10 Best Ministry Songs
Outside of Genesis P-Orridge and Trent Reznor, no musician has been more important to the industrial music movement than Al Jourgensen. Since forming Ministry in 1981, the Cuban-American guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist has been a trailblazer, incorporating heavy metal and hardcore into the group’s sound and helping to create a new genre in the process. The new biography ‘Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen,’ co-written by Jon Wiederhorn, just hit stores this week, and the band’s 13th and apparently final studio album, ‘From Beer to Eternity,’ drops Sept. 6, so Diffuser.fm figured it was about time we post our list of 10 Best Ministry Songs.
Co-written by guitarist Tommy Victor (also of Prong and Danzig), ‘Señor Peligro’ finds Ministry bringing down the gauntlet, speed-metal style. Featuring a fistful of guitar riffs that could have come off an early Sepultura record, the track couldn’t be more removed from Ministry’s earlier synth-pop roots.
A stomping industrial metal monolith, ‘Bad Blood’ appeared on Ministry’s ominously titled 1999 ‘Dark Side of the Spoon’ (heroin reference anyone?) album, but the track reached more listeners when it was featured on the soundtrack album to ‘The Matrix’ earlier that year.
Although drum machines have a tendency to come off as cold and sterile on record, Jourgensen has always had a way of making them work to his advantage. ‘Burning Inside’ is a perfect example of the studio magician at work. Over a frenzied drum machine pattern during the verses and a flurry of stabbing snares in the chorus sections, Jourgensen barks out each line with the fury of a man possessed.
Next on our list of the 10 Best Ministry Songs is the group’s biggest hit, which reached No. 11 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. ‘N.W.O.’ uses spoken-word samples from a George H.W. Bush speech and the film ‘Apocalypse Now’ to evil effect. By the time ‘Psalm 69’ hit stores, bands like industrial-minded heavy metal acts like Skrew and Circle of Dust had appeared on the music scene, proving that Jourgensen and company had captured the imagination of that famously fickle community. ‘N.W.O.’ would soon be heard in metal clubs from San Antonio to Stockholm.
‘(Every Day Is) Halloween’
Close your eyes while playing, ‘(Every Day Is) Halloween,’ and you might swear you’re listening to New Order. The track’s drum programming and keyboard and bass lines definitely owe a debt to the British synth-pop pioneers, but Jourgensen’s lyrics (“well I live with snakes and lizards and other things that go bump in the night / cuz to me every day is Halloween”) definitely don’t. If this song isn’t a goth anthem, we don’t what is.
‘Just One Fix’
Jourgensen would rather we all forget ‘With Sympathy,’ Ministry’s 1983 debut album, but there’s a legion of synth-pop and darkwave fans who consider it an absolute classic. ‘Revenge’ features a driving dance beat, pulsating keyboard lines and a vocal melody that brings to mind synth-poppers Red Flag and Nitzer Ebb.
The opening cut on their seminal ‘The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste’ album, ‘Thieves’ surprised many of the group’s fans with its power-drill guitars, lyrics about “immigrants and faggots” and thrash-metal-speed chorus. Unless you wanted to risk life and limb and get into a circle pit, this wasn’t music you could dance to. Diffuser.fm still remembers seeing Ministry on this tour at New York City’s now-defunct Ritz club. The band performed the set behind a chain-link fence and looked as angry as ‘Thieves’ sounds.
‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’
Butthole Surfers ringmaster Gibby Haynes handles the vocals on this twisted, southern-fried hybrid of rockabilly, industrial and heavy metal. Haynes’ demented performance is the best part about ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod,’ but don’t sleep on the coked-up guitar solo towards the end of the song. Did we really need hillbilly industrial metal? You betcha!
Topping our 10 Best Ministry Songs list is ‘Stigmata,’ the best union of industrial and heavy metal to date. ‘The Land of Rape and Honey’ is where Jourgensen and Ministry began to inject metal muscle to their sonic assault, and ‘Stigmata’ proved that the combination could be a lethal one. The band would eventually move away from their industrial dance roots and take their sound into an even more metal direction, but it would be great to see Ministry write more material closer to the balance of the two styles they struck on ‘Stigmata.’