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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Ministry
Houses of the Mole
Sanctuary Records Group

Rating: 7.5/10 ?


October 1, 2004
There is nothing quite like retrospect. The year was 1992, and I was all things industrial - short of wearing fishnet stockings and black fingernail polish, I craved the morbid, morose lyric and uptempo mechanical dance jams of bands like Skinny Puppy and Chemlab, noisy experimental industrial forefathers like Einsturzende Neubauten and Throbbing Gristle… and then, there were the metal industrial hybrids, in which Ministry played foreman in a factory of imitators and deceivers. They scared the hell out me.

I remember seeing their video for "N.W.O." when I was about fifteen or sixteen years old and I thought they were so evil and corrupt, in the sense that their drug-induced frontman and anarchist extraordinaire was a hostile beast, an unsympathetic nihilist - until I recently read Ben Weasel's non-fictional work "Punk is a Four-Letter Word". As an extra in that very video, Weasel explains how he meets this girl, playing with Al's hair extensions. He continues to clarify how embarrassed he is for Al as he sees him "strutting towards the camera, fake hair blowing gently in the breeze". When Al Jorgensen takes off his ten gallon cowboy hat, his hair comes with it. That's Ben Weasel's chronicle on the pioneering frontman now pushing middle age. I love that story.

Now that the industrial sound - the one Jorgensen help create - has well reached its peak and fizzled, where exactly does that leave Ministry, and do they still matter?

To be honest, the last time a new Ministry song was heard, it was from the ill-fated and overly contrived Stephen Spielberg flick A.I., where the boys in Ministry made a mockery of themselves and the image they portrayed in the early nineties. Plus, the particular song was just plain bad.

The whole scenario reminded me of the VH1 program, Awesomely Bad Metal Moments, where a sarcastic and often funny panel of comics and writers picked at golfer Alice Cooper and his County Club conduct, which is miles away from his early days of Welcome to My Nightmare and Love it to Death. …Or how the prince of darkness sold his soul to diet Pepsi, appearing in a television commercial alongside the Osmonds and Florence Henderson during the MTV music awards.

To each his own. I certainly do not judge a band on its achievements, but rather its evolving sound and the strides taken toward musical explorations that do not sound contrived or forced, but unpretentious and deep-seated. But you have to admit, Ministry was out of their element.

I don't think it is any secret that the last few Ministry albums were par at best. Critics were split with the misdirection and often repetitive nature of Ministry's industrial metal, with all the looping and programming and effects placed within it - not just from the guitars, but from Jourgensen's chaotic vocal delivery.

The biggest difference between Ministry now and Ministry circa 1988-1992 may be the departure of Paul Barker, who was one of the founding members and had worked with Al on other projects - Lard, Revolting Cocks, and 1,000 Homo DJ's. Ministry's new album Houses of the Mole', much like the albums that made them underground heroes (Land of Rape and Honey, The Mind is A Terrible Thing to Taste, and their career defining Psalm 69), has their new record Houses of the Mole' suit up and stand pretty closely in line with earlier works; it plays on word association and similar musical aspirations.

Well before The Beastie Boys and Pearl Jam were raging against the political machine in opposition of the Bush administration, Al Jourgensen was screaming, "New World Order!" in 1992, and with Houses of The Mole' he is just as pissed and musically inspired. He cries to our Republican chief in the album opener, "No W".

Musically, the song is what you would expect from past Ministry albums. "No W" is a sonic assault, in a morbid horror movie fashion, complete with an Omen-sounding choir and intense and often deafening, thrashy guitars. Ministry mixes sped up, programmed drums with Al's "special interest" lyrics, like, "Ask me why you're feeling screwed/and I'll give you the answer/there's a Colin a Dick and a Bush/just a hammerin' away". Perhaps there are no mind blowing, bold statements, but I think you know where Al stands.

In fact, the album's central concern is Bush bashing and war protesting, which is poignantly spelled out in "Wrong". In the musical spirit of "Psalm 69," "Wrong" treads on with lyrics spewed in an overly drenched effect as Al shouts, "What makes you think you've got a right/for killing people in a needless fight/you're like a rapist with a target in sight/Democracy".

Each song on the album starts with a W except the first track, entitled "No W," which I conclude references George W. Bush. Printed on the cover of the album is the seal found on the dollar bill with an anarchy symbol marked through it, and the phrase "Novus Ordo Seclorum" which means "A new order of the Ages". Then there is the title of the album, Houses of the Mole' daringly playing on Led Zeppelin's 1973 effort, referencing a mole which comes back to Bush. Messages are everywhere, but the boys in Ministry certainly don't sugarcoat their condemnation of the current political climate in the music they preach.

So, the question remains. Is Ministry still relevant? Yes, to the degree that one can acknowledge the significant strides the band has made and their contribution to their particular brand of industrial music.

The fact that most of the guys in Ministry, through their ever-changing lineup, have had their hands in most of the substantial underground industrial bands, including Pigface, KMFDM, Killing Joke and countless others. The fact that Houses of the Mole' continues Ministry's saga with few cop-outs and stays away from the aspirations of critical acceptance, it keeps the band credible with an album that hasn't broken any barriers but certainly delivers the intensely, politically charged, dark and oftentimes sinfully heavy metal bilge that you'd expect from the conveyors of chaos.

Reviewed by Mark Taylor
A senior LAS staff writer, Mark Taylor is a 29 year old father of a 5 year old son and husband to a wife of 6 years, living the simple life in a small suburb of Charlotte, NC.

See other reviews by Mark Taylor

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