With the precarious political climate being all the rage in today’s tabloids and our pub discussions, many musicians of the world have found refreshing catharsis and energy within its idiocracy, presidential outbursts and the kleptocracy at large. Al Jourgensen has been no exception to this phenomenon, over the decades Ministry have destroyed stereos and inflicted tinnitus upon the willing masses – rebelling against the war-mongering Bush administration, to the unintelligible fake-news-loving xenophobia of Donald Trump. His latest sonic offering, AmeriKKKant, effectively translates his heart-warming affinity for Trump, or however you would describe the love shared between a guillotine and someone’s neck…
Sacramento’s very own queen of the damned, Chelsea Wolfe and her accompaniment took to the Dublin stage in darkness. Chelsea has been an artist I have followed for the last year following the release of her latest offering Hiss Spun (2017). Opening her set with Carrion Flowers, Chelsea, who was illuminated by pulsating light to Jess Gowrie’s heavyweight drumming, encapsulated the audience with her soaring vocals and the Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral-era instrumentation of the track. As the synth faded out, the feedback of Spunpierced the sound system giving way to crushing riffage and sheer intensity, and superseded by the blackened stylings of Vex.
The two highlights of her set for me were Demons, with its post punk Siouxsie-esque character, and 16 Psyche. 16 Psyche consumed the room with its repetition, dissonant octaving guitars and large dynamic shifts. All this matched with Chelsea’s striking vocal stylings was powerful and equally enthralling. As the red lights shrouded all members, Chelsea ends her set by taking the microphone, wandering and swaying ominously to ravaging beats and overturing of ‘Scrape’. For anyone catching Ministry on this tour as Chelsea supports them in UK and Europe, her set is truly something to experience in person than through the medium of a review.
As the changeover progressed, we witnessed the arrival of not one, but two massive chicken inflatables – effigies to what I took as Donald Trump meets Colonel Saunders adorned with anti-Nazi symbols and the signatures of the band. Apparently, Belfast killed one of them the night before!
The projector came on bearing images of broadcasts from the US presidential race accompanied by screeching eastern viola and DJ scratches that sharply cut through the elongated sampling of Trump’s famous words ‘Make America great again’ amongst other “unifying” phrases and idio(t)syncratic remarks. This was I Know Words, the introduction to AmeriKKKant, that gave way to Twilight Zone in all its glory. Guitarist Cesar Soto entered the stage with a glow-in-the-day Guy Fawkes mask, leaning into the crowd, as Sin Quirin built hyped from the opposing side.
Overwhelming drums, pinched harmonics by the square mile and sludging riffage invited Uncle Al to the stage with belligerence for tonight’s proceedings, grappling his signature skeletal microphone stage and harmonica. As the band roared on, as did the official video for the song behind. Succeeded by Victims of a Clown and Punch in the Face, saw Al bringing out a stunning tear-drop guitar and coming to the stage edge to tend to his congregation. Teasing the introduction to ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’ using its famous last words “it’s a love affair…”, it unfortunately didn’t come to fruition but fans were not left disappointed. Entering the era of Rio Grande Blood (2006) – Ministry raged like unchained behemoths and thrashed hyperactively through Senor Peligro, Rio Grande Bloodand LiesLiesLies. The tracks can only be metaphorically described as a bulldozer going over everyones’ heads. I was honestly worried about the fella next to me whose neck I throught was going to snap off.
Soon after, Al retracted back into the new material with singles AntiFa and Wargasm, which is a song that has grown on me especially with its more harmonious chorus translating well in a live setting and got the people of the front rows hyped up, screaming it back.
“Now for the comparison test” exclaimed Jourgenson signalling further distain for the administrations, old and new. Whilst die-hard fans were treated to Rio Grande Blood, it got even better. Ministry brought forth charged aural bombardments from The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste (1989), and sacred readings from Psalm 69 (1992) which are ever relevant as they were 26 years ago (two years before I was even born, anyone feeling old?). Talking retrospectively, it is incredible to observe the dramatic sonic changes the band has endured since the 80’s, not mentioning the unmentionable that is!
Just One Fix, N.W.O and the jittering Thieves grooved infectiously and relentlessly in The Tivoli, with So What bringing the set to a more reserved close. The snarling, gesturing and stage presence of Al throughout the set exemplified a master at work, with a mission to leave this place f***ing wrecked.
“Psalm 69… 69…69…” was scratched by DJ Swamp as the band entered the stage to bring forth, well you guessed it, everyone’s favourite hymnal Psalm 69. The massive overtures matched with destructive instrumentation and the tracks tantamount samples incited the congregation to headbang accordingly and those in the pit to get agro one more time. I remember hearing this track when I was 17. I snuck into their show in Belfast, only knowing Ministry by association with Nine Inch Nails, and something clicked. This, and the epic Khyber Passforever remain nostalgic for me in this respect.
As Bad Blood brought tonight’s set to a suitable close, it can only be said that the energy and aggression of Al and Ministry remains perpetual and refreshing.
Review & Photography : Steven Donnelly / SJD Photography