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Relapse Ryan Alexander Diduck , March 29th, 2012 10:57

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Candid admission: I was a full-tilt goth kid. And as such, Ministry occupied a good chunk of my teenage listening years. Come to think of it, one of my favourite memories of the 1990s was witnessing my friend’s then-two-year-old son dressed in plaid shirt and ripped jeans, moshing to 'Jesus Built My Hotrod' on the living room hook rug. Growing up in a relatively conservative and isolated city, there was something so tantalizingly transgressive about their industro-metal hybrid aesthetic, and forthright interventions into taboo topics like politics, religion, sex and drugs. Sadly, I grew up, moving through more mature phases in life and more diverse sonic territories. But it seems that Ministry haven’t moved much at all, and may indeed have slipped backward in nearly every possible way.

Admittedly, I’ve only kept one eye half open for Ministry-related news since the late 90s, and most of my CDs from that era went missing at assorted debauched parties or got scratched beyond playability on the floor of someone’s car. But a few days ago, I got nostalgic for a bit of heaviosity and googled some of their bygone classics to get just one fix, as it were. I was surprised to find not only that they’d been more or less steadily releasing records throughout the past decade, but also that a new one was imminent. Fantastic, I thought. Another great big hit of acid waiting to be taken. Hell, they even had a Facebook page, with several making-of-the-album webisodes to watch, which I did. And that’s when it started getting all sorts of ugly.

Time hasn’t been kind to Al Jourgensen. According to Rolling Stone, he began vomiting blood during their 2008 tour, and had to hang up his shit-kickers for a bit, during which time he recorded an album with his country project Buck Satan. But apparently, the Occupy movement of 2011 compelled Jourgensen to put the band back together to make Relapse. Curious, I visited their website, where the first single, '99 Percenters', automatically began streaming. I wish it hadn’t. It was terrible. Just dreadful. Appallingly unpleasant. 100% shite. It made me want to get rich and vote Republican, just to distance myself from the sentiment. There really aren’t words, at least not in English, to adequately describe how awkward it was sitting in front of my laptop just then, feeling the most contemptible second-hand embarrassment for an artist who I once held in fairly high regard.

I needed to confirm that this wasn’t a figment of my imagination, so I went to YouTube to find the promo. And again, wished I hadn’t. It was even more terrible, more dreadful, more appallingly unpleasant, more profoundly maladroit. As one commentator put it: “Makes me cringe just to gaze upon this video.” Never one to pass judgment too soon, I thought maybe it was a minor misguided hiccup in possibly an otherwise decent release. It wasn’t. The album’s opener, Ghouldiggers', (be careful, or you guys will be sentenced to the punitentiary) is everything that’s abhorrent about stereotypical rock stars’ bloated egos and shamelessly over-the-top antics. It sounds something like Charlie Sheen’s kissing cousin trashing a 1980s hotel room in anecdotal song form. Jourgensen drawls aimlessly on about the host of industry-related vultures ostensibly suckling his teat, a move that inspires zero sympathy when taken in contrast to that 99% train wreck. I skipped ahead, listened, shuddered, and skipped ahead again. Rather than waste words, I’ll just say that the remainder of the record is painted in various shades of worse.

Let’s be frank: the Occupy movement doesn’t need Al Jourgensen’s support, and the New World Order has been old news for a long, long time. If a loosely knit group of informed and intelligent social activists wants a leader (which they don't), Slavoj Žižek – or Naomi Klein – would be an infinitely wiser representative than an ageing, grumpy, tantrum throwing, football hooligan chanting cock rocker who seemingly just learned the numeral system. Not to mention, he’s probably closer in prosperity to the top 1%, unless he really did smoke/drink/shoot/snort away everything in the coffers. To be fair, I appreciate that Mr. Jourgensen is pissed off at the bankers and politicians, but something tells me he doesn’t quite understand the intricacies of the current global socio-economic situation. It may take a big man to want to get pepper-sprayed in the face, but it takes a smart man to know why.

I suppose if you’re 15, and your parents have recently delivered the ghastly “If you leave the house looking like that, don’t bother coming back!” routine, Jourgensen’s shenanigans may hold a hint of resonance. But in that case, might I suggest looking into Ministry’s back catalogue for better riffs and bigger anthems. As a political statement, Relapse comes off as unfocused at best, opportunist at worst. And if it’s a protest song you’re after, what’s wrong with 'Stigmata', or better yet, The Exploited or a good old Crass record? Ministry may have once occupied my youthful ears, but Relapse now occupies my trash bin. This new material represents not only their most heinous effort to date; it might in fact be among the most appalling things to ever exist, empirically speaking. There’s a way to suck seed, and a way to suck eggs, and here, sadly, Ministry sucks it all.

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Mar 29, 2012 4:04pm

I regret to say that I agree with at least 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 99% of you have written! Relapse is a travesty of an album which has undone much of the good work Al produced in the last 10 years or so.

Clearly Al needs someone to hate, not just institutions. With Bush gone and Obama in power, he just doesn't have any passion in his songwriting anymore.

When he started making albums of cover versions I thought he'd hit rock bottom but 'Relapse' is a new low.

I'd still recommend that you to listen to 2003's Animositisomina, 2004's Houses of the Molé or 2006's Rio Grande Blood. All three are fine metal/industrial albums with lyrics as furious as the music.

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Mar 30, 2012 3:17am

I'm having a grand old time listening to Uncle Al's latest. I don't know what transcendent shit you negative fucks are hearing that renders Relapse by comparison as subpar as you claim, but shit I love what I'm hearing. It's fast, fun, ballsy, at times comfortably predictable, at others in your face batshit speedy insane. To me this album typifies all that I love about the mutating beast that is Ministry, and if you kept up with Uncle Al's sickeningly brilliant most recent Buck Satan and Revolting Cocks albums you might have a little more context to inform your developmentally challenged opinions. You're welcome to them, but I'd be loathe to hear the dogshit you guys find so appealing in contrast to Relapse.

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John Doran
Mar 30, 2012 7:48am

In reply to Matt:

I've been listening to Ministry and the Revolting Cocks since the 1980s and watching both bands deteriorate since the early mid 90s has been distressing. You say they've mutated and maybe they have but into something atavistic, embarrassing and utterly useless.

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Mar 30, 2012 8:00am

If somebody had never heard any previous Ministry, especially the older stuff, then I can absolutely understand them having a blast with this.

If you have, as I have, then getting through the album is near impossible. If you look at the releases from, say, '88 to '04 even with all the turmoil in the camp it was a surprisingly strong run of albums with variety in style and, as you rightly say in the review, some piss & passion in the delivery. This one isn't any of those things. I don't say that with any glee, humour or gain-making thoughts. It's just a damn shame. "In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up"? Sorry, Al - for this one I don't and I don't think you did either.

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Mar 30, 2012 11:35am

In reply to John Doran:

John, I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with you. This album is a travesty. I was willing to give it a go after the 99% single, thinking, as your reviewer does, that that might have been a mis-step, but no, 99% is actually the best thing on the record. Off now for a weep whilst listening to 'Flashback'...

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Mar 30, 2012 8:55pm

I have been a huge Ministry fan since Twitch, saw them live as Ministry and Revolting Cocks. It's obviously a career with fantastic highs and distressing lows. I thought "The Last Sucker", the final album in the "George W Sucks" trilogy was absolutely amazing, and ended on a really strong note with the epic "End Of Days" - given that "Sucker" was supposed to be the last real Ministry album, that would have been a fitting end for the band. The covers albums were just a bit of silly fun, nothing wrong with that. But the prospect of another "proper" Ministry album filled me with dread. And in fact, having listened to Relapse now, it turns out my dread was justified. Just terrible. Shame.

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Mar 31, 2012 8:53am

Another case of a band who should have given it up years ago. After the travesty of the last Revco album, you thought Jourgensen couldn't sink any more low musically. How wrong. Relapse is like a nth generation copy of the Ministry template with a topping of pish poor lyrics and ridiculous guitar shredding.

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Apr 16, 2012 8:26pm

The album is cringing, but no more cringing than the reviewer's attempt at wit - "Ministry may have once occupied my youthful ears, but Relapse now occupies my trash bin." Come on dude, that's painful!

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Dean Mastrantoni
Apr 6, 2015 2:25am

Relapse is the Ed Wood of Heavy Rock records...the absolute worst piece of garbage ever. There is nothing on this LP that is redeemable...every song is beyond bad. The worst is not even 99%rs, Kleptocracy is soooo terrible...its goofy sounding and humiliating to hear this song on a Ministry record. Ghouldiggers is basically thrash pop and not in a good way, it's like so passe' and desperately trying to be clever but just falls flat and so freakin boring. Mike Scaccia's talent is totally wasted on this abortion of an album. Jourgensen is delusional, he was quoted for saying that Relapse is one of the greatest albums ever made in music history and he wasn't trying to be cute or funny, the moron actually meant it. Ministry went from being one of the most innovative post-punk synth-pop darkwave pop bands to transform into industrial goth then industrial hardcore and they totally ruled the world only to succumb down to this dreadful and shameful display of generic riffs and terrible awful and deplorable, Jourgensen should go on record for personally apologizing to each one of his devoted (former) fans, Margaret Thatcher style!

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Apr 6, 2015 2:39am

In reply to Matt:

To the mislead fan of Relapse, Matt...the Buck Satan release is refreshing and the Revco Sex-o-Olympic-o is also surprisingly decent although it should be under a different name cuz nobody in that group is an original Revco-blican...except for Uncle FukTard. Cmon, man...Relapse is an abomination so just quit being a devils' advocate friggin douchebag about it.

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Dean Mastrantoni
Apr 6, 2015 2:40am

To the mislead fan of Relapse, Matt...the Buck Satan release is refreshing and the Revco Sex-o-Olympic-o is also surprisingly decent although it should be under a different name cuz nobody in that group is an original Revco-blican...except for Uncle FukTard. Cmon, man...Relapse is an abomination so just quit being a devils' advocate friggin douchebag about it.

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