I hear most of my new music at my house. Or at my buddy's place. But Ministry is the only band I've ever heard at the mall first. It happened quite awhile ago, back in May. I was out at my local CD Plus purchasing Megadeth's Countdown to Extinction, a decision the guy behind the counter happily supported. We talked about Metal and Megadeth for awhile, before he suggested I listen to Ministry's new album, Rio Grande Blood, which was one of the store's featured albums. It sounded pretty cool and had a humorous cover so I decided to check it out, despite reading that they were rooted in industrial metal. Wow, was I in for a surprise.
Despite being classified as an industrial metal band, Rio Grande Blood has its fair share of thrash influences. The opener, which doubles as the title track, displays this thrash element very well, as does Fear (Is Big Business). The album is of the riff-based variety, very heavy in its delivery. Very aggressive in its delivery, it contains several shredded solos from the two guitarists, solos that would make even the biggest thrash enthusiast smile. Through all the rage and mayhem, Ministry still manages to shine, as the band is extremely tight and never seems to be lost. Leading the fray is band leader Al Jourgensen, who appears to be fuelled by his hate for Bush. Driven by this hate, he gives an almost inspiring performance. Nothing is out of place: his consistent riffing leads the way throughout the 51 minute album; his distorted screams clearly deliver his powerful message to all that have patience enough to listen; and his song writing is excellent, putting together an album that, while extremely aggressive and heavy, still contains enough hooks to make it enjoyable to listen to. Another member who impresses is drummer Mark Baker. He pounds away at his kit, adding an extra dose of stability and power to the already musically strong record. The pounding he deals out on the drums is a perfect example of the attitudes of the album. The aggressive, take no prisoners style musical attack is effective, and very fun to listen to. Quite the impressive album from this point of view.
The main themes behind Rio Grande Blood are quite obviously aimed at President George W Bush. And they are not for everybody. Al's writings are extremely opinionated, dealing with his personal views of the Bush Administration and just what they're up to. His extreme distrust of Bush has been outlined throughout the album, including the scathing title track, which observes the Bush Administration in the White House as a whole, some American conspiracy regarding the terrorist attacks in Lieslieslies, the inability of the military to find Osama Bin Laden in Khyber Pass. Al's hatred of Bush is almost obsession as the record also features several spoken sections which depict the American president as an evil tyrant. This especially notable in the actual song Rio Grande Blood, where a manipulated Bush speech starts off the track and album. As much as I giggled at this, sometimes it feels like Al took the concept a little far, and the album could have done without a lot of it. Saying that, the lyrics still present a different take on US politics, and while at times they seem closer to typical Bush-hating, some of the subjects are fairly interesting.
With 2006's Rio Grande Blood, Ministry is definitely not going to please everybody. Some may find the extremely anti-Bush lyrics and themes very tiresome, or even offensive. But others will love the heavy, aggressive style that the band employs. Ministry definitely has a winner here with tracks such as Rio Grande Blood, Fear (Is Big Business), and Lieslieslies. A very energetic, chaotic collection of music which is worth looking into if you have time. Perhaps Rio Grande Blood is not one of 2006's best albums, but it is still a great album with many interesting elements.
Rio Grande Blood
Fear (Is Big Business)