Review Summary: Trash that could have been treasure, had it been handled right.
I don’t think I’ve ever stumbled across a piece of album art that says a bands current state better than what I or anyone else could convey with words. Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin with AmeriKKKant
’s depiction of modern America, it’s just terrible in every conceivable way and I can’t work out if Ministry are taking the piss or have okayed the piece with a stern face. Its overall message is about as subtle as a shotgun blast to the face, and maybe that’s the point? Frankly, there’s something awfully childlike and naive about it all. The fact it looks like a meme that took all of 5-minutes to make, with its humorous (for reasons other than what the band probably intended) album title and KKK
red bold letters brandishing the name, has me believing Al Jourgensen is about as in the know with America’s political climate as Prophets of Rage. Nothing is as black and white as AmeriKKKant
‘s brash assertion would have you believe; but this is a cover of utter stupidity and is obviously aimed at one orange skinned, toupee wearing lunatic but doesn’t have the knackers to say it. Instead we’re given art with a contradiction: the Armageddon that takes place in the backdrop of the piece and the horrific album name solidify their intentions with all feet in, but then you have the Statue of Liberty self-aware and facepalming herself front and centre of it all, embarrassed by what’s going on. It’s a clash of ideas that sums it all up: Ministry have lost the plot.
But enough of album art, who cares about that crap, right? We’re all here for the music, and if the artwork didn’t speak for itself for the love of god will this aspect say it all for Ministry in 2018. I’m a fan of their 80’s and 90’s output; with industrial clank, repetitive structures, bass-free guitar tones and drowning reverb vocal effects came seminal results for the genre. Yes, once over Al and his crew were in the elite group of spearheads for the industrial/industrial-metal movement, and have released a brace of intimidating works during this time period. Hell, I’ll even say the first half of the 00’s saw the band delivering a good run of quality albums, drawing in thrash sensibilities to their clinical soundscape, but by the ass-end of that decade something went wrong. Al’s lyrics were never going to be Shakespeare, but they’d regressed to cliché and/or egregious degrees by this point: aiming at an audience of drunk, rowdy metalheads using horribly produced albums and LP titles like From Beer to Eternity
, which contain classily irritating numbers like “Punch in the Face”, to do it. It’s almost like the same – only less drastic – decline in quality Mudvayne went through, and it’s got to the point now where I dread the announcement of new material from these guys.
By the time this new project came our way, even I was gobsmacked by how they’d managed to reach a new plethora of decline. “Wargasm”, a name I shudder to look at, presented itself with exactly what it suggested: dumb generic riffs, godawful lyrics and terrible monotone singing. A runtime of 5:22 brought further misery as you’re treated to a song of repetitive palm-muted guitar chugs, wincingly bad samples that stretch out for the duration, a spoken-word approach from Al and then a hilariously out of place clean chorus – rinse-repeat for 5:22. This song, coupled with the album name brought out serious warning flags, and enough reason to warrant running to the ends of the earth to get away from it. However, I was met with a strange sense of surprise (the good kind for once) when they dropped the second song for this thing: “Twilight Zone.” Not winning any awards for originality there, it did however showcase an older sound for the band, bringing the tempo right down with a sludgy rhythm and a wide berth for their industrial roots to set up shop. The vocals sounded Justin Broadrick-esque and a nuance of different ideas like the harmonica brought out a nice reminiscent underlay to its bleak core; its length was a bit of an issue, but it showed promise to an otherwise dismal situation.
So, going into the complete package with a little more optimism than before “Twilight Zone” came out, I have to say AmeriKKKant
is still a horrible, schlocky mess – filled to the brim with exhausting run-times, irritating samples and lazy vocal work – but it’s not quite the disaster initial advertisement suggested. The positives stem from the fact I managed to listen to most of this without gripping onto the table in a futile attempt to avoid hitting the skip button. Then again, I’ll still put out there nothing is good here either, I can say that much, but as far as getting through the album goes, it makes enough effort instrumentally to be somewhat engaging and less of an exercise in getting through it. This is helped by the record being completely self-aware of its past, and for that, there is a glimmer of hope for anyone who likes a particular era of the band. Of course, the album leans biasedly towards The Last Sucker
/latter day Ministry, but there are a few early-day sounds scattered throughout the album which highlight why I liked the band to begin with. Like “Twilight Zone”, “Amerikkka” is another refrained and less campy addition that stands out from the rest of the LP: a mid-tempo number with a couple of decent mood-setting solos, an underbelly of scratchy electronics and a swaying groove which almost justifies its bloated run-time, while Al’s vocals stand as the best cut on the record, delivering a subdued performance to suit the vibe of the track.
Still, even at its best this thing is average. Sure, “Twilight Zone” and “Amerikkka” are pretty welcoming surprises considering what the first single offers up, but for the majority of the record you’ll be getting a bloated and dull collection of songs. “I Know Words” is effectively an intro track but weighs in at an astonishing 3:15, getting the album off to a terribly slow start with its sample manipulation where it’s slowed right down underneath building strings and glossy electronics. It’s interesting to a degree but with so little going on it quickly gets you accustomed to what you’ll be hearing for the duration of the LP; which is not much. “Victims of a Clown” has a tight, punchy groove that gets the song off to a solid start, but at 8 minutes there isn’t enough going on to warrant such a hefty run-time, while Al’s vocals hinder this thing immeasurably and gives ample reason on why this drags its knuckles so much. Is AmeriKKKant
the lowest we’ve seen Ministry? No. It’s not quite as obnoxious as their last critical fumble, but its indifference in song-writing, uninspired concepts and ironically campy nature – given the heavy problems America is actually going through at the minute – do this album no favours. I’ll be quite honest, “Wargasm” is the only outwardly offense song on here, which is a shame, because had some fat been trimmed and the terrible theme been reined in, this could have been a solid return. As is, it’s an underwhelming farce which only questions Al’s revival of the band.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A