|Relapse |13th Planet/AFM Rec., 2012|
01. Ghouldiggers, 02. Double Tap, 03. FreeFall, 04. Kleptocracy, 05. United Forces, 06. 99 Percenters, 07. Relapse, 08. Weekend Warrior, 09. Git Up Get Out 'n Vote, 10. Bloodlust, 11. Relapse (Defibrillator Mix)
There's was a 70's Polish comedy called "Man – Woman Wanted" where an actor was referring to sugar, and whose description of "not enough sugar in sugar" became one of the most famous Polish movie quotes. To paraphrase it, there's "not enough Ministry in Ministry" on the Relapse album - from disappointing artwork to musical content.
This release sounds clean with exceptional mastering and has been well produced. However, Relapse is missing a spine, concept and plot along with very few intriguing arrangements. The compositions are divested of depth and any spiritual involvement. The songs don't invigorate the grey cells either, compared to the levels they did on recent Ministry albums. Continuous criticism expressed towards American conservatives on prior works was compelling listeners to look up the resources utilized in the song construction. This included aspects such as quotes or video content which helped to prove their points and exacerbate the bloopers of the Republican party that was led by G.W. Bush at the time. Instead, the band came up with melodies, ditties and "la-la-la" anthems on the Relapse album which are hushed with repetitive, yet hyperactive speed metal guitar riffs.
Impeccable solos played by previous Ministry collaborators such as Mike Scaccia (Rigor Mortis) and Tommy Victor (Prong) intertwine with bass lines by Tony Campos (Static-X), drumbeats by Aaron Rossi (Prong) and infrequent synths by John Bechdel (Fear Factory). However, in the songs "United Forces", "Relapse" and "Git Up Get Out 'n Vote" these phenomenal musicians still do not compensate for the infirmity of the compositions. The musicians comprising the current line-up adjusted to the expectations of Al Jourgensen, which can be witnessed by watching their recording studio session webizodes that were randomly published on YouTube during the recording process.
On the other hand, animated combat tension was brought forth by former Ministry and present American Head Charge guitarist Sin Quirin on the track "Double Tap". Still, this composition doesn't differ much from the unattractive schemes utilized throughout the entire Relapse album.
Moreover, a promotional "99 Percenters" song touches upon The Occupy movement, which has been expressing protests of the American society against banks growing wealthy and Wall Street market manipulations as well as the rising poverty of the middle class. Support of The Occupy movement attracts a lot of artists, some of whom want to prostitute the message of the protesters merely to attract new listeners. However, most musicians give their music away as free digital downloads to the people the message resonates with. In contrast, Ministry recorded and sold a song for commercial reasons while The Occupy movement was still boiling hot. How does this support the protest against rich multi-national corporations while leaving the protestors to grow poor in their endeavors?
Other than that, the song "Bloodlust" sounds interesting since you can decipher each separate instrument that was utilized in the song. The tempo is slow and the composition itself sounds as solid and as well prepared as previous works by Ministry, regardless its melodic aspects.
“Relapse” has a feel that is nearest to the previous sound of Ministry, but the vocals are little too aggressively forced and unconvincing. Unfortunately, the brains behind the band, the once charismatic Al Jourgensen turned up to perform dimly. He reminds me of a provoked puppet forced to wear a silly smile like Ozzy Osbourne, both of whom seem to be severely damaged by the perpetual overdose of drugs. It really feels as if Al isn't into playing heavy, aggressive music anymore (see: a Christmas song AD 2009*), but rather wants to joke around. However, while he seems to have fun by acting like a clown, fans continue to draft their fascination towards other metal bands, which act as serious as they sound and who stay in direct contact with their listeners.
Ministry rarely welcomes 'alien' musicians into their circle. This album however does include a guest appearance by Samuel D'Ambruoso who performs vocals in a quite interesting track named "Weekend Warrior". He has collaborated with the band earlier in his career as a sound engineer on the Every Day Is Halloween - Greatest Tricks album as well as on the song "It's Always Christmas Time".
Additional female, 'tech-communicative' spoken words were recorded by Al's wife - Angelina.
The best Ministry music was always based on smart repetitions, while deliberate missing melodies in songs like "So What", "N.W.O." and "Just One Fix" were utilized as creative nuances in previous compositions that raised interest in the message of the songs. "Kleptocracy", regardless of tight and heavy intros as well as repetitive guitar parts is cheapened by choruses that just seem to blur into... pop melodies.
A bowl of bitterness is spilled by the completely unnecessary and super-long "Relapse (Defibrillator Mix)" which is based entirely on un-invigorating and mind numbing electro beats.
Endless repetitions and needlessly extended arrangements appear in every song. This format may cause the listener to feel as if returning to this set of eleven songs later on again is cruel and unusual punishment. So why is it that Ministry felt the need to return? I believe this is merely because the fans wanted them back. Also, in part due to the fact that the director of FIX: The Ministry Movie heavily promotes the work of Al's life and music festivals pay well just to have the band name on posters while Al collects money to add to his retirement. It could just as well simply be that well known musicians wanted to have one more entry to add to their resumes by taking part in the creation of one more addition to the potent discography of Ministry before Al drinks himself to death (look up a story about his health scare, ulcers, bloody vomits and hospitalization in 2010 as well as having a big toe cut off). This is a qualification towards the sad truth that these ulterior reasons may be assumed to be true.
At one time in their career Ministry brought hard hitting, creative ideas into fruition. This was attractive to both fans and media. However, forcing the franchise to draw attention in todays industry climate produces music that is missing primal, real and controlled anger.
Indeed, we the fans as well as the music industry wanted the return of Ministry, but we expected the one we've known from some of their best albums that have spanned decades. Extensive use of the slogan "the fathers of industrial metal" in terms of the Relapse album is quite a stretch. This is exactly the same kind of promotional trick Filter used when they advertised their most recent and weakest album Inevitable Relapse (sic!) by comparing it to their most famous album Shortbus (which includes the hit song “Hey Man, Nice Shot").
Ministry has clearly forgotten how to make industrial metal music since this album sounds like a slop job of both pop and speed metal. They should have retired when they had the chance instead of returning with such an unoriginal and impotent album in comparison to their previous releases.
It has also become quite noticeable that the bands who were responsible for bringing industrial rock and industrial metal out of the underground and into the realm of MTV in the 90s, meaning Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, seem to inevitably ruin their elite identities by switching to far less ambitious music. If they wish to change their style, they should establish new bands with different names so they can keep the history of their past discography pure.
Fast doesn't mean efficient. Relapse feels like a few seconds of fireworks or a 5 minute fuck that is judged in the eyes of a partner who wants more because of recent playthings. Unfortunately, this album doesn't heal the current state of industrial metal at all.
(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Magazine, 29/03/2012. Proofreading: Scott M. Owens. Must not be used for promotional or commercial purposes. See a Legal Note for the copyrights below)
*It's Always Christmas Time on YouTube
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