Cleopatra Records has absconded with the key to Al Jourgensen’s vault of lost recordings. In 2015, they released the Trax! Box box set of his recordings with Wax! Trax Records. It included recordings by Ministry, as well as his numerous side projects: Revolting Cocks, PTP, Acid Horse, 1,000 Homo DJs, and Pailhead. Later that same year they released a live show from the Twitch tour, Toronto 1986, and in 2016 they released another vinyl/digital release called Trax! Rarities. Earlier this month they released another special recording, the almost complete live show from the bands 1990 show in Merillville, Indiana. If that rings a bell it’s because the bands incredible 1990 In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up (Live) was a six-song sample of this gig. Without a doubt, this was one of the best live releases of the decade, even if it came out early on – and wasn’t even a full concert. But, there’s quite a bit of significance tied to this show and tour.
Al Jourgensen was the taste-maker of industrial music in the mid-80’s through the 1990’s. His relationship with Wax! Trax afforded him the luxury of releasing anything he wanted. A slew of releases under the Ministry moniker was one thing, but the dozens of releases with his side projects was another. He could’ve sampled a fart and layered some noise and drum beat over it and Wax! Trax would’ve released it. He also landed acts like Front 242 and KMFDM to North American distribution deals through the label, helping to make them known outside of their home countries. By the time Ministry released The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, he had collaborated with the Cabaret Voltaire, Ian MacKaye (Fugazi/Minor Threat), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedy’s), and co-produced Skinny Puppy’s Rabies LP – among countless other projects.
When it came time for Ministry to tour in support of their Mind LP, he took it all a step further. Expanding the live band to a walloping 10-piece, he included Skinny Puppy’s Nivek Ogre, Public Image Ltd.’s Martin Atkins, and U.K. Subs Terry Roberts into the show, joining mainstays Paul Barker (bass), Bill Reiflin (drums), and Chris Connelly (vocals/keyboards). Jello Biafra would also join the band on select dates to perform songs from the Lard collaboration and intersperse some spoken word into the set. KMFDM was the supporting act on the tour, which you could basically call a graduate level course in modern industrial music.
Live Necronomicon is an essential document of the Mind tour, which you wouldn’t be wrong in calling Al Jourgensen’s industrial revue. Songs from The Land of Rape and Honey and Mind albums comprise the majority of the set, but the band also included a couple of Pailhead tracks, a Revolting Cocks song (“Stainless Steel Providers,” not available on this release), Public Image Ltd.’s “Public Image,” and two tracks from Lard. If having the Reiflin/Atkins dual-drummer assault and a small army of musicians crammed on stage wasn’t enough, the band also played behind a chain-link fence.
The 1990 In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up release ruined the Mind album for many listeners. The live versions of “Thieves,” “Burning Inside,” and “So What” are definitive recordings, without a doubt. But, Live Necronomicon includes 8 additional songs from the Merillville gig that are every bit as vital as the mini-album released 27 years ago.
Opening with “Breathe,” the band is hardly warming up. Indeed, this was the 35th date on their 36 city tour of North America and the band is in top form. Rieflin and Atkins layer their drums against a haunting sample before the rest of the band takes the stage and Jourgensen declares, “Alright, let’s get to work,” and the band kicks into the song in full-force. The band goes on to hit a couple of tracks from Rape and Honey, before playing “Man Should Surrender” and “No Bunny” from Pailhead – their collaboration with MacKaye. Throwing the spotlight on Skinny Puppy, Uncle Al lets Ogre handle the lead vocals on a cover of “Smothered Hope.” The remainder of the set is full of what would become Ministry classics, like the aforementioned Mind tracks and perhaps the quintessential Ministry track, “Stigmata,” that Jourgensen’s introduces as a love song called “Work for Stigmata” – a sarcastic jab at the bands first album, With Sympathy. Near the end of the set, Biafra joins the band for two Lard tracks (rarely played live), “The Power of Lard” and “Hellfudge.” These are (along with the Pailhead tracks) two of the major highlights of the Cleopatra release. According to setlist.fm, these were only performed two and three times, respectively.
If you’re a Ministry fan, this is a must-have addition to your collection. If you’re less familiar with the bands legacy and want to know what all the fuss is about, this is it. There’s a sense of urgency in these recordings that perfectly illustrate what made industrial music perverse and powerful in 1990.
– J. Kevin Lynch