CD Review: Ministry – From Beer to Eternity

CD Review: Ministry – From Beer to Eternity
AFM Records
All Access Rating: A-

Ministry - From Beer to Eternity 2013
Al Jourgensen is, in a sense, taking old Betsy out to the woods to put a bullet in her brain. It seems Ministry, the outlaw gang of trailblazing industrial-metal miscreants he’s fronted for years, has outlived its usefulness and will now be stripped for parts. Maybe Nine Inch Nails can use a drum machine.

It’s a terribly sad time for industrial music, actually, as the AFM Records release From Beer to Eternity, reported to be Ministry’s last album, was finished in the aftermath of guitar Mike Scaccia’s death, having collapsed onstage with his old mates in Rigor Mortis late last December. With a heavy heart, Jourgensen threw himself into his work, crafting and honing material Ministry had already worked up in a spate of intense creativity until this massive sonic weaponry was ready to be launched. And here it is, Ministry’s last will and testament, and what does Jourgensen leave to his followers? These words of wisdom: “Enjoy the Quiet.”

A refreshing wall of watery white noise washes over whoever is still listening by the time the closing track to the multi-layered, ferociously opinionated From Beer to Eternity comes on and when it’s over, Jourgensen welcomes the arrival of silence. What comes before it is anything but tranquil, thanks to a cacophony of rampaging metal riffs and a wild thicket of clashing sounds both human and synthetic, as television news clips mingle with alien blips and snorts. Glitchy electronica and clanking factory noises greet those who dare to enter Jourgensen’s tongue-in-cheek “Hail to His Majesty (Peasants)” and are subjected to his hoary invitations to perform oral sex on him, as grimy, heaving guitars swing dangerously about. He certainly has a way with words, doesn’t he?

Never one to hold his tongue, Jourgensen does turn serious on the growling anti-war essay “Permawar,” which begins life as a grim, dark dirge and gradually takes on a more urgent tone, casting a wide swath of UV-powered vocals and fluorescent guitars over troubled lands. A grinding, thrashing tantrum, the torturous “Perfect Storm” predicts an apocalypse of Biblical proportions if something isn’t done about global warming, where a wiser “Lesson Unlearned” imbibes deep soul and hard funk grooves before dipping them in a wah-wah acid bath full of six-string razors. He has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.

Gleefully overloading the senses, as he’s done so often with Ministry, Jourgensen makes heads spin on the surrealistic mash-up “The Horror” – which segues out of his fast and furious Fox News diatribe “Fairly Unbalanced” – and the speed-metal crash site that is “Side Fx Includes Mikey’s Middle Finger (TV 4).” And just when you think he’s all out of ideas, in walks the moody, echoing dub experiment “Thanx but No Thanx,” which attacks bigots of all stripes over a bubbling bass line and eventually shifts into a driving metal opus that rides mean, angry riffage into that black hole known as the “American Dream.”

From Beer to Eternity is, not surprisingly, a dark record, and the booklet that accompanies it, with the disturbing portraits of beautifully feral women representing each of the Seven Deadly Sins, certainly doesn’t lighten the mood. That said, there’s no shortage of funny moments on From Beer to Eternity, and with a title like that, he’s not exactly moping over Ministry’s passing.

Seeing as this is Ministry’s last goodbye, Jourgensen is playfully using every tool at his disposal. That everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach has worked so well for him in the past. Mostly, these are well-plotted tracks, diverse and thoroughly engrossing; however, there are moments when the parts don’t always fit together as seamlessly as one would hope. Worse yet, there are periods of drifting and stagnation in “Side Fx,” and really, “Hail to His Majesty” could have been thrown away entirely, even if it’s childish humor makes you chuckle – not that Jourgensen cares one jot for those who don’t.

So laugh along with Ministry, or cry at the loss of Scaccia or the dire warnings Jourgensen issues here. Ministry has gone out in a blaze of glory, giving the world one last powerful fix, and they will be missed. All stories need a final chapter, and this is Ministry’s, so in that way, From Beer to Eternity is essential, even if Jourgensen’s occasional lack of seriousness indicates otherwise.
 – Peter Lindblad

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