May 2018 13

Category: Industrial / Rock / Metal
Album: AmeriKKKant
Blurb: Revitalized and reinvigorated with a Republican administration to fuel the creative fire, MINISTRY remains as strong a force as ever with this politically charged fourteenth studio album.


Despite several tours and live releases, MINISTRY was ostensibly laid to rest after the death of longtime guitarist and friend Mike Scaccia, with 2013’s From Beer to Eternity standing as a final testament to his musical abilities. Perhaps it was inevitable that this would not be the end of the band after all given the band’s track record of “final” albums possessing some air of tragedy that along with Al Jourgensen’s legendarily irascible demeanor makes such declarations of finality understandable, if ultimately ingenuine. For some, the results of the election in November of 2016 made it even more a matter of time before Jourgensen would deliver unto us another helping of politically charged industrial/metal, referring to the dubious adage that all of MINISTRY’s best material is created when a Republican is in office. And so, with renewed vigor and venom, MINISTRY is revived and presents to us this fourteenth studio album, AmeriKKKant.

Before I continue, this writer must acknowledge fully that any praise granted to this record will be met with skepticism and perhaps some fair amount of hostility. After all, I’ve all but laid to waste my credibility as a critic and an industrial music fan simply for having enjoyed and found merit in ol’ Uncle Al’s output over the last 20 years, which conventional wisdom has stated to be subpar to the point of shitty. Well, perhaps due to an admittedly innate sense of stubbornness, this writer simply has nothing to prove… and on that note, nor does Jourgensen. After all, he has survived virtually every obstacle that a creative human being can endure, only to return with new music and a freshly acerbic attitude as he proverbially (and literally) waves his middle fingers at the naysayers. That’s what he’s done with AmeriKKKant as he furiously addresses the sociopolitical topics of a world where the line between fact and opinion is blurred to the point of invisibility, fanaticism and nationalism are mistaken for patriotism, systemic racism is normalized, and calls for protest and dissent as MINISTRY always has. However, those expecting the industrial/metal assault of the Reagan/Bush era or the speed metal leanings of the anti-Bush trilogy may be surprised to find that AmeriKKKant not only draws on different aspects of MINISTRY’s creative past, but adds in a few new elements as well.

From the onset, “I Know Words” is a rather uncharacteristic intro for the band as DJ Swamp adds some hip-hop flair with his turntable scratches to complement Jourgensen’s glitched and manipulated samples, the meditative and mournful layers of strings topped off by a virulent solo from Marston Smith – a.k.a. Lord of the Cello – making for an engaging, ethnic, and somewhat epic ambience. The sullenness is then broken by the onslaught of programmed drums and clamoring bass and guitar moving to a slow and insistent rhythm that creeps and crawls with a sense of menace and dread; the samples continue in the background, a distorted and dejected voice laments the unknown territory, and with his usual abrasive bravado, Al Jourgensen welcomes us into the “Twilight Zone,” with a few flourishes of harmonica for good measure before finally asking, “Where do we go from here?” It’s an auspicious start to an album that breaks the mold of what we’ve come to expect from MINISTRY over the past several years, substituting speedy aggression for the slow burn that dominates AmeriKKKant and recalls those heard on Filth Pig or Dark Side of the Spoon. For example, while the chorus to “Wargasm” may bear a passing resemblance to that of Killing Joke’s “The Wait,” its monstrous cadence of electronic pulses and Tony Campos’ grinding bass topped off by Sin Quirin’s thrusting guitars is more reminiscent of “Bad Blood,” with Burton C. Bell’s satirical and scathing spoken word adding to the song’s urgency. Similarly, “Game Over” moves with a shuffling beat that makes for a powerful interplay between drummer Roy Mayorga and bassist Jason Christopher, the song sharing the same tonal and rhythmic DNA as “The Fall” as the lyrics condemn a society ignorant to its own downfall, and while “Antifa” may have seemed (in this writer’s opinion) a weak choice for the introductory single, its context on the record as a violent lyrical litany against the rise of fascism and the so-called “alt-right” works, the crushing and ominous intro standing in stark contrast to the song’s battering ram assault.

Of course, it wouldn’t really be MINISTRY without a little shot of speed in the veins, and after the noisy glitch-laden interlude of “TV5/4Chan,” Bell takes the lead on “We’re Tired of It,” a breakneck barrage of thrashing guitars, DJ Swamp’s manic scratching, and pummeling beats. It’s difficult not to compare the track to Fear Factory, especially with Bell’s roars of “He lies!” and “Hope is lost!” making for some of the record’s most perniciously catchy chants. But AmeriKKKant truly shines when its themes are allowed to simmer in the scalding rage that permeates every seething moment, with the bluesy dirge of the closing title track and its guttural fury standing as one of MINISTRY’s finest moments. It would be the best track on the record if not for the powerful “Victims of a Clown,” which in this writer’s estimation has made the finest and most effective use of sampling Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator as lines like “You the people have the power,” “We all want to help one another; human beings are like that,” and especially “Let us all unite!” ringing as true as ever. On top of that, Christopher’s penetrating bass lines, orchestral samples and keyboards from John Bechdel coupled with Lord of the Cello’s strings, and scratches from Arabian Prince make the track the crown jewel of AmeriKKKant.

As to be expected, there will be that contingent of the audience that will remain unimpressed by any of Al Jourgensen’s later efforts, and that is simply a shame because AmeriKKKant proves the man’s not yet run out of creative steam. On the contrary, the record is some of MINISTRY’s most inspired work, eschewing its own conventions or expectations to remain firmly planted in the present and paying no mind to the demands of any scene to remain in a class all its own. With a Republican administration currently in power, one can imagine that his efforts to encourage more progressive ideals and keep fanning the flames of discourse and dissent against injustice will remain as fervent as ever.
Track list:

  1. I Know Words
  2. Twilight Zone
  3. Victims of a Clown
  4. TV5/4Chan
  5. We’re Tired of It
  6. Wargasm
  7. Antifa
  8. Game Over
  9. AmeriKKKa

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Nuclear Blast
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Purchase at:
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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