Released: 2006, 13th Planet Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Like a phoenix from the ashes, Ministry has risen from has-been status after a string of lackluster albums to release not one, but two, of the best albums of their career in a row, the latest being RIO GRANDE BLOOD. At nearly fifty years of age, Al Jourgensen has been driving the chariot of Ministry since 1983 and after peaking with 1992’s PSALM 69, the next three albums were certifiable disasters before 2004’s HOUSES OF THE MOLE came out of nowhere with a scathing attack on the Bush administration. RIO GRANDE BLOOD, the second album in a three-part trilogy on the evils of all things Bush with the final chapter also signaling the end of Ministry, picks up where that album left off with more anti-Bush sentiments wrapped in the band’s industrial-driven guitars, noise and general cacophony. Along with returning drummer Mark Baker, Jourgensen has assembled a stellar studio band for this recording including ex-Danzig/Prong guitarist Tommy Victor and Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven. This lineup possesses not only a great deal of experience but gels together here (and live) like they have been playing together for years. Musically, Victor has co-written six of the ten tracks but this is still pure Jourgensen, with buzzing guitars, loads of samples and jackhammer drumming throughout. For a band many had written off by the late nineties, RIO GRANDE BLOOD is a vicious attack that shows this old warhorse still has some tricks up his sleeve.
The political skewering wastes no time as heavily manipulated samples of George W. Bush speeches (“I want money…I am an asshole”) pepper the fast and nasty title track. Jourgensen’s distorted vocals lie over blasting drum beats and buzzsaw riffs with an undercurrent of neck-snapping industrial/thrash groove. Victor’s presence is really felt on “Señor Peligro” with blistering guitar and perhaps the heaviest and most metallic Ministry track to date. An R. Lee Ermey-like drill sergeant dubbed “Sgt. Major” spews insults in a biting tirade against the U.S. military on “Gangreen” and the liberalisms continue on “Fear (Is Big Business),” a bilious attack on the Bush government’s use of fear mongering and xenophobia where Victor delivers another ripping solo. “LiesLiesLies,” along with “Fear (Is Big Business),” are both tracks ripe for the live environment. The anthemic chorus (think “Worthless” from HOUSES OF THE MOLE) and tell-tale lyrics (“Don’t listen to him/Listen to your hate/Don’t listen to anything that he says”) will surely drive the concert crowd wild and get moshpits swirling. “The Great Satan,” a remix of a new track released on last year’s Jourgensen-assembled retrospective collection, RANTOLOGY, continues the speed and anger laid forth with a rolling groove and all the elements of classic Ministry. Perhaps the most interesting track is the lengthy “Khyber Pass,” an ambient, Eastern-influenced trek with female vocals courtesy of Liz Constantine that are soothingly trippy alongside Jourgensen’s fuzzy rants about Osama Bin Laden.
The single-minded focus on all things Bush can get a bit tedious at times and behind the barking and occasional cartoonishness that comes with the territory (the Sgt. Major insults grow tired long before the end of the track’s six minute length and Jello Biafra’s rants on the ill-titled “Ass Clown” could have been left on the cutting room floor), it is hard to believe that anyone is as enraptured with hate towards George W. Bush as Jourgensen is.
Al Jourgensen has never minced words and the bluntness found on RIO GRANDE BLOOD makes one wonder why, if The Dixie Chicks received death threats and labeled traitors for their frank comment on Dubya, is Uncle Al even breathing today. Hopefully, Jourgensen’s anti-Bush trilogy acts as proper catharsis because the man seems almost obsessed in his rage against the apparent wrongdoings of the current leader of the free world. Bush is essentially Moby Dick to Jourgensen’s Captain Ahab and it will be interesting to see if Ministry goes down with the sinking Republican ship come election time. Until that question can be answered, dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives will have to deal with Ministry as Public Enemy #1 and Al Jourgensen’s outspokenness about jingoism, war and foreign policy that they hold so dear to their blackened hearts. If there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel of inane speeches, shady dealings and ongoing war in Iraq, it is that the Bush government has provided Ministry fans with such essential albums as RIO GRANDE BLOOD after over twenty years in the game.
KILLER KUTS: “Rio Grande Blood,” “Señor Peligro,” “Fear (Is Big Business),” “LiesLiesLies,” “The Great Satan”