In spite of all the nasty, cruel and otherwise unkind things that you are about to read, everything written here comes from a long-time fan of Ministry, but bile needs to be spilled…
My introduction came from an ex-lover with extensive goth/punk music tastes who directed me to a certain track with a hard-hitting, catchy hook performed by a band named Ministry. I was already a fan of the industrial bigwigs at the time (Skinny Puppy, Killing Joke and KMFDM), but this band made me curious so I read up and found out Al Jourgensen (AKA “Uncle Al”) was considered the grand daddy of industrial music with a metal edge and his creative vehicle pretty much put it on the map, but enough nostalgia, now for the meat.
‘AmeriKKKant’ was released 9 March 2018 via record label Nuclear Blast, a major label with plenty of well-known names behind it such as Nightwish, Slayer and Fear Factory. The change in record label happened when Jourgensen moved from Texas to Los Angeles in 2015; the move inspired him to make music once again – five years after Mike Scaccia (a close friend of Jourgensen) unexpectedly passed away, and their last album (‘From Beer to Eternity’). Then the Trump presidency happened, which was as good as to spiking the punch bowl at prom with a laxative.
The agonizingly long intro “I Know Words” samples the 45th president of America satirically declaring to dumb down the USA; what could have easily been one-minute long is instead a three-minute drag with turntable scratching and sampling which fades into the first track of the album.
(Before you ask, that’s not Kerry King of Slayer)
“Twilight Zone” is a slow-paced guitar grind (Ala ‘Filth Pig’) that gives the listener a taste of the unusual arrangements on the album – such as the inclusion of harmonica and several classical instruments – and echoing how scary and surreal the USA has become in recent years.
“Wargasm” plays like the generic industrial thrash we have heard on the past three albums but it’s a safe track for those looking for something familiar. Burton C. Bell’s spoken lyrics gives off a sadistic shade that ties in neatly with the idea behind the song but is barely a saving grace. Something that has been picked up by sharp ears is how this track shares a certain likeness to “The Wait” by Killing Joke.
“Antifa” is another safe (and arguably contentious) song as it lays clear who Jourgensen supports and this has become a red flag for so many (irony not lost here). Much like “Wargasm”, the track plays to the generic industrial thrash strength but it feels dated here.
A frustrating aspect of this album is how so many songs could have easily been shorter by cutting off 2-3 minutes of fade and unnecessary filler on each track; with those cuts and leaving out the unmemorable parts, this album could easily have been a 5-track EP. Another frustrating aspect is how you are lulled into thinking something great is about to start but then… nothing: the burst of thrash in the last 20 seconds of “Victims of a Clown” is just confusing, as if expecting the song to kick up but it ends as abruptly as the riffing starts.
‘AmeriKKKant’ starts off with an earnest pace, performs a sprint mid-way through and then relaxes, but the reality is that it’s just a jogging corpse. Three songs barely stand out, and the rest are either retreads of old tracks or simply album filler. This recent effort plays mostly loose with being an album set by such a respected band by tapping into nostalgic habits without earnestly learning from previous albums; the lyrics and overall album speaks about the aftermath of 2016 and all the absurdities that followed, but still feels like it’s packaged in a manner similar to their anti-Bush trilogy; Ministry is stuck in this gear and it shows as the primary focus is still on America’s obsession with war, violence, extreme-leaning politics and the administration of the day. The texture of the album is a different from their previous, but there’s a noticeable lack of vocals overall and sheer heaviness on this album that makes you wonder where the bite is. Repeated listens just highlight the missed opportunities of what could have been a razor blade to the hypocritical neck of American politics, but instead feels like a bent butter knife being dug into your ear whilst a laugh-track plays.
It’s unrealistic to consistently hold any band to their magnum opus but in the same vein, you don’t expect them to stoop low when creating an album. What is essentially a well-meaning effort is an over-produced, unevenly paced and otherwise difficult to defend album. It might interest new fans but the old crowd will be disappointed. It has been said before, but bears repeating: the album cover artwork appropriately sums up the album.
‘AmeriKKKant’ track listing:
Al Jourgensen – Vocals, guitars, programming, keyboards
John Bechdel – Keyboards
Sin Quirin – Guitars
Cesar Soto – Guitars
Tony Campos – Bass
Derek Abrams – Drums
DJ Swamp – Turntables
Burton C. Bell – vocals
Arabian Prince – vocals