It wasn’t so long ago that I was saying in this space that Ministry has left the Aughts riding high, and that if they had nothing left to say this would be a great place to take the exit ramp. Obviously, Jourgensen and Co. don’t read obscure Canadian weblogs, because since that time they have squeezed out not one but two slightly shabby, unnecessary covers albums and now this studio record, Relapse.
If nothing else, Relapse can be said to be Ministry’s most meta-textual album. Most of the songs relate the trials and tribulations of a washed-up old junkie named Al Jourgensen, and his battles against addiction, the music industry and the one-percent. Unfortunately, although the record gasps, wheezes, tantrums and blusters its way through dozens of bad-boy cliches, it remains thoroughly unsuccessful at convincing us they are battles he intends to win. Indeed, the title track contains a sheepish and (briefly) endearing admission of quite the opposite.
Sonically, Relapse fares little better. No record made by a man who began his career in electronic music and spent years as a producer and remixer deserves to sound this rushed, this forced or this poorly recorded. Jourgensen has a huge library of b-side, ugly-stepsister songs usually buried in side-projects, but here they have been pushed, blinking and mediocre, into the spotlight. Opening track “Ghouldiggers” starts out with promise but goes on far too long, and it’s pretty much downhill from there. Full marks for Stormtroopers of Death cover song “United Forces”, but that’s just a bit of sizzle when there’s not much steak in the kitchen.
We were worried about a world without a Ministry, but this is a depressing alternative. Relapse shows us a Ministry no longer an innovative industrial powerhouse, nor a speed metal monster. It’s more valuable as an example of franchise zombification than an entertaining piece of music. 3 out of 10