Ministry Gets Political at the Murat Theatre’s Egyptian Room.
When I saw roadies setting up inflatable props that depicted Donald Trump as a giant chicken, it occurred to me that politics might feature in Ministry’s plans for the evening. It wasn’t particularly surprising, Al Jourgensen’s hybrid metal outfit has never shied away from controversy. Furthermore, political expression through shock is a hallmark of both metal and industrial music. Since Ministry is an industrial metal band, I’d imagine they have double the incentive to make politics part of the show. In other words, there was no avoiding it. But did it detract from the show? Well, you’ll notice that I said I was unsurprised, not displeased.
Ministry put on the kind of show that you would expect from a band that has decades of performing experience and an innovative approach to their music. This was the band that thought to mix metal and industrial, after all. I walked into the beige-carpeted expanse of the Egyptian Room expecting to get my money’s worth and more. I got it, all right.
Trump’s America, and Al Jourgensen’s Opinion of It.
Saying that the last few years in the United States have been turbulent is a lot like saying that Mt. Everest is high. There’s nothing factually wrong with the statement, but it fails to convey the shear scale and sweep of what it’s describing. Mt. Everest pierces the heavens with its mighty peaks and we Americans are almost as divided as we were in the 60s.
Al Jourgensen clearly understands just how contentious things have become and is unafraid to give us his proverbial two bits. And give them to us he does. Loudly. Very, very, loudly.
Ministry’s set opened with a clip of Donald Trump, who has become a shorthand for our currant situation, imploring us to “make America great again”. In true industrial fashion, Jourgensen distorts the picture and audio, looping them until the clip becomes alien and hostile. Along with the inflatable props that I mentioned in the opening, Jourgensen made it perfectly clear which side of the Trump debate he comes down on. In case you need any additional clarification, he doesn’t like Trump very much.
And while we’re at it, why don’t we talk about those chicken props? They depict Donald Trump as a fat rooster with a prohibition sign-encircled swastika on his bulging belly. It’s possible that I could come up with something less subtle, but it would probably need to involve explosives.
Sound and Fury
Not that anyone would have heard them over Ministry’s performance. Reviewers frequently use “bone-shaking” to describe musical genres like punk or metal. Anything with an abrasive and powerful sound really. Husker Du was bone-shaking, Nine Inch Nails is bone- shaking. Critical hyperbole, right? Wrong. It’s not an exaggeration. And it’s certainly not an exaggeration in Ministry’s case. When you’re standing in a concert hall with the speakers not thirty feet away and turned full up, your bones do, in fact, shake. They were that loud. This is not a criticism. Ministry does not play quit music, and does not deal in subtlety. Doing so would go against the nature of their music. Even more importantly, Ministry is very good at what they do.
The crux of Ministry’s sound is their mixture of nerve-abrading guitar and harsh electronic noise. This is not a band that makes pretty music, nor is this a band that sings about pretty things. As they batter you from below with churning drums and from above with sampled quotes, they invite you to consider some of life’s less pleasant aspects. Like war and fascism and what they mean in the Trump era. They’re relentless, never letting you catch your breath as they feel your ears with noise and disturbing notions. All of this intensity and aggression just swirls around Jourgensen, who stands in the eye of the storm as he snarls his vocals. Pretty? As I said, no. Beautiful? Almost certainly.
Weather you agree with Jourgensen’s views or not (for the record, I do), you can’t deny that he’s a talented individual and that Ministry is a fine band. Certainly, they are not without their rough edges, but that’s what makes any music memorable. After seeing them live, I can imagine why they’ve inspired everyone from Trent Reznor to Linkin Park. I can also see that I was foolish to turn down a friend’s offer of earplugs, since my hearing has only recently recovered. Regardless, Ministry remains one of the top acts in their field, and a great live show.
Keep listening, everybody.