In a time where so much of the music world has become comodified and homogenised within and inch of its life, it is always nice to remind oneself that people like Al Jourgensen still exist and play their unique take on rock ‘n’ roll to crowds as large as those at Wacken Open Air, Germany’s, if not Europe’s, premier festival of all things heavy.
This live Blu-ray chronicles Al’s band, Ministry’s, set at the 2012 festival in sparkling high-definition as they were touring their second to last album Relapse, so, understandably, many of the tracks come from that record.
This is no bad thing as it is a great album and, even its less impressive track, 99 Percenters, here is a storming and pounding crowd pleaser.
I had the opportunity to catch Ministry live on their 2007, (supposedly) final, tour and, while that was as loud and intense a gig as I’ve ever witnessed, it seemed to be lacking something in audience connection with a feeling of a band going through the motions – here though, it seems that some time off gave Uncle Al and company a chance to find some new energy as, what is showcased here, maintains the intensity but with an added force of energy and conviction that these songs need.
Sometimes hidden behind his custom-made skeletal mic stand and at other times stalking the stage and commanding his troops, Al Jourgensen is an astounding presence on stage here, even through a camera, and lives up to his reputation as a powerful figure who is the alternative to the ‘alternative scene’.
The show itself matches him for this as it combines both the live footage of the band with elements of their visual show, displayed on the large video screens at the festival, but merged with the live footage here to great effect.
It is never used so much that I felt removed from the live experience but, in fact, is pitched as to perfectly emulate the feeling of seeing it live while using the medium of the concert film to heighten its effect, particularly on Ghouldiggers, No “W” and the aforementioned 99 Percenters.
With material from the 21st century making up the lion’s share of the set, Ministry head back to some classics to round things off in the form of NWO, Just One Fix and Thieves. These three songs sum up the lasting appeal of the band as they mix everything that has made them such a force with politics rubbing shoulders with blistering industrial metal in a way unlike any other band.
While Al is clearly the ring master here the rest of the band are all on astonishing form too, but it is late guitarist Mike Scaccia who is, understandably, particularly highlighted. Across the set Scaccia demonstrates a ferocious style of playing perfectly suited to Ministry and the show acts as an astonishing and certainly fitting tribute to the guitarist who Jourgensen so vauled as part of the band that, following Scaccia’s death in December 2012, he called a day on more than 30 years of Ministry.
So not only is this a fitting send off for Scaccia, but also it seems, a fitting live send off for Ministry themselves and, if you had to choose a final live document to leave the world, I can think of little better as it captures everything that made the band great from their late-80s electronic metal explosion to their powerful 2012 industrial-politico ‘Relapse’.