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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Ministry

Rio Grande Blood

Review by Mike Korn

Al Jourgenson continues his guerilla musical war against the Bush family with "Rio Grande Blood" and this time he takes no prisoners. Ministry has been battling with the Bushes since George Sr. was in the White House and the band sampled him for their anthem "N.W.O." It's been said that Ministry is really only at its best when a Bush is in power. I would tend to agree. Psalm 69 was an awesome record, but the Clinton-years follow-ups Filth Pig and Dark Side of the Spoon didn't measure up. Then Dubya hits the scene and we start getting vitriolic discs like Animositimomina and Houses of the Mole again. Rio Grande Blood sees Jourgenson 's war with Georgie hitting a new peak, as one look at the scandalous cover proves. The departure of long-time co-conspirator Paul Barker has not slowed Jourgenson down one bit. If anything, it's let him off his leash and Ministry is firing on all cylinders. This CD is the heaviest, thrashiest Ministry ever. It's hard to believe this band started out as a wimpy, synth-heavy "New Romantic" band. I'm often reminded of Slayer and Exodus while listening to this but augmented by the electronic/industrial terror for which recent Ministry has been known. A look at titles can reveal some of the thought processes here: "Fear Is Big Business,” "The Great Satan,” "Lies Lies Lies" and "A**clown.” I am certainly no fan of the current administration but the relentless one-note bashing gets a little wearying, especially when Bush is sampled multiple times on every track. And I don't agree that there will only be justice when all the Supreme Court Justices are shot in the head, which Jourgenson calls for here. That puts him in the same division as Pat Robertson, who also calls for the same thing. Nevertheless, this is absolutely scathing. Whether you fervently hate the government as much as Jourgenson does or not, you can't argue with a beast this ferocious.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Rio Grande Blood
"I am a weapon of mass destruction...I am a brutal dictator...I'm evil" exclaims President Bush to kick off the album and that gives you just a hint of what to expect for the next 50 odd minutes. A relentless shuffling thrash riff mixed with jackhammer samples and drums makes for a vicious background to Ministry leader Al Jourgenson's political diatribes. If you think this track is catchy and fierce, hold onto your hats because you ain't heard nothing yet!
Senor Peligro
This kicks things up with an onslaught of absolute Slayer-inspired brutality. I mean, even Slayer themselves weren't this heavy and angry on Christ Illusion and since that CD was awesome, you can get an idea of how ravaging this is. The guitar tone is completely immense and the angry ranting vocals add even more hate. This is the heaviest song Ministry has ever done.
Gangreen
"I'm the ministry of death, I'm a marine, I'm hard and trained" boasts Sgt. R. Lee Ermey in his sampled narration. And that's about the only part of what he says I can reprint here in this caustic criticism of the Marines. The song lumbers along on the back of a repetitive and crushing mid-tempo riff. The ape-like "aaaa-OOOOO-aaaaa" chants of the Marine chorus and more sampling from Sgt. Ermey give this a really hypnotic, mechanical feel. Jourgenson's simplistic bashing of the Army seems way too pat to me, but the music here is mesmerizing.
Fear (Is Big Business)
Beginning slow and ominously, this ode to modern day paranoia has an almost gothic feel, but soon cuts loose with more scorching thrash that reminds me a lot of Slayer's Hell Awaits album mixed with Ministry's trademark approach. Subtle keyboards boost the atmosphere without sucking the life from the flesh-flaying guitar sound. There's an insane guitar solo and this is as good a place as any to mention that the solos here in general are just devastating.
Lies Lies Lies
A voice announces that it is ready to overthrow the U.S. government and then a super catchy shuffling riff kicks in. This is one of the best riffs I've heard Ministry ever use! Jourgenson uses his more "processed" vocals here to great advantage and alters his tone at just the right time to bring more emphasis. The chorus is huge and epic: "Don't listen to anything they say/Listen to your head" and the track speeds up in excellent fashion at the end - great cut!
The Great Satan
This is one of my favorites. Faster than an Exocet missile, this blasts through your head with a short, sharp blow. I kind of like this because it's so compact and wastes so little time. It’s extremely catchy and extremely angry!
Yellow Cake
The bass on this track throbs like a bad toothache and gives it a kind of bouncy feel. Synths take a more prominent role but it's still a totally crushing tune in a more mid-tempo mode. Something about this one reminds me of the band on their Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste album. This is the CD's most repetitive and mantra-like cut. "And the war goes on..."
Palestina
This is a really rocking cut that's a bit more earthy and uses less of the electronics and sampling. It reminds me a lot of Prong and then in the middle it briefly speeds up to a skull-crushing Exodus-like mosh groove.
A**clown
Weird droning electronics with ghostly guitar in the background make up the first minute or so of this one. Then we hear the voice of a snide circus ringmaster (I believe the Dead Kennedy's Jello Biafra plays the part) who tells us "Welcome to Washington D.C., home of the a**clown." and gives us a rundown of political idiocy. Then a powerful riff comes thundering in to clear the cobwebs away. By now, Jourgenson's points have been pounded into your head like a tent peg and the constant sampling of George Bush has become wearying. The track seems a little familiar, too, but I must admit it is still really brutal and the guitar soloing again slays.
Khyber Pass
This is the most "different" track on the CD. The long intro features pounding tribal drums, psychedelic guitar and the haunting tones of a female vocalist singing in Middle Eastern fashion. The Arabic vibe continues through the whole track, even as it transforms into a slow, pounding metal tune. I must admit, the lyrics here are clever: "Where's bin Laden, where's bin Laden? / He's still run and hidin' /Some say he's living in the Khyber Pass / Others say he's at the Bush's ranch." This is the least speedy cut, but it has a real heaviness to it and the drums are titanic. (After this tune concludes, you can stick around for a few minutes to hear the military rants and "aaaa-OOOO-aaaa" chants from "Gangreen" repeated without a musical backdrop.)
 
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