Reviewed By Simon Milburn
Published 25 June, 2012
Link: Official Website

High expectations? Be prepared then...

With both of the President Bush’s no longer in power and after announcing the band’s finale with 2008’s The Last Sucker, it seemed that the beast known as Ministry was finally being laid to rest. However when you have someone like Al Jourgensen – a man who seemingly has more lives and a greater drug intake than Keith Richards and Ozzy Osbourne combined – fronting the band, who is really surprised that Al and co. are back for album number 12? Al’s been addicted to just about everything over the course of the band’s almost 30 year career, so giving up on music would certainly be a tough struggle for this outspoken frontman. Perhaps then it should be no surprise that the band’s new album is rather aptly titled Relapse.

In most case of dependency or addiction – a relapse is the sign of a downward spiral or a turn for the worst. True to that notion, Ministry’s latest is also a downward turn. There’s little doubt for many that Ministry peaked with the crushing Psalm 69 from 1992. Their later day material from the ‘90’s clearly couldn’t match the militant precision and brutality of their defining album. Things looked up with their releases from 2003’s Animositisomina onwards, but by the time The Last Sucker hit a mere four years later, it was clearly the right time to pull up stumps with their most recent releases being hit and miss at best.

To be fair, Relapse isn’t a terrible album. I have no doubt there are plenty that are way worse in the “latest release” section of your favourite store. But as far as Ministry albums go, it’s certainly not going to amaze existing fans nor will it garner the group a legion of new followers en masse. Jourgensen described it “the fastest and heaviest record I’ve ever done”. It’s true to a point, but fast and heavy doesn’t always equate to great.

Relapse has its moments that shine – the excellent opener Ghouldiggers (complete with an amusing “conversation” between Al and his manager’s secretary), the frantic Double Tap (which could also be considered as an ode to Bin Laden) and the blistering Freefall kick things off with a big bang. Things certainly look great from the outset. But from here on in, the intensity drops off and the foot is clearly eased off of the accelerator. At the same time, the infectious edge that the opening cuts exuded is also lacking. Sure their cover of S.O.D.’s United Forces is solid enough but sadly, the rest of the material here, whilst true to Ministry’s style of old and new, just isn’t up to what we know Al is capable of doing.

Perhaps my expectations of a triumphant return from Ministry were unrealistic. Perhaps not. I thought The Last Sucker was a solid and fitting end for Ministry and really expected big things from their return. We know the band are tight, we know they put on an amazing show, and we also know they can really deliver the goods. Relapse has its moments but it does fall short on the whole. It’s by no means a terrible album. It’s just more of an ok Ministry release which will probably disappoint some fans. Caveat emptor.

13th Planet Records

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