Sep 2013 17

MINISTRY - From Beer to EternityMINISTRY
Category: Industrial / Metal
Album: From Beer to Eternity
Stars: 4
Blurb: With a diverse range of elements encompassing various points in the band’s long history, the final album from the industrial/metal pioneers sums up MINISTRY’s legacy in fine form.


 

Upon listening to From Beer to Eternity, the latest and reportedly final album from the pioneers of industrial/metal, MINISTRY, several questions come to this writer’s mind:
 

  1. How many people are going to dislike the album genuinely, regardless of the band’s past output, based purely on a matter of personal musical taste and preference?
  2. How many people are going to dislike the album perhaps due to a perceptions of the band’s past output, placing the quality of past releases higher because they hold a special place in one’s memory, much like a first hit of a drug, only to have every following hit fail to measure up and resulting in constantly chasing that dragon?
  3. How many people are going to dislike the album based purely on the fact that Paul Barker, Chris Connelly, Louis Svitek, William Rieflin, or virtually any member of the old guard of MINISTRY (with the exception of Mike Scaccia, who made his final recordings here) are not present; much in the same way some fans decry current KMFDM without En Esch, Günter Schultz, or Raymond Watts?
  4. How many people are going to dislike the album based simply on a comfortable disposition toward MINISTRY and/or a general loathing of Al Jourgensen as a person, completely detached from any analysis of artistic merit, simply because they’re used to hating MINISTRY?

 
Given his notoriously cantankerous attitude (to put it mildly), it’s easy to hate on Al Jourgensen. After a less than stellar first album, the now legendary and simultaneously revered/reviled synthpop “abortion” of With Sympathy, Jourgensen has never allowed himself to be one who does anything other than what he wants; certainly not when it comes to his own artistic outlet. Why should he? For three decades, MINISTRY has remained a signpost for the industrial music scene, reigning supreme and inspiring countless artists with the meshing of tight programming and thrashing guitars, topped off by bleak lyrics that touch on the dark aspects of politics, religion, and addiction. Bands in the mainstream metal, underground industrial, and all points in between have at one time or another been influenced by MINISTRY’s example. And yet, for all of the accolades, Jourgensen has been forced to deal with mistreatment and misunderstanding by record labels and even the fans alike. So, it should honestly come as no surprise that the first track on From Beer to Eternity finds the man shouting defiantly that he hates “all you motherfuckers” and referring to us as “Peasants.”

“Final” MINISTRY albums, while historically a case of crying wolf, have tended to possess an air of tragedy. Dark Side of the Spoon, the final album during the band’s tenure with Warner Bros. Records, saw the death of guitarist William Tucker. Paul Barker departed the band after Animositisomina for personal reasons, not the least of which being the death of his father. The Last Sucker, which was ostensibly the band’s official “farewell” in 2007 saw the death of bassist Paul Raven. But with From Beer to Eternity, longtime guitarist and collaborator Mike Scaccia died a mere two days after his last recordings for the album, and given his status as one of the band’s longest lasting creative forces, his death does lend a sense of permanence and finality. It is then perhaps fitting that From Beer to Eternity is not only a testament to Scaccia’s musicianship, but is perhaps the most classic sounding MINISTRY album since the ‘90s. While the previous album, Relapse was chockfull of tight programming and diverse songwriting, it was still steeped very much in the metal side of the spectrum, with hints of the band’s other personality traits – from the blues to more electronic textures – sprinkled throughout. From Beer to Eternity reaches back even further into the band’s past, with producer/engineer/programmer Sammy D’Ambruoso pulling all the stops to give the album a densely layered and decidedly technological edge that has always been at the core of the MINISTRY aesthetic.

A mélange of glitches and static driven by a pulsating electronic bass gives way to a marching drumbeat, a warbling synth melody that some might hear as a derisive answer to the current dubstep trends, and Jourgensen’s scathing voice blatantly saying “You’re stupid” before a chugging guitar enters, and “Hail to His Majesty” begins From Beer to Eternity with a vicious atmosphere that is surely reminiscent of such dirges as “Scarecrow” and “Filth Pig.” It’s perhaps the most ambient and classically industrial opener to a MINISTRY album to be heard since The Land of Rape and Honey. The following track, “Punch in the Face” amps up the energy as a caustic bass synth topped off by Sin Quirin’s guitar stabs and more glitch-laden samples introduces a thunderously rhythmic assault that recalls the likes of “The Missing” or “Burning Inside.” The lyrics are simple to the point of outright flippancy, which some might find more offensive than the lyrics themselves; but Jourgensen has rarely been the most poetic or verbose of lyricists, preferring to revel in a straightforwardness that matches the aggression of this music.

From here, the album takes a shift toward the more metal leanings of its later period, with leadoff single “PermaWar” entering slow and forcefully with an offbeat chorus in which Jourgensen screams “We’re tired,” once again speaking for the masses upset with corruption and corporatism perpetuating war for profit, topped off by Scaccia’s and Quirin’s bluesy riffs and a blazing harmonica solo that reminds this writer of the Filth Pig days. “Perfect Storm” follows in a similar fashion addressing environmentalism before the violent thrash metal assault of “Fairly Unbalanced,” strewn with samples of Fox News to reveal a decidedly biased conservative point of view on the part of the network. The song gradually slows to a searing crawl that segues into the soundscape of “The Horror,” the repetition of “Got you all in a trance” further driving the point home. “Side F/X Include Mikey’s Middle Finger,” with its subtitle of “TV4,” obviously hearkens back to Psalm 69, presenting a blazing cacophony of choppy guitar solos and samples; while Jourgensen screams “I feel like shit,” one could almost imagine him breaking into “Connect the goddamn dots!” for old time’s sake.

And then, something quite different for MINISTRY occurs with “Lesson Unlearned” as a soulful female vocal from Patty Fox enters, adding an almost R&B or ‘50s doo-wop flavor to the machine gun snares and guitars. Returning from the anti-Bush trilogy is the enigmatic Sgt. Major, here to recite William Burroughs’ “Thanksgiving Prayer” in the first half of “Thanx By No Thanx,” underscored by a lounging dub beat and bass line, creating an interesting contrast of laidback instrumental and volatile spoken word tearing down the broken American dream. The song then launches into a moderately paced, rather simple rocker that returns to a state of calm for the outro. “Change of Luck” features skittering and squelching synth solos, harmonized vocals creating a smoothly ominous atmosphere, and loops of guitar arpeggios, making for a rather epic track that alone could be a fitting farewell for MINISTRY as Jourgensen states, “I came into this world kicking and screaming / I leave with nothing at stake.” From Beer to Eternity then concludes with a final noisy, static-charged cloud of samples that finally ends with Sgt. Major telling us to “Enjoy the Quiet,” as if to signal the emptiness left in the wake of MINISTRY’s end.

With appearances by bassist Tony Campos and drummer Aaron Rossi among others, and a range of elements from across MINISTRY’s entire oeuvre, incorporating thrashing heavy metal to ambient and industrialized electronics, all peppered with the same decidedly rock & roll flair that has been at the heart of Al Jourgensen’s collected output for over 30 years, From Beer to Eternity is pure MINISTRY through and through. Some might find the reappearance of these elements to be a sign of the well of ideas having been run dry, with Jourgensen and company simply retreading ground instead of paving a new path. However, returning to the point that the man has nothing to prove and cares not what anybody else thinks, this would probably be an unfair criticism, one that would deafen the listener to the nuances present in the album’s circuitous approach. There’s a cyclical pattern at work that necessitates the album to be taken in as a whole – the stupidity of the masses allows for corrupt governments and corporations to wage an endless series of wars, the masses further placated by propaganda, media overload, and chemical dependency, resulting in what is perhaps Al Jourgensen’s most ultimate diatribe on the death of the American dream, stated in his usual furious and ferocious manner.

For all of this, From Beer to Eternity may not be a grand masterpiece to forgive the perceived sins of the band’s lesser days in the eyes and ears of many fans, but it at the very least unquestionably measures up to the great albums of the past and leaves MINISTRY with a legacy that is truly untouchable.
 
Track list:

  1. Hail to His Majesty (Peasants)
  2. Punch in the Face
  3. PermaWar
  4. Perfect Storm
  5. Fairly Unbalanced
  6. The Horror
  7. Side F/X Include Mikey’s Middle Finger (TV4)
  8. Lesson Unlearned
  9. Thanx But No Thanx
  10. Change of Luck
  11. Enjoy the Quiet

 
MINISTRY Website http://www.ministrymusic.org
MINISTRY MySpace http://www.myspace.com/ministrymusic
MINISTRY Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Ministry
13th Planet Records Website http://www.thirteenthplanet.com
13th Planet Records MySpace http://www.myspace.com/13thplanetrecords
AFM Records GmbH Website http://www.afm-records.de
AFM Records GmbH MySpace http://www.myspace.com/afmrecordsgermany
AFM Records GmbH Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/AFM-Records-GmbH/98343855809
AFM Records GmbH Twitter http://www.twitter.com/AFM_Records
 
Purchase at:
Amazon CD
Amazon MP3
Amazon Vinyl
 
2013-09-10
 
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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