Splice Magazine

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Industrial Metal Legends MINISTRY Take the Royal Oak Music Theater by Storm

Ministry performs at the Royal Oak Music Theater @ John Swider

April 3,2022 (Royal Oak Michigan)-Back in September, 2021 and to the chagrin of fans, Grammy-award nominated Industrial rock titans Ministry announced that they would, once again, have to delay the start of The Industrial Strength Tour. Originally scheduled to kick-off during the summer of 2020 in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the landmark release, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, the original support lineup has changed and as some attest, to the betterment of the tour. Now, a full three years later since the original announcement, the tour was finally able to launch in early March and made its highly anticipated stop at the sold out Royal Oak Music Theater Sunday night. In addition to the aforementioned anniversary of The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, an added bonus of new material from the bands 2021 release, the critically acclaimed, Moral Hygiene has been added.

After ear melting opening sets from special guests Corrosion Of Conformity and the Melvins, Ministry took the stage to “Breathe” from 1989’s The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste. Frontman Al Jourgensen appeared from behind an illuminated cross-shaped pulpit, standing in front of a giant video backdrop that anchored the stage. Moments earlier, in a sign of social solidarity with a country currently under seige, a Ukrainian flag was displayed on the screen with the inscription “Ministry Stands With Ukraine.” A nice touch from such an outspoken and influential outfit.

Industrial Rock pioneers Ministry, who were separated from the audience by a chainlink fence (in a nod to their 80s stage setup,) blasted out a barrage of their most notable work Sunday evening much to the delight of the fans that packed the sold out venue. In addition to select tracks from last years Moral Hygiene, frontman Al Jorgensen led the audience through a deep dive of their discography, introducing each song with a bit of band based trivia.

The potent selection of cuts that formed tonight’s 15 song setlist featured songs from three career defining Ministry albums, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste (1989), Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs (1992) and Land of Rape and Honey (1988.) Also featured were several highlighted covers, most notably a thunderous rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Superanaut,” that was a wildly popular and a well received treat midway through the 90 minute set.

A trip down memory lane as big as it was with Ministry just wouldn’t be complete if it did not included nods to Jourgensen’s various Ministry-adjacent side projects. Tonight’s electric setlist of cover tracks included powerful playthroughs of “Don’t Stand In Line” and “Man Should Surrender from Jourgensen’s collaboration with Fugazi’s Ian McKaye. Each was performed as Jourgensen prowled the stage, gripping and hanging from the fence while unleashing his ear piercing screams much to the delight of the overflowing crowd. Most songs were fast and full of angst with a lack of melody that had Jourgensen screaming repetitive lines over a propulsive rhythm packed full of ultra-distorted guitar tones that defines the genre.

Ministry performs at the Royal Oak Music Theater @ John Swider

Sundays set played out in a typical Ministry style meaning there wasn’t much chatter in between songs besides Jourgensens short trivia derived introductions. Rather, the band just let the music talk as they hammered through each song successively. “N.W.O.” was synced with the glitching worldwide flags on the video board while the rhythmic “Just One Fix” from their 1992 LP Psalm 69: further fueled the now feverish crowd. The subsequent “Burning Inside” induced a whole layer of deafening shouted participation which had most casual fans eyes bulging in amazement, while the seasoned fans yelled back in unison.

Energetic and youthful lead singer Al Jourgensen, who is now 63 years old barks and screams the lyrics with more vocal amplitude than many recall, easily winning over the fans by conviction and presence on stage alone. Jourgensen manages somehow to reach the audience on a direct and visceral level even while performing on the darkened stage behind the aforementioned chain link fence. On this tour Jourgensen’s band includes Stone Sours Roy Mayorga on drums, Paul D’Amour, Tool’s original bass player, guitarists Cesar Soto and Monte Pittman along with John Bechdel on keyboards. Out of all the incarnations of Ministry throughout the years, this could be the tightest unit musically in the bands illustrious career.

Not to be outdone by a bunch of young guns, the multi-talented Jourgensen strapped on a guitar and joined in on the extended jam session. Energy was palpable in the crowd as the band cut through a few more of their classic cuts including the thrash-inducing “Thieves.”

“We played a bunch of old stuff, so now here’s some new stuff,” Jourgensen announced as the band returned to the stage after a well deserved short break from an extended jam during the main set ending “So What.”

Ministry’s potent encore featured cuts off their 2021 release Moral Hygiene, including “Good Trouble,” a tribute to late civil rights activist and political stalwart, John Lewis. The selected cut reinforces Ministry’s unabashed embracement of progressive politics, offering a much needed message of hope during these dystopian times the world has been encumbered with. Conversely, the following song, “Alert Level,” had softer verses that burst into a volley of power chords and kick drum rhythms that sounded so different when compared to cuts early in the set.

With the chain link fence down and the band now face to face with their fans, the evening ended with a very Ministry styled version of Iggy and The Stooges “Search and Destroy.” Industrial and rugged to the core, the cut put a exclamation on one of the most brutally entertaining evenings of Industrial metal that this suburb of Detroit has witnessed in a long time. Better yet, from one of the pioneers of the genre itself.

At the end of the night, as the fans filed out of the Royal Oak Music Theater every single person appeared absolutely exhausted from this amazing show. If you’ve not seen any of these bands in person, take the time and step out of reality for a few hours, buy a ticket and go. All three bands deliver such strong and dedicated performances that it’s worth every penny plus more often than not, you’ll meet the nicest people at a metal show.

Ministry © John Swider
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