Lesson Unlearned – Ministry
From Beer To Eternity
54:43 min • 13th Planet Records • September 6, 2013
Walter Beck reviews
This is the thirteenth and final studio album from industrial giants Ministry. Following the death of guitarist Mike Scaccia, front man Al Jourgensen decided to finish this album and lay the band to rest. It’s quite a last hurrah, moving away from the stripped down thrashy sound of the band’s later work and returning to a distortion and sample soaked hard industrial metal.
It opens with ‘Hail to His Majesty (Peasants)’, a hard-thumping five minute burner that harkens back to the band’s earlier albums such as The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste; while there are live drums, the primary beat is driven by a hard sounding distorted drum machine. Through this slow, grinding rhythm, Jourgensen’s vocals bleed through in a twisted whisper and Scaccia’s riffs slam in like a thundering wall of sound.
‘Punch in the Face’ follows, and while the intro has the same pure industrial sound as the opening track, the main portion of the song is steeped more in the metallic roar of the band’s later work. This is where Scaccia’s guitar work really starts to shine as his shredding cuts through the distorted synthesizers and Jourgensen’s venomous vocals.
The third track, ‘PermaWar’, is the lead single from the album, a mostly metal sounding cut without much industrial backing, save for Jourgensen’s distorted vocals and some heavy sounding synths mixed in. Personally, while this isn’t a bad cut, I do feel it was one of the weaker sounding songs on the album.
‘Perfect Storm’ injects speed and politics into the mix, between the distorted samples of American politicians and Al’s lyrics, the band paints a very stark picture; we may have survived the Bush years, but the men in charge are still driven by conquest and the destruction of our environment and We the People are still fucked completely.
Al ups the political ante with ‘Fairly Unbalanced’, a spitfire indictment against the Republican Party, Teabaggers, and the propaganda machine of Fox News. Backed by speed demon riffs, distorted samples and a violent sounding rhythm, Jourgensen decries the racism that has become standard operating procedure for American conservatives. Probably the most incendiary political track the band has cut since their anti-Bush trilogy, it proves Al is still angry at the system.
‘Side F/X Include Mikey’s Middle Finger (TV 4)’, the seventh track on the LP, is probably the most chaotic sounding cut here; a five minute mix of Scaccia’s speeding riffs and solos, backed with some of the fastest drumming the band has ever laid to tape. With the speed and raw sound, the band comes off like a punk band from hell, turning their amps to full bake and burning everything around them.
‘Lesson Unlearned’ is probably the most melodic cut here, featuring a looping, almost serene sample of a female sounding voice saying, “another lesson unlearned”. Jourgensen’s vocals are swaying in their own way, adding a hit of pop sensibilities to a track dominated by schizophrenic drumming and heavier than heavy guitar riffs. With its buried melodic undertones, this song should have been the lead single from the album; a track like this would have given people a strong and strange taste of the final Ministry record.
The ninth track ‘Thanx But No Thanx’ is the strange epic of the LP, clocking in at eight and a half minutes and bringing back the character of Sgt. Major, who reads William S. Burroughs’ poem A Thanksgiving Prayer, backed by a slow grooving distorted beat. After he’s finished, the band comes back in full force, with Jorgensen growling out his vocals and the band thrashing along. But really, the track stands strongest with the use of Burroughs’ work, a fitting tribute to one of Jourgensen’s heroes.
‘Enjoy the Quiet’ brings the album to an end and closes out the final chapter of Ministry in a two and a half minute deluge of distorted samples, vocals, and strange noise. Jourgensen closed the books with probably the purest cut of industrial he has laid to tape in twenty years.
If Al Jourgensen to be believed, this is the last original album that will be delivered by the industrial beast known as Ministry and he closes it on quite a note. While it certainly isn’t an instant classic like Psalm 69, longtime fans will appreciate many aspects about this LP and if there are any unconverted left after thirty years of Ministry, this album may just convince them to dig into the band’s back catalogue and discover the strange sonic epic of one of America’s premiere industrial acts.