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Ministry - "Relapse" (CD)

Ministry - "Relapse" CD cover image

"Relapse" track listing:

1. Ghouldiggers
2. Double Tap
3. FreeFall
4. Kleptocracy
5. United Forces (S.O.D. cover)
6. 99 Percenter
7. Relapse
8. Weekend Warrior
9. Git up Get Out 'n Vote
10. Bloodlust
11. Relapse Defibrillator Mix (Special Limited Edition)

Reviewed by on April 18, 2012

"While guitars are the defining characteristic of 'Relapse,' Jourgensen doesn’t forsake his electronic roots."

In 1992, Ministry released “Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs,” which was not only their most successful album, but it showed a new dependence on metal guitars that was drastically different from their synth pop roots. The next three albums - “Filth Pig,” “Dark Side of the Spoon” and “Animositisomina” - didn’t relate the same aggressive vibe as “Psalm 69.” However, in 2004 they released “Houses of the Molè,” which was somewhat of a sequel, both in terms of lyrics and music, to “Psalm 69.” Ever since, Ministry has assuaged their electronics in favor of heavy metal guitar sounds with a particular affinity for thrash.

Guitars once again rule the day on Ministry’s latest full-length “Relapse.” It only made sense that Al Jourgensen’s last album (he’s said that before, hopefully he’s wrong) would include the riff master who originally sharpened Ministry’s edge on “Psalm 69,” Mike Scaccia (Rigor Mortis). His finger-tapped guitar notes not only initiate album opener “Ghouldiggers,” but these sounds set the tone for the entire album. Scaccia reunites with former band mate, Prong’s Tommy Victor, who both played together on “Rio Grande Blood.” Victor and Scaccia have a reputation that precedes them, which they fully live up to and then some. Bassist Casey Orr joins his Rigor Mortis mate to complete the Texas faction of recording, while bassist Tony Campos reunited with his Prong mate to form the Los Angeles faction.

The guitars on “Double Tap” relate a diverse aim, moving from groove to booming, drums-driven thrash to psychedelic, Arabian-style guitar notes. The title track chugs along with the same spirit as “Just One Fix.” “Bloodlust” contains dirty, down-tuned grooves that would get fans of Sepultura and Pantera moving. Jourgensen gave praise to one of the all-time great crossover thrash bands, S.O.D., with a cover of “United Forces.” The programmed drumming actually carries more impact than the original when the group pushes the tempo during instrumental parts. One of the guitarists accompanies this bewildering speed with a searing solo that would fit well on a Slayer track. More finger-blistering solos pop up throughout the album.

While guitars are the defining characteristic of “Relapse,” Jourgensen doesn’t forsake his electronic roots. Although “Relapse Defibrillator Mix” and the beginning of “Weekend Warrior” contain programmed rhythms fitting for “The Land of Rape and Honey” or “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste,” he portrays this side of the band best in the vocals and samples. The beginning of “FreeFall” features clips from old drug education films with looped samples that produce a sense of delirium. The “Relapse” remix samples saying “smoke more marijuana” conveys Uncle Al’s transformation from heroin junkie to pot head. On the cyber side of the vocals, “FreeFall” contains a maelstrom of echoing vocals in the chorus, while the post chorus on “99 Percenters” reveals Al’s jumbled voice juxtaposed against what sounds like reworked scratching.

“Relapse” might go down as Ministry’s most varied album. While it’s primarily a heavy metal album, Al Jourgensen added a touch of industrial elements throughout the album. He approached the vocals in a similar manner, cranking up the effects in some areas, while totally stripping them away for a natural, narrative voice in others. While “Relapse” offered a good listen, it doesn’t differentiate itself much from their recent records. Fans of their last few records will enjoy “Relapse,” but I can’t praise it as, in Jourgensen's words, “one of the top fifty stoner albums of all-time.”

Highs: Al's humor, the guitars and lyrical themes

Lows: "Relapse" doesn't stand out from the last few albums.

Bottom line: Not the best Ministry album, but a strong showing from Al Jourgensen.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)