Review Summary: So, Ministry is back.
After a 4 year hiatus, Uncle Al & Co-Conspirators are back with Relapse
, an album that would reportedly end up being the fastest and heaviest Ministry effort. Everything found here is an even more mechanical continuation of what is found on the Bush Trilogy albums, more likely The Last Sucker
and Rio Grande Blood
Yes, this album might just be their fastest and heaviest out, but unlike those, it all feels undone and unnatural on Relapse
. It's like the sole aim the band had is to make this overwhelmingly trashing with little to no variation whatsoever. Anything related to industrial is long gone and everything is so one-sided it becomes tiresome for the listener earlier than it should, with any replay value being unlikely. While Rio Grande Blood
, Houses Of The Mole
and even The Last Sucker
all have their grooves and highlights, here though, simply put, it can become a pain in the arse to find something that enjoyable, with one exception.
One more thing the listener should know before diving head first is that Al Jourgensen is stoned this time (reportedly being on marijuana for some back condition). So, in his words, this is Ministry's stoner album. Aside from one song, of course none of this here actually resembles anything close to the stoner genre. "Bloodlust" is the closest thing the band ever came to stoner metal. And to be honest, it is the best thing here and also a highlight in Ministry's catalog. The song is heavy, groovy and the chorus adds another dimension to the song nothing here has. The chorus is a clean sing-along that gives a brief yet refreshing relief from the deep voice barking and growling rants Jourgensen has had lately. Still, one song can't save the album but Relapse
can be listened backwards for hearing this gem first, to a greater effect and then the rest of the mess.
Another nicer track is "99 Percenters", that is more reminiscient of 2004's Houses Of The Mole
. At a less frantic pace, the song is more ear-friendly and isn't necessarily a standout, but in between this turgid mess, "99 Percenters" comes out as refreshingly good.
Back at the beginning of the record, the opening beast, "Ghouldiggers" is an example of how bad the album can become. Starting with some basic rants about the music industry and artists that were indirectly killed by it, Uncle Al drops names and some granpa wisdom in between ("It takes a whole pack of wolves to take down a moose", etc.). Then it all bursts in, a sonic army of programmed double kick drums and palm-muted frantic riffing almost the entire record sports. One minute in and you've heard it all. A moment of slight happiness appears on the next track, "Double Tap", which is the closest thing to the insane riffing found on 2006's Rio Grande Blood
, where the band just goes berzerk with the programmed* double kicks, by the end covering all the instruments. Even if it is computer programmed, for a moment there's a great feeling Ministry is back. As soon as the track ends, everything goes downhill, with the exception of the aforementioned "Bloodlust". Hell, "Kleptocracy" even sounds like a downtuned, palm-mute remake of "The Last Sucker".
Lyrically, Jourgensen has never been renowned for his depth, but his often drug issues related lyrics and moreover, the obsessive hatred towards the Bush administration ranged from average to admiring, through the compiled samples creating whole new speeches and slogans. Unfortunately, here all those have been removed with what seems to be stoner fun, inside jokes, granpa wisdom or plain dumb dialogues. The rest of the lyrics are concerning politics as a whole this time, protests (for example, the Occupy Wall Street movement found on "99%") or bad/stupid drug-referrences (for example the title track's chorus is "I relapse/You lapse). While on the country album the band have released last year as Buck Satan & The 666 Shooters the atmosphere made everything funny, here it ranges from average to embarrassing, like the title track.
In the end, Relapse
is a disappointment. I feel biased about the rating given, because after five years it's nice to hear Ministry again, but all the flaws considerably drag this down, so it becomes an average album with one highlight only. It is a shame though, since the band had all the time in the world to create something heavy and huge to make a real comeback. Instead they dropped this frenetic yet dull and repetitive record.
*I keep mentioning programmed because it is used to such an extent that it becomes hilariously annoying.
Highlight - "Bloodlust"
If you want to check out - "Double Tap", "99 Percenters" and "United Forces" (S.O.D. cover)