Album Review: Ministry Clears A Very Low Bar With AmeriKKKant

As anyone who’s read his autobiography can attest, Ministry’s Al Jourgensen is undeniably an asshole. However, he is also responsible for some of the most innovative heavy music of the late 80’s and early 90’s. With an incredible three album run of The Land of Rape and Honey (1988), The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste (1989), and Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs (1992), Ministry’s combination of industrial and metal influences was virtually unprecendented: sampling movie quotes and various spoken word texts, effects-laden vocals, using synthesizers alongside heavily distorted guitars and rapidfire (and oftentimes mechanized-sounding) drumbeats to create a new breed of music steeped in aggressive dissonance.

A string of less than stellar albums followed, and in 2013 the band “officially” called it quits, following the departure of longtime bandmate Paul Barker and the death of guitarist and Jourgensen’s good friend Mike Scaccia. Ministry staged a final tour to support what was supposed to be their last album, From Beer to Eternity, and the man fans know as Uncle Al vowed no one would hear from Ministry again.

However, time heals all wounds. Given time to cope with his friend’s death (and the election of Donald Trump), Jourgensen found himself reinvigorated and ready to once again make music under the Ministry banner with new album, AmeriKKKant.

 

Credit where it’s due—what Al Jourgensen has done with AmeriKKKant is create a cohesive piece of work that is more than the sum of its parts, and makes for a somewhat intriguing listening experience. Peppered with well placed samples and ambient interludes throughout, there are no breaks between songs; tracks blend together in a way that practically demands for the album to be listened to in its entirety. However, following a slew of lackluster albums that threatened to forever tarnish Ministry’s legacy, the bar for new material had been set incredibly low. And the closer you look, the worse the album gets.

Save for a song or two, AmeriKKKant is devoid of anything to make it truly stand out:  it boasts a contrived, groan-inducing album title, as well as equally unoriginal song titles and lyrics—regardless of your politics, there really is no case to be made for a line as objectively dumb as “Antifa’s the shit”. Indeed, many of the album’s lyrics sound like they were ripped from a high schooler’s notebook, as thought-provoking as the vapid tweets from the reality star-cum-president Jourgensen spends the entire album criticizing.

It should go without saying, then, that one’s politics will largely determine your enjoyment level of AmeriKKKant. Ministry has a history of politically charged material—Psalm 69, arguably their best album, was also famously critical of then President Bush, Sr., so it would seem doubtful they will lose many fans on the basis of the new record’s subject matter alone. Bashing Trump, however, is extremely low-hanging fruit—it takes more than rudimentary rhymes filled with political buzzwords to make something actually interesting. So while many may not be offended by Jourgensen’s anit-Trump rhetoric, they may take issue with the mostly brainless approach to it.

Al Jourgensen

Musically, however, there are reasons to be hopeful that if Ministry continues beyond this album, their worst days are behind them. With its bass-heavy groove, Victims of a Clown and the near-thrash pace of We’re Tired of It are two of the better tracks, and by rights only a song or two are downright bad—many just aren’t too memorable. Al has assembled a band that’s more than competent, and the addition of scratching and DJ duties in the form of DJ Swamp and NWA’s Arabian Prince is beyond welcome; it sounds right at home, as if it should have been there all along.

So while this may not exactly be Psalm 69, Part 2, it’s quite a step up from the last several Ministry albums. Granted, that’s a low bar to clear, but clear it they do, so for that at least, fans should be thankful.

Bottom Line: While Ministry may not necessarily gain any new fans with AmeriKKKant, die hards should be heartened by this step in the right direction.

Grade: C+

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