Album review: MINISTRY – Bad Blood, The Mayan Albums, 2002-2005 (4 CDs)

Cherry Red [release date: 17.12.21]

There are Industrial Metal bands and there is Ministry.
After the breakthrough in 1983, Al Jourgensen’s minimalist metal-in-extremis became the benchmark for the genre pretty rapidly.

You could argue that this 4 CD snapshot, originally on the Sanctuary imprint, was in itself an abbreviated sound and vision version of the band’s 5 decade journey.

In fact, everything that made Ministry great is especially evident on the set’s first CD, the live recording, Sphinctour (2002).

It’s the recipe as before. Surging, hulking riffs turned up to 11, metronomic rhythms with emphatic beats, delivered like a series of underwater detonations.
Jourgensen’s vocals add dramatic heft to the action. In every excoriating lyric, in every political polemic, the isolating psyche of the musician yearning to perfect his art shines through.
It was released against the ever present background of label v label machinations, and captured some of the best material from the band’s mid nineties’ ‘Psalm 69′ and ‘Filth Pig’ albums, arguably where the band reached its creative Industrial / Alt Metal peak.

A year later they released the underappreciated Animositisomina (easy for me to say). It’s easily one of the band’s most confounding recordings. It’s a resurrection of sorts when we consider they had again been written off. Once more they push the boundaries of structure and tone to the outer edges of the genre.
The electrifying title track is as good a piece of writing and recording as ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’ and ‘Stigmata’. You can feel the spark ignite in your bloodstream.

2004′s Houses Of The Mole saw the band dive down the Thrash Metal rabbit hole in pursuit of George Bush and his ultra conservative, militaristic tendencies.
It’s a tough album to love. When the songs are filled with corrosive, laser guided lyics, squarely aimed at US foreign policy in the mid 2000s, we’re unlikely to see a rush for the dancefloor.
It has a freeform sensation at times. Of chaos just about marshalled, with the music providing the dark notes and industrial clamour needed to frame Jourgensen’s typically dark and dangerous imagery. ‘WTV’ and ‘No W’ are outstanding tracks … two walls of noise occasionally penetrated by random words. The message is in the medium.

Rantology (2005) is a collection of remixes, cherry picked from some of the band’s better known songwriting and performing peaks. All the songs you would expect are here. ‘Bad Blood’ (alternate mix) and ‘Warp City’ (alternate mix) are probably the picks. In each case the insidious weight and heft of a densely constructed bedrock base is already in position. The accusatory fury and the raw, dirty edges of the mixes cut through quickly, leaving only blood, bruises and exhaustion behind. Ministry in the raw. ****

Review by Brian McGowan

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