For 27 years, Al Jourgenson and a revolving cast of punk and industrial superstars have been producing Ministry albums. Now, with Ministry's 11th album, The Last Sucker, Ministry has produced its swan song.
And what a swan song it is.
Rounding Out the Trilogy
The Last Sucker draws to a close a blatantly political trilogy that began with 2004's Houses of the Mole and 2006's Rio Grande Blood. The record (as were the two prior) is intensely critical of the Bush administration, and is aimed at raising political awareness as well as simply kicking out some great industrial rock.
Now produced by Jourgenson's own studio and label, 13th Planet Records, Ministry has once again assembled an amazing lineup. This time around, Jourgenson has staffed his band with a lineup consisting of returning Ministry veterans Tommy Victor (Prong, Danzig) on guitars, Paul Raven (Mob Research, Killing Joke, Prong) on bass, and a newcomer guitarist, Sin Quirin, who toured with Jourgenson as a guitarist for Revolting Cocks. The lineup is tight, and they sound like they've been doing this together for years (and most likely have, in some incarnation or another).
Rediscovering the Old Ministry
Even people I know who haven't been into Ministry for a while (myself included) are loving this album, as Ministry's continued war against the Bush administration sees the band finding renewed vigor and intensity, recapturing the fury that Ministry albums are known for, and grabbing hold of the infectious riffs, sounds and samples they have always been the masters of.
There was a while when it felt like Ministry had wandered away from the industrial element of their sound, getting more metallic, less manufactured and way too... ordinary. This is when I stopped listening to them. I was a fan of older records like The Mind is a Terrible Thing To Taste, and didn't like the way they were headed.
At some point, they recaptured their old sound, and The Last Suckershows they have that sound back by the bucketful.
The record opens with "Let's Go" (Listen/Download), and it's great way to get the record underway. Fast and powerful, the song features the relentless guitar lines that the band has carried itself with as far back as on songs like "Thieves", "Burning Inside" and "Stigmata" (Listen/Download).
After that, the album gets darker and more serious.
Tracks like "Watch Yourself" (Listen/Download), "The Dick Song" (with its chorus of "Run, run, run, Cheney's got a gun" - Listen/Download), "Death & Destruction" (Listen/Download) and the 10-plus-minute "End Of Days" (Listen/Download) mix political soundbites with frenzied industrial beats and vicious guitars. If at any point you're not catching Al's rant-heavy vocals, there is still no question about his theme. He is adamantly against the current direction the U.S. government is headed, and wants people to get angry and get involved.
The album has it's lighter side as well. Ministry's cover of The Door's "Roadhouse Blues" (Listen/Download) is simply amazing, reminding me of "Jesus Built My Hotrod" with it's fast progression of brutal guitar licks, and it also really bodes well for the quality of Jourgenson's upcoming covers collection (Cover Up, due in April of 2008).
It's a fitting close for Ministry, going out on a high note, playing the sound that they perfected 20 years ago. While it may be the end of the band, you can bet that this won't be the last we've heard from Jourgenson and co. Along with his new covers project, Al also has a movie soundtrack in the works (for Wicked Lake, currently slated for a release next spring), and all of the guys are going to be playing together in some incarnation or another for a long time to come. And maybe, we'll finally get to hear that Buck Satan project that's been hinted at for years as well.