Sunday Old School: Ministry

Photo of Ministry

Band Photo: Ministry

More often than not with heavy metal bands, many fans will say how much they preferred a band’s early work, often saying the first album was the best and that the band changed their style too much later on. The latter is certainly true of Chicago’s, Ministry, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a Ministry fan who’s favourite album was “With Sympathy.” This album was the first from the band, who formed in 1981 from the ashes of Special Affect, which also featured Groovy Mann, later of My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, and unlike their later work which heavy metal fans are more familiar with, was a synthpop record, much more in the vein of such bands as Depeche Mode or the melodic pop stylings of Spandau Ballet. The album was a slow seller but nevertheless was able to reach the 90s position in the Billboard album charts.

After parting ways with band member Stephen George, Ministry founder Al Jourgensen performed more or less as a solo artist for the next Ministry record, “Twitch.” While it was still an electronic record, the album contained a heavier and darker tone and once again placed Ministry in the Billboard album charts, though only just this time, reaching a peak position of 194. Following, “Twitch,” Jourgensen began to become interested once again in playing the electric guitar and brought in Paul Barker and William Rieflen of The Blackouts for the next album, “The Land of Rape and Honey.” The record was a huge critical success and featured one of Ministry’s most popular songs, “Stigmata,” which was featured in 1990 film, Hardware. The use of electric guitars on the album made for a more metal approach to their music, which continued and was embellished on the next record, “The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste.” The album fared a little better than “…Rape and Honey,” earning it the number 163 spot on the Billboard album charts, one place higher than it’s predecessor

Following a live CD and home video, “In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up,” and a host of side projects including Revolting Cocks, Ministry got to work on what is perhaps now regarded as their biggest album to date, “??F????T,” or as it is more commonly known, “Psalm 69: The Way To Succeed and The Way to Suck Eggs.” The record broke the band into the mainstream with two top twenty singles in “Jesus Built My Hot Rod” and “N.W.O,” as well as reaching the number 27 spot in the Billboard album charts and earning a high chart ranking in New Zealand. The proper name of the album is translated Greek for “head 69” with both of these terms being slang for oral sex, as was the English name “The way to succeed” (suck seed) “and the way to suck eggs” referring to the sixty nine position in sex. Following the lengthy touring and needed break in support of the album, the group got together in 1994 to record their next release, “Filth Pig.” “Filth Pig” was considered something of a failure, as it was met with mostly negative responses from critics and didn’t sell as well as, “Psalm 69” despite being the band’s highest charting album in the States, where it reached the peak position of 19. Their next album, “Dark Side Of The Spoon,” was also met with lukewarm reactions, though it did earn the band another Grammy nomination for the song, “Bad Blood.” The group’s success continued to dwindle over the next few years, releasing a compilation and live album before their next release of new material, “Animositisomina” in 2003 which only reached 157 in the album charts.

However, in 2004, the band launched into what was to become a very personal and vicious attack on the Presidency of George W. Bush with the album, “Houses of the Molé,” which apart from the single, “No W,” was notable for having every song on the album start with the letter “W.” The album did not chart and the group left Sanctuary Records as a result, but they still continued their attack on the American President with their next album, “Rio Grande Blood,” which was released in 2006. This album would gain recognition three years later when three of it’s songs, “Palestina,” “Khyber Pass” and “Fear (Is Big Business)” were used in the acclaimed film, “The Hurt Locker.” The record also continued Ministry’s tradition of sampling, though this time they spliced together quotes from President Bush to make it sound as though he was admitting to war crimes and acts of tyranny.

Although the band seemed to be rejuvenated by their contempt, Jourgensen announced that the band’s next album would be their last, claiming that he had other things to do and that since he thought a Democrat would win the next Presidential election, he should step down, claiming he “writes real shitty music when a Democrat’s in office.” And so it was the band released, “The Last Sucker” the next year and launched into a year long tour to promote the album and say “farewell” to the fans. The tour, appropriately dubbed, “C U LaTour,” was notable for comprising mostly of songs from the group’s latest three albums, before finishing with a few old songs and a cover, usually “What A Wonderful World,” an apt way to say goodbye. To date, Ministry have been as good as their word, having not performed a show since July 19th 2008 in Dublin, Ireland. Jourgensen has been busy with his label, 13th Planet Records and has vehemently denied any speculation about the band coming out of retirement. Whether or not Ministry ever do return isn’t important however. What should be noted is that the band were truly masters of their craft, leaving behind several fantastic songs and unique memories for anyone who ever got to catch them perform live.

Ministry – “Revenge”

Ministry – “Just One Fix”

Ministry – “Stigmata”

Ministry – “Let’s Go”

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.