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CD Review: Ministry – Rio Grande Blood

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Ministry released Rio Grande Blood on May 2, 2006. A follow on from 2004’s Houses of the Mole, main man Al Jourgensen and his crew continue their assault on the Bush administration in an album that many say is the best Ministry album since 1992’s Psalm 69.

Ministry is well known for their industrial metal sound, but Rio Grande Blood marks a change of direction. The electronic programming is significantly stripped down in order to make room for the brutality of the drums and guitars, which will most probably make you deaf after the 50 minutes is up.

There are two things that may not sit right with some Ministry fans. First, Jourgensen really, really does not like George Bush. Jourgensen doesn’t care that it’s 2006 now, not 2003. He is persistent on assaulting and insulting the President through his music. Nevertheless, everyone else seems to be over the musical Bush-Bashing already. You almost want to tell him, “Everyone knows Bush is a liar and a bad President. You don’t have to keep telling the world about it!” The recent general music releases doing so much Bush-Bashing is getting old for me. Some fans may feel alienated by Ministry’s continued walk down the path of political mayhem, while others have always regarded Ministry as a political band. Rio Grande Blood even has George Bush on the cover. It depicts him as a stoned looking Jesus Christ, with a crown of thorns, a look on his face that seems like he’s “tripping balls,” and Bush giving the Devil sign. In the background, war planes are flying over oil rigs.

Second, many fans may miss the signature electronic sounds and drums that make up "classic Ministry." Rio Grande Blood is an angry album, and the music suits it well. Maybe there was no room for heavy electronic sounds on this album; instead, a stripped down and raw sound do the lyrics more justice.

The album opens with the title track, as a mutilated George Bush speech claims: “I am an asshole. I want your money.” You immediately get hit in the face with the raw power of the song. The fast pace of guitars and drums form the perfect backdrop to this angry song. Jourgensen makes no apologies as he sings from the viewpoint of George Bush, and ridicules him by screaming “And all I gotta say is yippee-eye-ay!” This song sets up the rest of the album perfectly.

Before you even have time to process the very fact that Ministry is back, “Senõr Peligro” doesn’t give you the chance. It almost seems like Part 2 of Rio Grande Blood since it matches it in brutality. It is yet another attack on the President. “Senõr Peligro” is, as the track tells us, Bush’s alter ego. He kills, he invades, and business is his game.

“I’m the Ministry of death…” growls some dude named Sgt. Major “Gangreen.” Following from this is a whole bunch of insults thrown at us by this Sgt. Major while a slow but heavy guitar serves as back drop. It’s difficult to take something like this seriously, especially when he snaps, “I’m gonna stick my dick in your nose,” but you can see what kind of mood Ministry are trying to achieve with this track.

Fear is a word that is often thrown around in recent times. As the next track suggests, “Fear (Is Big Business),” and it most definitely is. Products are sold to the public on the basis of fear, stories are fed to us on the basis of fear, and Ministry discuss all of these things and more in this cleverly disguised track. It almost fools you into believing that it’s an epic type song but explodes into a frenzy of guitars.

The sarcastic undertone of the first single “LiesLiesLies” opens asking, “If the government has nothing to hide, why are they so afraid to answer a few questions? This story does not add up.” Yet another obvious attack on the constant lies the Bush administration are telling the people. Jourgensen sarcastically screams; “Lies Lies Lies Lies Lies Lies Lies, Surprise, Surprise!” There is also accusation that the government believes their people are stupid and are unaware of deceit. Uncle Al sings, “Don’t listen to me, listen to your pain.” This song could lead to a severe assault on your ears if listened to loud enough, just like the entire album.

The next track, “The Great Satan,” is a remix of the original that appeared on Rantology. Melodically, it doesn’t differ much at all. On Rio Grande Blood, we hear a much heavier version of the song. The drums from the Rantology version are replaced with powerful and louder drums. The vocals are gruffer and stronger and the guitar is moved into the foreground. Fans might prefer the more industrial, garage rock sound of the Rantology version while others may enjoy the gruffer version.

“Yellow Cake” marks the return of the classic Ministry sound. The maddening twirl of this song accompanies more cut-up Bush speeches. “Palestina” brings back the heavy guitars as heard throughout the entire album, and the track “Khyber Pass” is sung with Dizzy X vocalist Liz Constantine. She adds her wonderful talents to this seven-minute epic.

A stand out track, like the others on the record, is “Ass Clown”. Sung by Jello Biafra, the White House is a circus where Bush would be the “Ass Clown”. Once again, the powerful guitars come through to blow your ears out, and I like it.

I have to admit, it was a little difficult to write this review without repeating myself because the songs are thematically repetitious. Jourgensen focuses all his anger on the President because he sees him as the only major problem. Someone once said that to get your point across, repetition is the key. Martin Luther King’s speech -– “I have a dream” — will always be remembered because of it’s importance and mark in history. It was all down to the repetition in his speech, getting his viewpoint across. Ministry gets their point across loud… very loud, and clear with Rio Grand Blood using repetition. It’s not a bad thing, but it can certainly get tiring.

Rio Grande Blood is an angry record, guaranteed to deafen you at some point or another. It’s unapologetic, brutal, and unforgiving. The rawness of this album presents listeners with a truth that fans will not forget. To put it plainly, this album kicks ass and it's worth every dollar.

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  • shannon.

    I agree, I love this album! It’s awesome. It’s sad that Ministry will be ending after the next album though.

  • http://www.genericmugwump.com/ Aaron Fleming

    Damn, it seems like only last week that Houses of the Mole was released. I wasn’t even aware of this new album, but after reading your fantastic review I think I will check it out.

    What interests me is the whole anti-Bush sanctimony, which don’t get me wrong I have nothing against and would certainly agree with. But there’s been activity on Blogcritics recently debating about assorted musicians criticing the government and being castigated for it. People like the Dixie Chicks, Neil Young etc. But old Jourgensen and his mechanical riffs garner little to no attention. I suppose it’s not surprising, there’s no connotations of wholesomeness connected to Ministry.

  • http://Thattoo... Yep

    So what about the song called “Palestina”? Did you leave it out on purpose? just wondering..

  • http://jessakay.blogspot.com Jessa

    Good point. The review is kind of long and I didn’t write it in one sitting. I think I just forgot to talk about it. Either way, it’s just like any other song on this record – awesome.

  • wsympathyfan

    They need to make a record like With Sympathy again instead of just making thrash metal records over and over.

  • Mick

    Well it’s now 2007 and there are many others who arn’t OVER the bush administation and their Masonic puppet masters… People continue to die, but should we just say “OK, that’s old news now, lets talk about something new”. I don’t think Ministry are merely “Bush-bashers”. Yeah, he is the face or patsy on the artwork, but the symbolism says it all. But, hey, if it’s all too heavy, just dimiss it as “conspiracy theory” like the rest of the programmed population…