Opening with a sample of Donald Trump, turntable scratches, and a cello riff, Ministry’s 14th studio album, AmeriKKKant, is both immediately familiar, yet unlike their most recent releases. Yes, founder and main man Al Jourgensen is well known for his political dissent, but what’s captured here on these nine songs doesn’t sound like the riff-centric material that dominated From Beer to Eternity (2013) and Relapse (2012). Further, where Jourgensen’s Bush Trilogy (Houses of the Mole, Rio Grande Blood, The Last Sucker) was focused on his contempt of then President George W. Bush, on AmeriKKKant he looks more broadly at the circumstances and socio-political context that brought Donald Trump to office.
Musically, Jourgensen and cohorts bring us something more cinematic. Something more focused on building an expansive soundscape for instruments, samples, and noises to rest alongside the political vitriol and disbelief that fuels the albums lyrics. The end result is an album that is most reminiscent of 1996’s Filth Pig and 1999’s Dark Side of the Spoon. But, this isn’t a throwback album. This is an album that is a reminder that Jourgensen remains a forward-thinking producer willing to step out on a ledge – whether or not an audience finds the music immediately accessible or palatable to their own way of thinking.
Jourgensen has always been willing to throw the unexpected at his fans. Whether it was the mandolin on the Filth Pig single “Reload,” the harmonica on From Beer to Eternity’s “PermaWar,” or the banjo on Dark Side of the Spoon’s “Nursing Home.” On AmeriKKKant he brings in turntablist’s Arabian Prince (N.W.A.) and DJ Swamp (Beck, Chemical Brothers). But, why stop there? How about the addition of Lord of the Cello? Also known as Marston Smith, Lord of the Cello adds his custom 6-string electric cello to several tracks. Also in the fold is longtime guitarist Sin Quirin, guitarist Cesar Soto, bassist’s Jason Christopher and Tony Campos, keyboardist John Bechdel, and drummer Roy Mayorga. The album was engineered by Michael Rozon (Melvins, Hirax), who also contributed drum programming, backing vocals, and keyboards.
Presented as one continuous mix, the album opens with “I Know Words.” An instrumental track that slowly builds up suspense before it merges seamlessly with “Twilight Zone.” A mammoth eight minute cut, “Twilight Zone” sets the tone for the rest of the album. Dark and theatrical, the song is a mid-tempo track that puts on display the atmosphere that ties the rest of the album together. Huge drums, a staccato guitar riff, and full string accompaniment, the song isn’t unlike Psalm 69′s “Scarecrow.” But, where “Scarecrow” veered toward the sinister, “Twilight Zone” embraces an enigmatic quality that requires the listener to nestle in and be consumed by the nightmarish, yet provocative sounds. Jourgensen’s harmonica, joined by Quirin’s siren-like guitar lead and Swamps scratches, sounds like a natural experimentation, rather than throwing everything and anything to the wall and seeing if it sticks.
What better way to follow an eight-minute track than with another eight-minute-plus song, “Victims of a Clown.” A throbbing bassline, vicious turntable scratches, and a haunting slide guitar provide the songs backbone while Jourgensen’s chorus serves as a pre-cursor to the soaring instrumental post-chorus segment where instruments blend into an near-unidentifiable cacophony. “TV5/4CHAN” serves as a bit of palate cleanser between “Victims” and the following track “We’re Tired Of It.” “TV5” (an ongoing song series that began with the B-Side to the “Jesus Built My Hotrod” single “TV Song”), is an amalgamation of samples about racism in America fitting to the “KKK” in the album’s title.
“We’re Tired Of It” is most similar to the all-out speed metal of 2006’s Rio Grande Blood or Jourgensen’s Surgical Meth Machine project. Featuring Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell on vocals, this is the fastest song on the album. It’s a ferocious track that offers zero-fucks to the establishment. With a “Hope is lost” call back vocal, this is the track that headbangers will relish. The next song, “Wargasm,” sounds a bit like Killing Joke’s “The Wait,” but that is only reference point for a song that has a great chorus on top of rumbling drums and razor-sharp guitars. The anthemic chorus is certainly destined to be a live sing-a-long favorite.
Perhaps the most immediately controversial song since the band sampled “Sieg Heil” chants on The Land of Rape and Honey’s title track, “Antifa” is the albums first single and one that – politics aside – excels with a uptempo groove and vocals of pure angst. Quirin’s guitar solo is scorching alongside unflagging drums and pulsing bass. Things slow down with the next track, “Game Over.” Perhaps one of the most “industrial” sounding songs on the album, the songs lyrics are almost optimistic as Jourgensen sings “I’m on a mission to make things right.” Later, when he howls “The facts will always have their way/It’s not for us to be dismissive” you’ll find yourself hard pressed to find a more ardent vocal take in the Ministry catalog. Simply put, the dude screams his ass off. The album closes with the epic, “AmeriKKKa.” Another eight-minute-plus track, with guitar leads by both Quirin and Jourgensen, the song is a call to action for everyone dumb-struck by Trump’s America. Imploring the listener, Jourgensen sings “What you know/what you trust/you should always suspect” as an almost prayerful hope that the dissatisfied continue to question themselves as well as what they’re told is right.
“AmeriKKKant” is a colossal album that will both remind you of why you came to love the band and why they remain vital to modern music today. Risks are taken, boundaries are pushed, and all the elements of the bands quintessential industrial template remain intact. If you’ve taken a break from the band in the recent past, this is the album that will bring you back. If you’ve been there all along, you’ll surely be fired up for their upcoming North American tour.
– J. Kevin Lynch
Ministry “AmeriKKKant” Pre-Order Links – Release Date: MAR 9, 2018
Run Time: 47:59
- I Know Words (3:15)
- Twilight Zone (8:03)
- Victims of a Clown (8:18)
- TV5/4CHAN (0:49)
- We’re Tired Of It (2:48)
- Wargasm (6:19)
- Antifa (4:56)
- Game Over (5:01)
- AmeriKKKa (8:30)
Watch the video for “Antifa”
Al Jourgensen Talks About the Single “Antifa”
Watch the video for “Wargasm”
Al Jourgensen on Signing with Nuclear Blast
Al Jourgensen on Donald Trump