The Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD – 05/05/2015
In 2009, MINISTRY embarked on the C.U.LaTour, riding on the wave of what was then purported to be the final album from the band, The Last Sucker. It perhaps might have been a fitting conclusion as the album marked the culmination of a trilogy produced during a Republican administration that was also coming to an end. However, in the intervening years, Al Jourgensen – the mogul of mechanized metal – continued to produce music, ultimately reviving the MINISTRY moniker with the 2012 release of Relapse. In December of that year, his best friend and longtime guitarist Mike Scaccia passed away, prompting Jourgensen to finally lay the band to rest with the release of From Beer to Eternity, featuring some of Scaccia’s final recordings and some of the most lyrically venomous and musically diverse set of songs yet released under the MINISTRY name. Now in 2015, with a pair of new projects announced – Surgical Meth Machine and Dubweiser – and having paid tribute to the late Scaccia with two live albums, Uncle Al takes MINISTRY on the road to deliver one final volley of ballistic industrial/metal from one of the creators of the genre. ReGen had the pleasure of catching the band on the C.U.LaTour nearly six years ago, and now once again, we are proud to have been able to catch Jourgensen and company on the From Beer to EternaTour at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD near the nation’s great capital of Washington, DC.
The night’s proceedings began with the opening act; at first glance, The SixxiS might appear to be just another hard rock or metal band, but this would be a disservice to the musical nuances the Atlanta, GA group infuses. With a powerfully detuned twin guitar assault of deceptively complex riffs coupled with a rhythmic ferocity and dynamism that is often not heard outside of progressive circles, topped off with splashes of electronic accompaniment that help to elevate the atmospheric milieu, The SixxiS comes out of the gate swinging and never lets up. Lead vocalist Vladdy Iskhakov carries the audience with his soaring melodies, sustaining high notes with great emotive energy and proficiency, occasionally given the dual and three-part harmony courtesy of guitarists Paul Sorah and Cameron Allen, both of whom also trade off solo duties in a manner most classic rock. While bassist Mark Golden’s stage presence might be lacking, his proficiency in providing a powerful low end is not as he adds an element of funky jazziness to his playing, adding a subtle yet tangy flavor to the music. Just when you thought you’ve seen and heard it all, Iskhakov reveals his Flying V violin (yes, you read that correctly), adding a soothing ambient melody to the blistering instrumental “Coke Can Steve” with a touch of showmanship that makes for one of the night’s definite highlights. This writer had never heard of The SixxiS prior to the band’s performance, but thanks to an engaging stage presentation and vicious rockers like “Nowhere Close,” “Long Ago,” and “Out Alive,” this Atlanta quintet immediately won this writer and the audience over.
As the lights dim, the projectors run to display a bastardized version of the famous MGM logo – only instead of a roaring lion, we see a feisty rodent – demonstrating that even after 35 years, Al Jourgensen and his mélange of miscreant musicians are not without a sense of humor. An incessant bass throb begins, the slow yet menacing beats kick in, a wobbling synth melody creeps through the speakers, and as the band takes to the stage one by one, MINISTRY unleashes its metallic industrial onslaught with “Hail to His Majesty.” Uncle Al takes to the stage, donning his trademark skull-adorned mic stand and a gas mask that he removes before long to shout his sardonic litanies with the audience’s fists and middle fingers waving in the air with each iteration of “I hate all you motherfuckers.” Then the high octane assault of “Punch in the Face” comes in, blasting through the speakers with the force of a battering ram, reminding many of the mechanical and fast-paced MINISTRY of old.
Throughout the set, guitarists Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto (filling in for Monte Pittman) trade off blistering riffage and solos with a fury that matches drummer Aaron Rossi’s powerful rhythms, all the while bassist Tony Campos and keyboardist John Bechdel are certainly audible and holding their own amid the cacophonous barrage of beloved songs of the latter era MINISTRY like “Rio Grande Blood,” “Watch Yourself,” “No W,” “Life Is Good,” and “Waiting.” As well, the vicious dual attack of “Perfect Storm” and “Fairly Unbalanced” receives a noticeably gregarious response from the crowd, but it’s with Jourgensen’s introduction of the classic “N.W.O.” with an observation of the song’s relevance even after 25 years that begins the portion of the show that many have been waiting for. Beloved hits like “Just One Fix” and “Thieves” are performed faithfully and vigorously, with the rhythmic grooves and harmonic slivers of “So What” riling the crowd up before the band takes a break before returning with “Khyber Pass” and ending with the noisy milieu of “Enjoy the Quiet.”
At the end of the night, it was noticeable that the inevitable detractors were present. As is the case with any musical entity that has lasted as many years as MINISTRY, there are certainly the complaints of people who romanticize the past, either in terms of the band’s vitality in the live setting or perhaps the quality of the music itself, and those complaints are not without some validity. After all, as this may in fact turn out to be the final MINISTRY tour, some were definitely hoping for less of the group’s 21st century material and more from the proverbial heyday of the late ’80s and early ’90s. However, in this writer’s estimation, this mentality did not encompass the majority for regardless of the minimalist stage setup and the naysayers who yearn for past glory, MINISTRY delivered as it always has with the amplifiers set to kill. The musicians clearly give their all in both skill and energy, and while Uncle Al does show signs of advanced mileage (at times quite obviously resorting to a backing track or two, nearly missing his cue with the harmonica solo in “PermaWar” and miming the sampled riff from Apocalypse Now
on his guitar in “N.W.O.”), he shows no signs of waning in abrasion or attitude, even swaying to the heavy metal barrage in a manner that invites a few chuckles. He may claim to hate his audience and not be a human jukebox, but that certainly didn’t stop him from breaking out just a few of the old hits and ultimately giving those in attendance at the Fillmore what they paid for: a kick ass MINISTRY show! Dr. Hunter S. Thompson had stated in his famous “wave speech” (from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
), “Our energy would simply prevail.” This writer can think of no better description for what may turn out to be MINISTRY’s last hurrah in the Washington, DC area. Hail and farewell, MINISTRY!
MINISTRY/Al Jourgensen Website http://www.alfuckingjourgensen.com
MINISTRY/Al Jourgensen Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Ministry
MINISTRY/Al Jourgensen Twitter http://www.twitter.com/alfknjourgensen
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photography by MizTabby (MizTabby)