What happened to Ministry’s lyrics?
That’s what I’m asking myself because I just listened to their 2013 album From Beer to Eternity several times over the last week.
At the time of From Beer to Eternity’s release, Al Jourgensen, the founder, heart and soul of the band had declared it to be their last album due to the death of guitarist/bass guitarist Michael Scaccia on Dec. 23, 2012. Scaccia had died just after the band finished recording sessions for the album.
Of course, five years later, we know that’s not the case since Ministry is still around.
Anyway, there’s not much more to say about From Beer to Eternity going into this review. Yeah, I know, the cover art is goofy, but that’s been done to death.
I just want to focus on the album itself.
Aside from Jourgensen and Scaccia, the lineup on this album is Sin Quirin on guitar and keyboards, Tony Campos on bass and Aaron Rossi on drums.
I’m not really sure what happened to Ministry after their reformation in 2008.
Here’s one of the middle verses of “TV II”
Who what which why who
When did you say the earth would stop turning?
When did you say we would all start burning?
When should I make a pledge?
Should I listen to the voices in my head?
Connect the goddamned dots
Now here’s the second verse and chorus from “Fairly Unbalanced” which is very similar as far as subject:
I saw a story just the other day that put me right into shock
My “Friends” at Fox are blaming all gun violence on rap & rock
No more, no more
No more hate machine
No more right-wing extreme
No more stupidity
No more Fox TV
If you don’t understand what I’m getting at, look again.
In “TV II,” Jourgensen is allowing the listener to interpret things for themselves. He’s challenging the listener throughout the song by battering them with questions and demanding the listener “connect the goddamned dots.”
On the other hand “Fairly Unbalanced” just states the obvious. There’s no nuance, no real work on the part of the listener. Jourgensen just says what he thinks and, honestly, he seems to believe that the listener has already made up their mind. He’s not wanting them to think he’s wanting them to agree with him.
And that’s the problem with From Beer To Eternity, at least lyrically: Jourgensen sounds more like someone repeating talking points rather than someone with a vision.
It’s not just “Fairly Unbalanced” but most of the other songs on the album. I wouldn’t have such a bone to pick with it, but this is Ministry and I just expect more. That’s all.
Of course, when it comes to Ministry, lyrics are only part of the equation. In both metal and industrial music, lyrics themselves don’t get you far unless you have some strong music to back them up.
Luckily, Ministry is still doing OK when it comes to that musical part of the equation. Although I’m not a fan of their post-2003 speed-thrash approach, I can’t say they’re bad at it.
“Change of Luck” is by far one of the best songs on the album. It blends Ministry’s metal and industrial sides pretty seamlessly, with a great melody being carried throughout. It’s very tonal and Jourgensen chooses to put on a pretty diverse vocal performance here, going from his growl to an almost ethereal delivery.
Ministry indulges in its industrial side to great effect in songs such as the very electronic “Hail to His Majesty,” which has some ring of Ministry’s late 80s-early 90s days to it. The strength of the first track bleeds into the second “Punch in the Face,” which is an industrial thrasher, melding the two.
“Side FX Include Mikey’s Middle Finger,” is musically reminds me of “TV II” from Psalm 69, in a good way. It’s not a ripoff, but instead it seems to take the kernel of the idea from “TV II” and build upon it. Probably my second favorite on the record.
There are some weak points on the album too.
The single for the album, “Permawar” is pretty boring. The saving grace of “Permawar” is Jourgensen’s guitar solo and harmonica, which makes the song pretty awesome … for about a minute. After that, we’re hit with the rather forgettable “Perfect Storm.”
The low point of the album is probably “The Horror.” This is pretty much a dub track with a sample of Bernie Sanders speaking over part of it. Nothing really happens during “The Horror” and it doesn’t seem to fit onto From Beer to Eternity at all.
Luckily, things pull themselves up after that with the aforementioned “Side F/X …,” and the pretty solid “Thanx but no Thanx.”
Man, I hate making a recommendation against an album by a band that has released some of my favorite music, but there’s not really anything about From Beer to Eternity that makes me say that it’s essential listening.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good album, just not as good as I would expect from Ministry.
Like I said, it’s not lyrically Ministry’s strongest material. It’s not Jourgensen’s politics, which I tend to agree with outside of the conspiracy theory nonsense, but their delivery. When I listen to them, I feel like I’m being lectured by a talking head on TV instead of being challenged to think for myself by Jourgensen.
And that gets to the heart of my problem with this album: It tells me what to think instead of asking me what I think.