to an overzealous child constructing a Lego kingdom, Al’s never been a slacker when it’s comes to line-ups; members of Prong, Slipknot, Killing Joke and countless others have marched in Ministry’s ranks over the years. Tonight, we have regular Sin Quirin manning the axes, but two new recruits have injected further life into Al’s project; Stone Sour’s Roy Mayorga gets to show his chops outside the confines of his hard rock day job, beating the skins as if to say, “WHY didn’t Slipknot hire me?!” And what’s that on the bass guitar? Bane? The Terminator? A fucking werewolf? No, it’s just Prong/Stone Sour man Jason Christopher. Panic over. Anyway, judging by the pit’s ferocity, London approves of this line-up’s taut, terrifyingly tight renditions of the Ministry back catalogue.

6. We need Ministry in our lives

After guitarist Mike Scaccia’s passing in late 2012, Al assured us there’d be no more Ministry. There were to be a few select shows, playing final offering From Beer To Eternity in full, then the band would split for the third and final time. Tonight’s performance has assured us that Ministry is not dead. For about 100 minutes, we are pummelled with the heaviest, densest breed of industrial metal; the lyrics to the George Bush-era songs could be applied to today’s political climate, reinforced with satirical images of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fighting over a city as the band play. This is relentlessly refreshing, only letting up in the second encore; a ludicrous cover of DEVO’s Gates Of Steel sends us home, complete with a graphic of a nude woman in a gasmask dancing. Yes, really. It’s been 28 years since The Land Of Rape And Honey changed the course of alternative music and culture forever but, in 2016, this band is still achingly relevant. We need Ministry. Thank you, Uncle Al. Please don’t leave us just yet.

Alec Chillingworth

Alec is a longtime contributor with first-class BA Honours in English with Creative Writing, and has worked for Metal Hammer since 2014. Over the years, he's written for Noisey, Stereoboard, uDiscoverMusic, and the good ship Hammer, interviewing major bands like Slipknot, Rammstein, and Tenacious D (plus some black metal bands your cool uncle might know). He's read Ulysses thrice, and it got worse each time.