After nearly two years and three rescheduled dates, industrial legends Ministry are finally bringing The Industrial Strength Tour to Franklin Music Hall next Wednesday, March 9th, with The Melvins and Corrosions of Conformity. Last night the tour kicked off in Columbus, Ohio, and boasted mostly songs from the late-‘80s and early-‘90s, in addition to a few songs off of the band’s latest album (Moral Hygiene, released last year) and Pailhead, Ministry mainman Al Jourgensen’s late-‘80s side project with Minor Threat and Fugazi vocalist Ian MacKaye, alongside Ministry regulars Paul Barker and Bill Rieflin. Additionally, this Tuesday Ministry dropped the official music video for “Sabotage is Sex,” the band’s latest collaboration with former Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra. To celebrate, I have compiled a list of all of Ministry’s 15 studio albums, ranked.
- Relapse (2012)
Critics and fans alike (of which I am obviously both) tend to be critical of “reunion” albums. And, of Ministry’s three, this is the one of which I am most critical… Although there’s nothing inherently bad about the band’s speediest and heaviest release, it seems to lack the anthemic-ness and weirdness that make them so often so beautiful.
- AmeriKKKant (2018)
While admirably embracing the seemingly long-lost art of “the album,” amidst the age of streaming services and digital-only EPs, the brand of socio-political rebellion that Ministry boasts seems just a bit too obvious on this one… Although, to be fair, that’s more or less noted in the title.
- With Sympathy (1983)
All former goth and rivethead teens had a moment early in our fandom of Uncle Al and crew when we first heard someone ask, “Have you heard Ministry’s first album? It’s like they wanted to be Depeche Mode.” For decades the band’s debut, which Al croons with a fake British accent, remained a punchline. And while the synthpop album isn’t terribly embarrassing, I can see why the guy responsible for “Jesus Built My Hotrod” would think it is. For the sake of credibility, I feel like it’s worth noting that Divine was a regular collaborator of Al’s around this time.
- Twitch (1986)
Although none of the tracks on what could be considered Ministry’s first real album are exceptionally memorable, it certainly hints at the band’s wonderful weirdness to come. The tour also included Jourgensen’s first time working with Paul Barker and the late, great Bill Rieflin (in addition to My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult’s Groovie Mann, technically…)
- The Land of Rape and Honey (1988)
Despite being largely absent from setlists in the second half of their career, many (including, at times, Jourgensen) consider Ministry’s third full-length to be their best. While remaining often highly-danceable, albeit in a very post-punk fashion, The Land of Rape and Honey includes the band’s first experimentations with metal, an essential element of their aesthetic. It also serves as the first official collaboration between Jourgensen and Barker, and industrial’s unofficial introduction to Chris Connelly.
- From Beer to Eternity (2013)
Prior to their latest effort, this was my favorite Ministry record of the last decade. Perhaps it is because Jourgensen had never seemed to be more bonded with longtime collaborators Mike Scaccia, Sin Quirin, Tony Campos, and Aaron Rossi but, more likely, it’s just that these songs seem to be the perfectly curated appetizer to the highlights of their “Bush years” and their greatest hits of industrial metal, which they would carry out each night on the live shows behind this album.
- Moral Hygiene (2021)
Ministry’s 15th album is arguably their first must-have since their original breakup in 2008. It pairs goofily morbid humor with an abrasively danceable brand of industrial reminiscent of the band’s best years. It also features guest appearances from former co-conspirators Jello Biafra and N.W.A. co-founder Arabian Prince, in addition to former Megadeth basis David Ellefson, and LA-based guitar extraordinaire Billy Morrison (The Cult, Camp Freddy, Billy Idol, etc.), in addition to a cover of Iggy and the Stooges’ “Search And Destroy” that desperately needs to soundtrack the closing credits of a torture porn film.
- Dark Side of the Spoon (1999)
Uncle Al and co.’s last album of the 20th century is arguably their least noteworthy work from their best period. That being said, this ode (of sorts) to Pink Floyd and junkie-dom is consistently and satisfyingly weird, and does include a handful of “bangers,” most notably the true-to-form “Bad Blood” (made famous by the original Matrix) and “Nursing Home,” a beyond-bizarre amalgam of post-Apocalyptic art punk, psychedelia, and grimy hip-hop… I’m also still not over the fact that the band got dropped from the headlining slot of the following year’s Ozzfest when I was 15…
- Rio Grande Blood (2006)
Although Ministry’s George W. Bush trilogy, which is sonically in the realm of pure thrash metal, was something that many longtime fans didn’t immediately want to hear (in addition to a Paul-Barker-less Ministry), by the time the band reached the third entry, and their 2008 farewell tour (documented on “Fuchi Requiem”), it was hard for all but the most pretentious longtime fans to deny that these were, at their core, great rock songs. This second entry in the trilogy, and arguably the third-best, still includes a beautifully subversive collaboration with Jello Biafra (“Ass Clown”) and “LiesLiesLies,” the band’s most spectacular anthem in a decade.
- Houses of the Molé (2004)
This first entry in Ministry’s ongoing homage to the awfulness of W. understandably garnered the most criticism of the three from longstanding fans. However, after seemingly endless touring of the songs, over the course of four years and nearly as many tours, it’s hard to deny that it is as good as thrash metal has gotten in the 21st century. It also helped to make a new generation of fans who likely failed to understand just how queer (in every sense of the word) Ministry was.
- The Last Sucker (2007)
Although it may have taken a little while for the rivetheads to warm up to the W. albums, the final entry of the trilogy is almost indisputably just about as monumental as anything Ministry ever recorded. “Let’s Go,” “Watch Yourself,” and the title track are the “Thieves,” “Breathe,” and “So What” of Thrash Metal Ministry and their nearly unrecognizable cover of “Roadhouse Blues” is the perfect example of Al’s simultaneous love of classic rock and disdain for anything considered “classic.”
- Animositisomina (2003)
Although Al’s claimed it to be his least-favorite Ministry album, the last to feature Paul Barker and the last to boast that particular flavour of industrial metal that made Ministry one of the most potently subversive forces in mainstream music for much of the 1990s often sounds nearly as good as Psalm 69 and Filth Pig, especially opening tracks “Animosity,” “Unsung,” and “Piss.” While we’re grateful for all the beautiful sonic assaults Al’s provided us in the past 19 years, we certainly do miss Hypo Luxa and Hermes Pan.
- The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste (1989)
The album whose 30th anniversary this tour was meant to celebrate is not only the best-titled of Ministry’s career, not only the most Ministry album of Ministry’s career, but also the shoulder on which all great industrial to come has stood (and whose tour was the literal birthplace of industrial supergroup Pigface). Although (according to infamous stories of the recording sessions) Jourgensen, Barker, Rieflin, and Connelly were apparently rarely in the same room, much less on the same page, it’s perhaps the chaos that makes the album’s sound so legendary.
- Filth Pig (1996)
Although fans (critical and popular) of Ministry’s previous, breakthrough album had plenty of mean things to say about this more traditionally metal follow-up, it actually works as a companion piece, or a sentimental sequel. It’s just as abrasive, minus the digital quirks. It’s just as pissed off, but with Jourgensen’s tongue removed from his cheek. And even if many don’t want to admit that the album is truly brilliant, “Crumbs,” “Reload,” and the title track inspired some of the most violent dancefloor eruptions I’ve ever seen for the following decade.
- Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs (1992)
Ministry’s masterpiece is like a great exploitation film: absolutely horrifying and absolutely hilarious… It produced, arguably, the three biggest industrial anthems of all-time (“N.W.O.,” “Just One Fix,” and “Jesus Built My Hotrod”) and, somehow, propelled the band to headline arenas for a few years.
*Get your tickets here.