Al Jourgensen was creating angry-cised heavy metal built around samples, loops and drum machines when Trent Reznor was still in Nine Inch Nappies, yet Ministry only really threatened to pierce the wider alternative rock consciousness back in 1992 with their million-selling album, Psalm 69.
Back then, it was the political antics of George Bush Snr that was the fuel for Jourgensen’s fiery diatribes, heard to incendiary effect in minor MTV hits Jesus Built My Hotrod and N.W.O. (aka New World Order).
Whether it is because of what Jourgensen saw as the more palatable Bill Clinton years, or due to his well-publicised heroin addiction, the intervening years have seen a string of less passionate, and less inspired, albums. Thankfully that’s about to change, for the presence of George Dubya in the Oval Office (and the kicking of the ugly habit) has led to Ministry’s best work in over a decade, or as Jourgensen succinctly puts it: “There’s a Republican in the White House and I only write good records when that’s happening.”
Houses Of The Molé (can you see what he did there?) is an unholy racket and, dare I say it, verges on being a concept album such is its lyrical obsession with the Verbally-Challenged One (every song title, bar one, has a “W” in it).
Thankfully, the music is Way better (see, We can do it too) than the dreaded tag “concept album” implies. The departure of bassist/programmer Paul Barker has led to Ministry becoming a “proper” band, as in bass, guitars, drums and Jourgensen’s distorted vocals. As a result, Houses Of The Molé is stripped-down, raw and seriously rocking.
Opener No W throws down the gauntlet in uncompromising fashion. There are snippets of one of Dubya’s bellicose speeches, a sample of O Fortuna from Carl Orff‘s Carmina Burana (used much more effectively than in those dreadful Old Spice TV adverts!) and some hurtling speed metal drumming, thrashy guitars and crazed vocals. It’s more Apocalypse Now than New World Order, let’s put it that way.
Waiting offers no such respite, with machine gun drumming reminiscent of Anthrax, more speeches, and that familiar but cogent ploy of hammering out repetitive, bludgeoning riffs that industrial bands make their money from.
Worthless features, shock horror, a guitar solo, although there’s no danger of Ministry turning into The Darkness just yet. Wrong and Warp City are plain scary – the former splices Dubya’s words into “I have a message for the people of Iraq – go home and die!” while the latter turns its attention to a preacher using the true story of a man shooting his drunk wife in cold blood as an illustration of the evils of alcohol. Whether you’re “religious” or not, there’s plenty to find abhorrent here and the accompanying music is appropriately intense.
After the super-fast, almost hardcore punk/metal of WTV, perhaps the album’s best track emerges in the form of World – a slower, robotic onslaught of vitriol that somehow grooves more than the tracks that fly by without a speed limiter. WKJY continues this theme before Worm closes the album in unspectacular, droning, disappointing fashion.
The good news is that Worm isn’t the end. Jourgensen obviously fancies himself as a bit of a wit, and there are multiple tracks of one-second silence before the robo-hardcore of Psalm 23 (track 23) and the reflective Walrus (track 69) round things off. Whether “hiding” these “secret” tracks is clever or plain pointless is one for you to decide.
Whatever, the fact is that Houses Of The Molé is a welcome return to form from one of industrial rock’s pioneers. If you’re a diehard Bush-ite, Jourgensen’s brand of Molé may be a bit too spicy to swallow, but there’s no questioning the tastiness of the music. Buen provecha…