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Complete Ministry CD Reviews ============================ With Sympathy (1983) ** """""""""""""""""""""""" Typical early-80's euro-techno-pop in the style of Blancmange and Heaven 17. As such, it's acceptible, but pretty lightweight. The big strike against it is Al's vocals; this Chicago kid's phony British accent is laughable. Jourgensen's since tried to disown this album as a record company's creation, but the fact of the matter is, he wrote every song on it. Twitch (1986) **** """"""""""""""""""" A pivotal album in the history of second-generation industrial music. Al Jourgensen recruits Adrian Sherwood to graft his simple but striking songs to driving, relentless beats. Possibly the first album to combine clang-n-bang samples with coherent songs. It is accessible but not pop. From the grating anthem "Just Like You" to the mishmash of all-electronic techno-thrash at the end, _Twitch_ is a tour-de-force of machine music. The album borrows from Cabaret Voltaire in terms of vocal sound and the overall claustrophobia/paranoia factor, but for the most part it stands as an original and innovative work. The Land of Rape and Honey (1988) ***** """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""" Having stretched the limits of synth-and-sampler fare considerably, Al (and sidekick Paul Barker) pick up guitars and kick on the distortion. Since Jourgensen is no guitar virtuoso, he elects to assemble short samples of six-string grunge into dense, rhythmic blocks, snippets of noise flying about the stereo field alongside punchy drums and less identifiable blasts of sound. The result is a brilliant fusion of speed-metal and electronic techno-thrash, more "cyberpunk" than "industrial." "Diety" comes closest to traditional guitar fare, but is rooted by icy digital drums and hornlike samples. "You Know What You Are," at the other end of the spectrum, lies almost entirely in the MIDI realm...yet somehow fits in alongside the prototypical guitar grunge. "Flashback," the song of homicidal revenge, is a high point, complete with unusual rhythm track and "Platoon" samples. In between the extremes lie some amazing material. "Hizbollah" is a bizarre Eastern daydream. "Destruction" somehow manages rawness from within a sequencer's looped drum track. "The Missing" is simple beyond belief, and all the more powerful for it. _Land_ is a masterpiece, the finest fusion of man-made and mechanical thrash to date. The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste (1989) *** """"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""" The guitar chops are improving and the subject matter is as focused as ever. _Mind_ is considerably less of a musical tangent from the previous Ministry disc than we've come to expect from these guys, but it exhibits refinement and expansion of sound. Some tracks -- "Breathe," for instance -- bring to mind early Killing Joke, with their layers of militaristic drums and piercing "wall of sound" guitar. Others, like "Burning Inside" are wholly Ministry; one can trace the progression of this back to _Twitch_. Overall, the album is much like the previous one, but with a more "live" or "band" sound, if you will. Similarly, there's a lot of diversity within this sound. "Thieves" is like shellshocked electronic Metallica with a sampler and "Full Metal Jacket;" "Faith Collapsing" and "Dream Song" are spacious and image-evocative. But whereas _Land_ was brilliant from end to end, a couple tracks on _Mind_ are weak and one, "Test," is lame in the extreme. Psalm 69 (1992) * """""""""""""""""" Here, Jourgensen and company have completed the transformation from electronic innovators to standard MTV "Headbanger's Ball" fare. This disc was sent back to the studio a few times for repair, and it shows; at the core of all its bombast it is completely lacking in good songs. Virtually all traces of the innovative Ministry are gone, replaced by piles of guitars and rapid-fire drums. Once on the cutting edge of hi-tech grunge, Ministry appear to have abdicated the throne, with the arrival of bands like Godflesh and Prong coming from the other side of the fence. This is plastic thrash; it has lots of 32nd-note kick drums and distorted guitar fifths, but it's empty and stilted. The subject matter is equally contrived. Al and company take a token stab at atheism/sacrilege, but it comes off less convincingly than the pentagrams Motley Crue shoved at terrified mothers circa _Shout_at_the_ _Devil_. The forced genre and lack of songwriting core are not a healthy combination. _Psalm_ is stillborn, and should have been aborted.

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