As a live band, Ministry have always been an absolute beast. Crushing industrial riffs and tighter-than-Dad-on-holiday drums clash with Al Jourgensen’s effect-heavy vocals; violent images flash on screen and everybody usually leaves with severe neck injuries. Seeing as their unmissable show is currently rolling through the UK, here’s every Ministry album ranked from the dregs of their career to their blinding, brutal best.
13. With Sympathy (1983)
So this and Twitch (it’s up next, promise) aren’t really Ministry albums. Sure, they’re branded with the Ministry name and they are Jourgensen’s creations, but these records – especially With Sympathy – are creatively shrivelled prunes compared to the rest of Ministry’s discography. Al’s fake British accent and the slightly funky, synthpop tones peppering singles like Revenge and I Wanted To Tell Her are fine, but it’s completely disassociated with the Ministry we know and love. Uncle Al had a shitty time making it, but his one good memory remains with a former Beatle; Paul McCartney was recording next door, so the two ended up playing Asteroids. Still doesn’t make With Sympathy any better, mind.
12. Twitch (1986)
Much harder than With Sympathy, Jourgensen’s second stab at a Ministry full-length came with Twitch. The British accent was toned down and the synthpop slowly tiptoed out, replaced with a slightly more organic, EBM-styled industrial affair. Over The Shoulder, for example, features a pretty weak vocal attempt from Al, but the track’s percussive spine was a natural growth from With Sympathy. Twitch played a pivotal role in Jourgensen’s career maybe not musically, but definitely from a technical standpoint; producer Adrian Sherwood taught our Al the tricks of the trade and which knobs to twiddle, resulting in Ministry becoming much more Al’s project later down the line.
11. Animositisomina (2003)
Dubbed a “non-album” by Al, the curiously palindromic Animositisomina was a necessary evil in order to end Ministry’s contract with Sanctuary Records. Conceived while Al was suffering withdrawal from, well, everything, the record is a disengaged affair by Ministry’s usual standards; this is the last record to feature bassist Paul Barker, who had more to do with the album’s creation than Al. Purposefully vicious and sounding thinner than a cling film condom, the record harbours a few gems; opener Animosity is an iron-clad rager, Unsung’s layered scream of “Preparation Day!” is heavy and the long-overdue recording of Magazine’s The Light Pours Out Of Me is done justice. Other than that, Animositisomina remains a bit of a weird one.
10. Relapse (2012)
Ministry had been on hiatus. It was the end, apparently. But just three years after the 2008 hiatus was initiated, Ministry returned to the studio for Relapse. The stomach ulcers that nearly killed Al were gone, as had George Bush: the target of the band’s previous three records. So lyrically, Relapse underwent a shift, as did the music; the groovier, bluesy undertones from The Last Sucker were near enough erased, replaced with taut, tyrannical industrial punishment. 99 Percenters and Double Tap were both banging singles, while the cover of SOD’s United Forces was a playful touch; aside from these, Relapse’s bulk slightly falls short of Ministry’s standards. A great party album and a testament to Al and late guitarist Mike Scaccia’s eagerness to return to Ministry.
9. Houses of the Molé (2004)
Finally severing ties with Paul Barker, Ministry’s first full-blooded foray into thrash came with Houses of the Molé; lyrical crosshairs were aimed squarely at George W. Bush, a target that suffered scrutiny and seething criticism through Ministry’s following two records. Carl Orff’s O Fortuna mercilessly melds into album opener No W, while Waiting and Worthless also exhibit that streamlined neo-thrash. Stuff like World and harmonica-heavy Worm come across as Filth Pig/Dark Side Of The Spoon rough cuts – this is no criticism, mind. Houses of the Molé is the weakest link in Ministry’s Bush trilogy, but set them on a steady path.
8. From Beer To Eternity (2013)
December 22, 2012: the day it went quiet. Tearing the fuck out of his guitar onstage with Rigor Mortis, Mr. Michael Ralph Scaccia suffered from a heart attack and died. Hounded with questions regarding Ministry’s future, Al said Ministry was done. Mikey was his best friend and, as Jorgensen so beautifully worded it: “Life without Mikey is like orange juice without pulp - kind of bland.” From Beer To Eternity is Mikey’s swansong for Ministry, throwing loads of weird shit at the wall; Thanx But No Thanx is a dubby reggae headfuck featuring a recital of William H. Burroughs’ Thanksgiving Prayer; The Horror is spasmodic, unhinged industrial sampling at its most haunting and the thrashing guitar wizardry of Side Fx Include Mikey’s Middle Finger (TV4) and Punch In The Face proves that, even in middle age, the Ministry lads could rage like bulls on blue Smarties. It’s old Ministry, new Ministry and a bit of something else – whether this is the band’s last record remains to be seen, but what a way to go out.
- My Life Story | Ministry's Al Jourgensen
- Al Jourgensen's Guide To Drugs
- Al Jourgensen: Ministry's first album made me the maniac douchebag I am today
7. The Last Sucker (2007)
Mikey bowed out to work with Gibson Guitars, leaving his axe in the more than capable mitts of Prong’s Tommy Victor; The Last Sucker is Ministry’s third mirthful missive against George W. Bush, branching out to attack Dick Cheney, The Patriot Act and the general demise of the Bush administration. Musically, it uses the same brutal building blocks as Rio Grande Blood, more rooted in thrash metal with the likes of Let’s Go, Watch Yourself and the heaving title track. Elsewhere, there’s throwbacks and foreshadowing; Die In A Crash and a cover of The Doors’ Roadhouse Blues simultaneously hark back to some of the Southern-fried groove from Psalm 69 while also looking forward to Al’s future project Surgical Meth Machine, in particular that band’s cover of Gates Of Steel. Billed as Ministry’s final act, The Last Sucker would have served as a worthy final chapter; it closed the page on bassist Paul Raven’s efforts with the band, who died shortly after the record’s release.
6. Rio Grande Blood (2006)
The heavy, heavy stuff. The Bush trilogy’s centrepiece and the nastiest by far, Rio Grande Blood is an exercise in pure rage and confirmation that, in 2006, Ministry could smear greasy smatterings of shit all over Slayer in the thrash metal stakes. Even with Scaccia largely absent, this record is maddeningly fast – after all, then-Slipknot member Joey Jordison was originally slated to play drums – and the samples are fantastic, twisting Bush’s words into all sorts of incriminating, ludicrous soundbites. The title track is an absolute powerhouse and, while this record barely stops to breathe, that creepy, disgusting vibe from early records still remains; Lard man Jello Biafra pops up for Ass Clown, delivering a sickening sermon betwixt crushing breakdowns and soloing. A bit good.
5. Dark Side Of The Spoon (1999)
Titled after Al’s heroin addiction, Dark Side Of The Spoon is a continuation of Filth Pig’s evil, self-loathing take on industrial. Tracks like Supermanic Soul and Bad Blood are certified bangers, true, but even the latter features a slide guitar part that remained unused from the still-inaccessible The Land Of Rape And Honey eleven years prior. Dark Side Of The Spoon is a wonderfully confused record; Paul Barker’s brother, Roland, plays saxophone on 10⁄10 and Breaking The Chain has Al crooning like an effigy to Jim Morrison, as Jon Wiederhorn rightfully pointed out. Critics and Al himself might tell you that Dark Side Of The Spoon sucked, but that’s just not the case. It’s dark and it’s uncomfortable, but you could never accuse this record of being anything other than fascinating.
4. Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs (1992)
Ministry got a $750,000 advance from Sire Records. They came back with Jesus Built My Hotrod; a hulking, Redneck riff-fest underpinned a gibberish, unintelligible vocal from Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes. The result? 1.5 million units shifted – and that’s just the single. Psalm 69 propelled Al and the lads into the public’s tunnel vision, landing them a place on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour and basically spanking every other band in attendance because they had this record in their pocket. The quasi-thrash of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste was dialled down in favour of Mikey Scaccia’s groove-orientated riffs straight from the desert, while still keeping Al’s vocals layered in effects and general debauchery. Ignore what some people might say; despite the massive singles, this isn’t a commercial record. Listen to the double bass and feedback on Corrosion. Horrible, innit?
3. Filth Pig (1996)
Basically nicking Godflesh’s shtick and making it even more miserable, Ministry fucked everything up with Filth Pig – but in the best possible way. The bigwigs wanted Psalm 70. They wanted soaring choruses, chant-along verses and radio fodder. What they got was one of the dirtiest, most rancid records to ever see release by a major label. Al doesn’t really remember recording Filth Pig, rightfully preoccupied with an impending divorce, a $100-per-day drug problem and everyone around him hating the music he made. The samples were basically gone, the pace and thrash of yore replaced with dense, treacle-thick walls of noise. Much like Dark Side Of The Spoon, Filth Pig remains a stark, difficult record to listen to, even in 2016, but it’s one hell of a ride – even the cover of Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay seamlessly slots into the album, unlike later covers the band recorded. Absolutely minging.
2. The Land Of Rape And Honey (1988)
What do Fear Factory, Linkin Park, Slipknot and Nine Inch Nails all have in common? Well, they all happen to cite The Land Of Rape And Honey as essentially Year Zero when it comes their bands. This record redefined so many pockets of alternative culture and music; goth, industrial, metal, electronica, post punk and more all took lessons from this record, which blended the bludgeoning beating you get from metal with the disturbing nature of industrial and the danceability of modern electronic music. Al spent six months cutting and pasting the tracks you hear, meticulously matching parts amidst a haze of alcohol, drugs and things that smelt like piss. Listen to how heavy Stigmata is – that’s not even a real guitar, it’s a sample! Inspiration from ‘60s rockers 13th Floor Elevators led to the cruel, static-laden vocal performance we’re treated to from Al; this record is a masterclass in innovation and, above all, it defined the genre of industrial metal. But another record perfected it…
1. The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste (1989)
“Thieves! Thieves and liars! Murderers! Hypocrites and bastards!” That’s Thieves, one of industrial metal’s key moments. Yes, The Land Of Rape And Honey properly fused dance with metal and Psalm 69 fed it to the masses, but The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste mashed industrial with thrash in a way never done before. Heavily inspired by SOD’s Speak English Or Die and Rigor Mortis, this record is a relentless, riotous nightmare with several curveballs; Cannibal Song has Al channelling Skinny Puppy and The Police’s more experimental moments; Test hears rapper K. Lite proclaiming “This is a test!” over one riff, taking Anthrax and Public Enemy’s rap/metal dabblings even further; Dream Song is full-on, Skinny Puppy-style industrial, egged on by Puppy’s Nivek Ogre’s time with Al. But, as much as the experimentation adds to the record, The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste benefits most from that pure, dunderheaded thrash element that’s smashed straight into the industrial. This timeless record, alongside the ensuing tour – which featured twenty-foot-high fences between band and fans, numerous lawsuits and a backstage altercation which resulted in Al shoving vegetables up his arse and trying to rub the contents against the members of Metallica, a manoeuvre called ‘the Flying Dutchman’ – cemented Ministry as legends of industrial and, well, just music in general. The fact that this was all recorded while Al was off his tits on drugs makes this achievement even more Olympian. An undisputed classic.