Surgical Meth Machine
Category: Industrial / Metal
Album: Surgical Meth Machine
Blurb: The latest outing of sonic abrasion from industrial/metal’s most beloved/most hated angry old man, “Uncle Al” Jourgensen; you know you’re in for a well produced mixed bag of uncompromising rage and disconcerting serenity.
When Al Jourgensen announced the final demise of MINISTRY as a recording act since the death of his longtime friend and guitarist Mike Scaccia, many rightfully took the news with a grain of salt; after all, it had only been five years prior that he had done the same before following up with two more albums. Still, while the band continues to perform as a live act, Jourgensen has since focused his creative energies toward some of the most sonically abrasive and doubtlessly polarizing material of his career, placing it under the moniker of Surgical Meth Machine. Following in the footsteps of the “TV” tracks and aiming for no BPM count less than 200, Jourgensen had been touting the SMM album during its creation to be “the fastest record ever.” Is it? Well… not quite.
Those claims are immediately called into question with the introduction of “I’m Sensitive,” a slow and ominous cadence of droning bass, scattered samples, and Uncle Al taking a swing at social media. It’s not until he shouts “I don’t fucking care” that the speed picks up and we are treated to an onslaught of distorted guitars, pummeling beats, and Jourgensen’s signature ranting. The album then continues in this fashion with breakneck beats and whiplash guitars dominating in a manner Jourgensen has cultivated since audiences first heard “Thieves” in 1989, including lyrics tackling sociopolitical topics in his usual alcohol-fueled, straightforward, often humorous, and less-than-eloquent manner. “Rich People Problems” is a perfect example with its mocking diatribes toward those at the top of the financial ladder, while “Smash and Grab” scales back the guitars just a bit for the electronics to take prominence as Jourgensen’s shouts of “Just get it over with,” “All the words get in the way,” and “Blah blah blah blah” easily apply themselves to any topic from the oversaturation of the media to the doublespeak of politicians and right back to social media; in its simplicity, it’s wonderfully open to interpretation. Listeners are bound to chant “execution” along with “Tragic Alert” while longtime fans of Jourgensen’s numerous collaborations will delight in the presence of Jello Biafra on “I Don’t Wanna,” hinting at perhaps more Lard material to come… maybe? Anyway, this song is perhaps the clearest statement of intent any artist can make, preferring to eschew the minutiae of glad-handing, brownnosing, and rock star pretense in favor of simply getting paid and getting laid, all backed by a raucous guitar solo. And then there is “Unlistenable,” on which Uncle Al’s laughable mockery of popular music makes for a fine bit of irony amid the audio chaos that makes the track an example of its very title. From here, Surgical Meth Machine takes an unexpected turn as the track ends as the alcohol starts to wear off and Jourgensen declaring proudly, “Devo?! They fucking rule!” What’s next? A faithful and downright enjoyable cover of Devo’s “Gates of Steel,” which could easily rival any of Andrew W.K.’s party anthems; with the “Spudnik” instrumental coda continuing to keep people on the dance floor, it’s just the kind of humor one should expect from Al Jourgensen, executed to excellence. With the beer having now effectively worn off and the marijuana starting to kick in, “Just Go Home” and “Just Keep Going” take the album through its psychedelic final moments as clouds of ambience and light breakbeats underscore dreamy samples glitched and mangled to an almost disconcertingly calm effect despite its inherently chaotic nature. With “I’m Invisible” concluding the album, listeners are treated to a slow dub beat, trickling guitar effects, and warbling soundscapes that instill a sense of relief and chill one might desire from a good toke.
With producer/engineer Sammy D’Ambruoso once again playing wingman to Jourgensen, is Surgical Meth Machine “the fastest record ever?” No, but in this inability to adhere to the original idea, the pair of musical miscreants have crafted quite a marvelous portrait of the dichotomies that exist not just with Jourgensen’s mind, but in society itself – one moment unyielding and aggressive, and then confused but tranquil the next. Given the juxtaposition of speed metal with industrial and dub, the similarities to Jourgensen’s most famous outlet are quite apparent, even without the participation of Mike Scaccia. Still, it’s an album by Al Jourgensen; whatever the moniker, you know what you’re getting from him, and lest you become the subject of this album’s first song, it’s nothing to gripe about.
Al Jourgensen/Surgical Meth Machine
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)