I will admit to being slightly concerned when I heard the news that Ministry were to be releasing a new album as their most recent efforts (a pair of covers albums) had been at best mixed and at worst painfully dull and their 2008 farewell tour had been an intense and impressive, seemingly, final outing which I didn’t want to be tarnished any further.
So it took me a while to pluck up the courage to give Relapse a listen, but it turns out I needn’t have worried.
In fact on this collection of 10 new songs (and one remix) Al Jourgensen and friends demonstrate a truly renewed vigour matched with all the intensity of old and, possibly, a refocused sense of purpose.
Starting off with a spoken section decrying the commodification of dead rock stars its clear that this album will be more than just the anti-George W rants of Ministry’s final trilogy and that affairs closer to home are also on the agenda for Uncle Al.
As Ghouldiggers continues musically its clear we remain on familiar ground with the heavily processed but precise guitar sound and vicious drums (never sure if they are sequenced or not they are so precise yet vital) backing up Jourgensen’s ranting and raving (in a very good way) vocal assault.
As the album continues Ministry cover topics from war and politics to drug use and anti-capitalism to create something that at once could soundtrack the apocalypse the album claims is heading our way before the end of the year and try to save us from bringing the end of the world on ourselves.
Never one to shy away from anything Al also addresses the issues of his own health (he was technically dead for a good few minutes a couple of years ago) and battles with addiction in very frank terms that certainly add an extra depth than just political ranting.
Relapse is made up of strong songs from start to finish and, in fact, the only track that even slightly lets the side down for me is 99 Percenters, which was released as a single before the album and, while it sounds like it will be a good shout along track live, lacks some of the depth of the rest of the record.
In the end, though a band doing a comeback record after saying they had called it a day is always a slight disappointment (though also often expected), Ministry have returned in fine form and with a strong purpose, which seems to be what Al Jourgensen needs to create his best work, and if this turns out to be the last we see of Ministry it’s a good way to go out.
But, if Ministry continue to make records, it could be the start of a great new chapter for the band.