When Ministry released The Land Of Rape And Honey it’s hard to explain how jaw-droppingly shocking and abrupt the band’s turnaround seemed. For those of you who weren’t around, when Ministry released that album, it was the equivalent of a new wave band like Human League suddenly turning into the heaviest band you ever heard.
The band expanded on this aggression until it reached the apex, Psalm 69, before head minister Al Jourgensen put the needles ahead of any attempts on topping that landmark effort.
There’s some evidence of Jorgensen’s sobriety as he completed the Bush trilogy (Houses Of The Mole’, Rio Grande Blood and The Last Sucker) which don’t come close to Psalm 69‘s heights, but at least Al was pointed in the right direction.
The Last Sucker was billed as Ministry’s final album, and the shock of the band’s departure would probably have hit a little harder after a few years of silence. But here we are, less than a year after that “final” release, with the obligatory posthumous covers album, Cover Up.
This idea initially appealed to me, with thoughts of what damage Jorgensen and company could do with raping other’s material over some hot coals of industrial metal.
Note to any band considering an album based entirely of cover songs: chose the material wisely.
Ministry, for reasons I cannot understand, fills Cover Up with material that you and I hear every fucking day on classic rock stations (“What A Wonderful World” being the obvious exception), turning a potentially good idea into an utterly forgettable epitaph.
Additionally, the inclusion of such well-worn selection means that the band has to completely destroy and rebuild any notion of the songs until they’re presented again in an almost unrecognizable form. Jourgensen merely adds his own familiar treatments, leaving the existing structures in tact, which makes also every song on Cover Up eligible for inclusion on some b-grade action movie soundtrack during a car chase scene.
There’s also a certain degree of cashing in going on too, as “Roadhouse Blues” is lifted from last year’s The Last Sucker, “Lay Lady Lay” is from Filth Pig (1996), and “Supernaut” is from Side Trax (2004). In other words: this isn’t entirely a “new” album of “new” material. If Jourgensen was using this vehicle as a way to collect all of Ministry’s cover versions, he missed a bitchin’ version of Magazine‘s “The Light Pours Out Of Me” from Animositisomina (2003) and a great workout of Skinny Puppy‘s “Smothered Hope” from the b-side of 1989’s “Burning Inside” single. Oversights like this are not acceptable when shelling product to completists.
Finally, there’s the sad fact that when Jourgensen began his quest to retrieve Ministry’s signature sound, he succeeded to the point where everything on Cover Up (and the last few albums, for that matter) sound like they’ve been uncovered from a hermetically sealed vault from 1993. There’s no evidence of additional aggression and every scream, drumbeat, and machine gun riff sounds like it comes courtesy of a CPU rather than from actual human discontent.
The cover up, as it seems, is that lost Ministry album that serves as both an appropriate epitaph and a worthy addition to a legacy that desperately needs a reminder as to how frighteningly awesome this band was at one time.