Ministry - Psalm 69
Warner Bros. Records
Industrial Metal
9 songs (44:38)
Release year: 1992
Ministry, Warner Bros. Records
Reviewed by Goat

Without a doubt the band's best album and one of the best pieces of Industrial Metal ever to be recorded, the legendary Ministry here proved that there was genius behind the infamy. It's the album which broke Ministry into the mainstream, earning them a Grammy nomination for N.W.O and remaining their best-loved full-length. Of course, any discussion of the band these days is bittersweet due to their break-up; I'd far more pay to see a dissertation of the Obama premiership thus far from Al Jourgensen than I would from any other commentator. Still, it's remarkable just how timeless Psalm 69 is. The album is actually entitled ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ, a Greek word meaning 'head' and, along with the subtext to the generally used title (The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs) is a reference to Aleister Crowley's Book Of Lies, where he devotes a chapter to the esoteric meaning of oral sex. Taking this occult reference in your stride, the exact meaning of Psalm 69 still depends on you, the listener, but it's a living, breathing, organic piece of music that manages to be both life-affirming and depressing at the same time. There are so many levels to the music here, from the harrowing tales of junkydom in Just One Fix to the freakish religious extremism of the title track, that absorbing it all in one sitting is simply impossible; it's easy to love, and hard to understand fully.

It reflects a time in the underground, really; it wasn't a great deal of time before that Nine Inch Nails had set forth upon its career with the highly derivative (yet massively influential in its own right) Pretty Hate Machine, and between the two bands Industrial Metal became a vital part of the alternative music scene. Heavy, compelling and yet full of melody, the two bands appealed to disaffected youth a good couple of years before Grunge appeared to offer a saccharine version of the same emotions. Harsh? Perhaps, but it's hard to deny that Industrial music got there first, and remains the heavier option - ask any Metalhead which band is better, Nirvana or Ministry, and see what answer you get. And with good reason, as most of the tracks here qualify as Thrash Metal in one way or another, the speedy guitar riffs as much a part of Ministry's sound as the samples, drums and rabid vocals. If Jesus Built My Hotrod doesn't make you headbang, you might as well get over to right now, it's as simple as that.

Not that the album revolves around that one track - each and every song present is excellent. Kicking off with N.W.O. the band warn of Bush Snr's desire to create a new world order in typically conspiracy-minded fashion, infectious danceable riffs and that vocal line (both often to be plundered by Ministry themselves in the future) making for a classic track. It's very much in and of its time, meaning that Ministry don't suffer from the usual ridiculousness of conspiracy theorists - take as much heroin as them, and fuck, Bush probably was plotting to enslave the world then. It's interesting, however, that the sheer atmosphere seeps from the album into your ears - many drug-fuelled records suffer in the clear light of hindsight, yet Ministry never fail to draw the listener into their paranoid world. Don't mistake this for a pro-drugs album, however, the chilling scream that opens Just One Fix serving more good than any governmental finger-waggling, and a thousand pictures of ruined veins are nothing next to that eerie croak, sampled from the Sid And Nancy film: never trust a junkie. The ensuing Slayer-influenced meltdown is the base metal from which Rammstein milked much of their career, and remains one of Ministry's most incendiary songs.

There's not a single piece of filler here, from the brief but violent blast of TV II to Hero's anti-war tirade - the solo on the latter is excellent. The slower Scarecrow sits alongside the speedy Jesus Built My Hotrod without feeling out of place at all, spreading its malignant ooze for over eight minutes as it crawls towards the listener, ominously epic music backing the colossal swing of its anti-Christian message to and fro. Mid-90s Ministry would build upon this Sludgy sound to varying effect, but it's wonderfully placed here and sets up the title track well, with its Armageddon-hailing choirs and sarcastic preacher - not to mention the killer riffs, of course. Things get more chaotic and heavy with Corrosion, which was a clear influence on Industrial bands generally and even foreshadowed The Prodigy in some ways.

I've seen Psalm 69 referred to as 'the Reign In Blood of Industrial Metal' yet unlike that Slayeriffic milestone, this doesn't lose its power with over-familiarity. Instead, it lives perfectly up to its name; it's a perverse psalm, to be read as part of the common service of rebellious prayer, and knowledge of the verses suits the whole, makes the repetition more worthy rather than less. Without a doubt, it's the one Industrial Metal album that absolutely every Metalhead should own, even if they despise the genre in general - Ministry transcend such boundaries, and remain one of the most politically engaging and rabidly emotive bands of the 90s and beyond even after their dissolution. That the genre hasn't produced a replacement shows what a big hole they've left; Ministry made many an excellent album, but Psalm 69 is at the top of the list.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Ministry that we have reviewed:
Ministry - From Beer to Eternity reviewed by Goat and quoted 60 / 100
Ministry - Relapse reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Ministry - Filth Pig reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Ministry - Cover Up reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Ministry - The Last Sucker reviewed by Goat and quoted 93 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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