When Al Jourgensen shelved Ministry back in 2008, it seemed like a good idea to be honest. While I’m a huge fan of his politically fueled albums, the rhetoric was wearing out on most people. That said though, there’s nary a Ministry album that’s not good, so after several years away, it only seemed right that Jourgensen would end his retirement with the bug to make more industrialized speed metal biting him hard on the neck. RELAPSE finds Ministry back and firing fast and furious. While this is lyrically the weakest album ever done by Ministry, the sneering sarcasm of Jourgensen comes spewing forth throughout. The subject matter may have changed, but this is still your same Ministry.
One thing that I think I can say with authority to Al Jourgensen, and really to any band, is that fans really don’t care about the business dealings or, more accurately, the bad band dealings musicians have with their management, touring agents and lawyers. Listening to the opening track, “Ghouldiggers”, a true sense of “really don’t care” hit me. Singing a song about how the business you chose to be in fucked you over is about as interesting as posting “my boss is an asshole” in your Facebook status. The endless ranting of “I’m not dead yet” makes the point clear that management view an artist as more of a commodity than when they are alive and active. That said though, the fake phone calls in the song and the hillbilly commentary are useless and sound pretty cheap.
Musically, RELAPSE is fast and furious, as Ministry always in. Without questions, guitarists Tommy Victor and Mike Scaccia do their part in creating fast, violent riffs that definitely remind you of the hey day of the band. Songs like “Relapse” and “Double Tap” could have fit musically on any Ministry album from PSALM 69 on. They make a song like “Get Up Get Out ‘N Vote” tolerable. To be clear here, I’m all for Jourgensen’s political ranting (one of the most fun nights of my life was debating politics with him on a radio show once), but the political songs here are just not up to the caliber he’s done in the past. The message is fine, but the presentation is lacking from Jourgensen. I’m not sure why he feels the need to continually use the hillbilly spoken word in several of these songs, but it really cheapens the impact. Another issue is the lack of creativity in the choruses. Songs like “United Forces” and “Get Up Get Out ‘N Vote” are plagued with simple, innocuous and repetitive gang vocals that merely repeat over and over. It’s so bad in “United Forces” that it almost feels like you are listening to a part of a song instead of a fully developed tune.
PITRIFF RATING – 61/100 - I’m a fan of Jourgensen and Ministry, but this album just doesn’t cut it. From a strictly musical standpoint it’s solid enough, but the overall vibe of the material just feels miles away from the smart, well thought out body of work we’ve previously come to expect from Al and company.