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MINISTRY – RELAPSE (Advance Album Review)

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ministrycoverIt’s been nearly four years since MINISTRY performed what were then touted as their ”final” live shows. Always a skeptic when it comes to bands calling it a day, I was one of those with the mindset of ”they’ll be back,” and while I was disappointed to have missed their three-night run here in Chicago, it’s 2012 and the opportunity has presented itself once more. Indeed, Al Jourgensen is back with a familiar band of ”experienced wingmen” for what is undoubtedly one of the best MINISTRY offerings to come along in quite some time.

Set for release on March 27 via AFM/13th Planet, RELAPSE gets the band back together – including Tony Campos (STATIC-X, ATTIKA 7) and Casey Orr (GWAR, RIGOR MORTIS) on bass, Tommy Victor (PRONG, DANZIG) and Mike Scaccia (RIGOR MORTIS, REVOLTING COCKS) on guitars, with engineer Sammy D’Ambruoso – and picks up where 2007’s THE LAST SUCKER off. As ‘SUCKER represented the end of the George W. Bush administration, RELAPSE is the sonic companion for the first four years under President Barack Obama.”Everyone seems to think I write real shitty music when a Democrat’s in office,” said Jourgensen to Billboard magazine back in 2006 – something that may have held true for the Clinton years, under which Al birthed both FILTH PIG and DARK SIDE OF THE SPOON, a pair of albums that aren’t exactly essential to the MINISTRY legacy. For RELAPSE, that tradition no longer applies.

With Ghouldiggers, Jourgensen is in rare form as he name-drops numerous members of the infamous “27 Club” of deceased musicians – Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix – and the big business of cashing-in on dead rockers. ”You make more money off the carcass that is dead,” goes the tale prior to the battle cry of “I’m not dead yet!” ringing out with repeated ferocity. Winehouse, for one, was barely cold by the time her label was rushing her first post-humous release to market last month, not to mention the recording of this song as well.

The killing of al-Qaeda leader and hiding enthusiast Osama Bin Laden gets the sonic treatment on Double Tap, while Freefall looks back on a lifetime of substance abuse and addiction with questionable thought – making this listener question the true meaning of RELAPSE, despite drugs being publicly taken off the table as a reason. Musically, Freefall is not-so-different from the songs found on the landmark PSALM 69album from 1992. It’s classic MINISTRY.

A cover of S.O.D.‘s United Forces (from their 1985 SPEAK ENGLISH OR DIE) takes a song that’s still relevant 27 years since it’s release and expands upon it – with the MINISTRY version clocking in at roughly three times the length of the original. Add a little bonus Milk at the end, and fans are in for a treat.

MINISTRY manages to prove that they are not immune to the trappings of releasing one of an album’s worst tracks as a single on 99 Percenters. A protest song for the “Occupy Movement,” 99 Percenters falls flat musically, and from a lyrical perspective feels unfinished. The title track, however, is solid as hell – another classic throwback that finds the band balancing the groove with their straight-forward military charge. A “Defibrillator Remix” very reminiscent of the early 90’s techno-infused “remix wars” lands in the closing spot on deluxe editions of the album.

Near the end of the album lies what plays as both a message and an order… Get Up Get Out n’ Vote. This should’ve been the final track, and in an iTunes-world that’s an easy fix to make in terms of playlist order. It’s an election year, and if RELAPSE is a new chapter for MINISTRY, then what happens this November may well dictate what happens next.

4.4/5 Stars

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