Ministry: Rio Grande Blood (White Vinyl)



Lately, Ministry has gradually become The Al Jourgensen Show; while other musicians have filled in on bass and guitar, none have left a significant stamp on the songs. But Rio Grande Blood, Jourgensen’s 10th proper full-length under the Ministry name and second focusing on the Bush administration, alters this trend. On guitar is Prong frontman and former Danzig member Tommy Victor, who adds his characteristic squealing harmonics and complex, quick-fingered riffing. Taking care of the low end is Paul Raven, also formerly of Prong, but better known for his stint with the highly influential Killing Joke. Given that Rio Grande Blood is Ministry’s strongest collection of tracks in more than a decade (not an overstatement– keep in mind, we’re talking Filth Pig era), the addition of these two from Industrial Metal’s Council of Elders is not likely coincedental.

Musically, this album follows the same basic formula Ministry have relied on since at least The Land of Rape and Honey: The songs are fast-paced, the guitars chug over drum-machine beats, and Jourgensen’s distorted vocals wail atop it all. But while nothing much may have changed in Jourgensen’s camp over the years, the formula isn’t nearly as limiting in the hands of these musicians. This first becomes apparent on “Señor Peligro”, when Victor makes his presence felt with a speedy opening riff that balances palm-muting and raw fretboard friction. He’s got the chops– and carefully laid accents– required to pull off speed-metal riffing without sounding generic. Gone is the computer-program sterility of recent Ministry: Victor’s guitar work is dynamic and human.

Jourgensen’s imaginative use of vocal effects helps to differentiate these songs. On “Gangreen”, his voice is shiny and metallic, recalling 1988’s “Destruction”. Unfortunately, it also features a guest vocal appearance by someone named Sgt. Major, allegedly a former drill instructor, who spews lame insults throughout the track. Later, on “LiesLiesLies”, Jourgensen’s vocals are deep, gruff, and raw, much like the death metal growl characteristic of Psalm 69. And though Ministry were never known for melody, their best work was always marked by subtle melodic sketches, which recur here, to powerful effect, for the first time in years.

Further mixing things up are additional vocal contributions from Jello Biafra (on the unfortunately titled “Ass Clown”) and Liz Constantine (on “Khyber Pass”). But ultimately, Rio Grande Blood isn’t likely to attract any new fans. Jourgensen’s attempted to branch out before without success and he now seems resigned to stick with what tends to work best. Yes, Rio Grande Blood rehashes Psalm 69, but as long as Jourgensen has talented musicians along for the ride, Ministry could do a lot worse.


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  1. Rio Grande Blood 4:24
  2. Señor Peligro 3:39
  3. Gangreen 6:00
  4. Fear (Is Big Business) 4:52
  5. Lieslieslies 5:16
  6. The Great Satan 3:09
  7. Yellow Cake 4:36
  8. Palestina 3:18
  9. Ass Clown 6:43
  10. Khyber Pass 6:42
  11. Untitled 1:46