‘AmeriKKKant’, album number 17 from Uncle Al and his unruly gang has landed. ‘Wait a minute!’ I hear you cry, ‘he said the last one was the last one, again!’. Yup, but here we are, it has been a weird year or two for our American cousins and Ministry, it seems, have something to say about that. Uncle Al is often most vocal when he is most dismayed a the state of politics in his country. If his anger is inversely proportionate to how bad things are then we should expect a very angry Ministry record.
I rate a few Ministry albums very highly and they have been hugely influential to me personally. ‘Those albums are ‘Land of Rape and Honey’ and ‘The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste’. I also think that their live video ‘In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up’ is one of the best our there, raw and visceral. That is how I like Ministry best, and I’ve found something to like from each of their albums, though I find I return to the more thrash metal orientated ones less than the more electronic or more sludgy experimental albums. Well my readers, I LIKE ‘AmeriKKKant’ rather a lot.
‘I Know Words’ is a 3 minute atmospheric noise savaging of the idiot president and serves as an introduction for the rest of the album. The first two full tracks both clock in at a heavyweight 8 minutes or so. ‘Twilight Zone’ is a bludgeoning repetitive monster, repetitive in the way that Swans and Godflesh can be, which is a good thing. The density of the sound and the tempo bring to mind moments of the ‘Filthpig’ and ‘Dark Side of the Spoon’ albums. Al’s voice sounds as harsh and treated as ever, and the track (and the album for that matter) is laced with sampled sound bites that have been a feature of Ministry albums since they first sounded pissed off, though on this album they are scratched by guest DJ Swamp. The programmed percussion sounds great to me and recalls the mechanical stomp of their more electronic albums. ‘Victims of a Clown’ is the second of these tracks, slightly more metal in approach, with the chorus riff even reminding me of early Mastodon. The tempo is still medium furious rather than breakneck until the last few seconds, which is appropriate given that the next track is the latest incarnation of ‘TV Song’ that we first encountered in the ‘Psalm 69’ era. Any Ministry fan will know to expect buzzsaw craziness.
‘We’re Tired of it’ launches next with the fastest track on the album, a hardcore punk thrash battering ram of a track which keeps the listener on their toes, like an industrial take on Metallica’s ‘Battery’. Next is ‘Wargasm’ which drops the tempo once more and sees Burton C Bell provide his voice. The track sounds too uncannily like Killing Joke’s ‘The Wait’ in the chorus though, to the extent that I now have a strong urge to play that Killing Joke album.
‘Antifa’ stomps in next, dirty and sludgy to begin but quickly evolving into another riff heavy thrasher with hints of ‘Just One Fix’. The video might have divided fans but on the album the song is strong and heavy. There are more nods to earlier Ministry with ‘Game Over’ sounding part ‘Thieves’ and part ‘The Fall’. Possibly my favourite track of the album for these reasons. The album closes with another 8 minute bruiser ‘AmeriKKKa’ with it’s KKK bashing. This is another of the albums tracks that uses a slower tempo to build power and aggression. It is an epic, and slightly harrowing end to the album.
To me, the most memorable Ministry albums have had elements of electronics, unexpected instrumentation, experimentation and a sense of drama. All those ingredients are present here on ‘AmeriKKKant’ so we have the makings of a very strong entry into the Ministry discography. There is still a willingness to try new things as well as embrace the best of the old. As well as the aforementioned guests, the album also features appearances from former N.W.A member Arabian Prince and Lord of the Cello. All of the above coalesce in a brute of an album which is dense, powerful and multi layered musically, as well as an anguished cry from Uncle Al at the state of America today. This may not be the best album they have done but it is certainly near the top of the ever growing pile to my ears.