Nuclear Blast
rating icon 7.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. B.D.E.
02. Goddamn White Trash
03. Just Stop Oil
04. Aryan Embarrassment
05. TV Song
06. New Religion
07. It's Not Pretty
08. Cult of Suffering
09. Ricky's Hand

If Al Jourgensen did not exist, we would have to invent him. A perennially essential antidote to political stupidity and dim-witted mainstream thinking, Uncle Al is one of heavy music's greatest subversives, even if MINISTRY's latter-day work hasn't always been as powerful as it was back in their '90s heyday. In fairness to the old maniac, each of the albums that he has released since defying his own decision to call it quits have been strong enough to justify making another one, and "HOPIUMFORTHEMASSES" is no different.

Nostalgia dictates that 1992's seminal "Psalm 69" may always be considered the peak of MINISTRY's out-and-out industrial metal phase, with 1996's excoriating "Filth Pig" coming a close second, but the band's 21st century efforts have plenty to commend them too, and not just because Uncle Al is always at his most potent when the world is going to Hell in a hand-cart (or some modern equivalent… a Tesla, maybe?). In particular, 2018's "AmeriKKKant" is definitely worth revisiting, and "Moral Hygiene" (2021) was a grinning, saw-toothed riot, but "HOPIUMFORTHEMASSES" feels even more timely and tenacious. If we are all going down, MINISTRY want to be there for our final descent, if only to say "I told you so" over some sweet riffs.

This is not a time for subtlety, and so MINISTRY go in hard with "B.D.E." : a furious paean to the spiritually dickless and any gurning shit-wit that declares themselves to be an alpha male, thus confirming that they are anything but. Uncle Al has always had a hard-on for mockery, and even though the song sticks rigidly to his band's trademark mix of chugga-chugga riffs and electronic toxicity, there is a definite, upgraded spring in their step here. "Goddamn White Trash" and "Just Stop Oil" keep the satirical shit-ball rolling, with the latter being a particularly convincing throwback to the bilious hammerings of 2006's "Rio Grande Blood". Despite Uncle Al's best efforts, any hope that the world would lighten up and stop being such a phenomenal dick evaporated a long time ago, which makes the reappearance of old sparring partner Jello Biafra on the bonehead-baiting stomp of "Aryan Embarrassment" this album's most telling and delicious moment. But the next chapter in MINISTRY's ongoing "TV Song" comes pretty close, with its brutish thrash gait and its abundance of bug-eyed, sample-strewn chaos reminiscent of LARD's "Drug Raid At 4AM". Slower tempos are given a sound beating on the sinister "New Religion", which takes aim at the creeping menace of (dis)organized religion and its proponents' insistence on inserting themselves into everybody's lives and bedrooms. It's the scam that keeps on giving (and taking) and Jourgensen is still happy to sound the alarm. Next, "It's Not Pretty" makes piss-stinking lemonade from the impending apocalypse, with acoustic guitars, drugged-out vocal effects and a loping, malevolent groove that morphs into another barbarian stomp that vibrates with righteous rage. "Cult Of Suffering" is the album's most obvious curveball, its glam rock grind boosted by a bona fide, singalong melody, underpinned by sassy female backing vox and an ingenious array of different guitar tricks; while the closing "Ricky's Hand" makes like the theme tune to some twisted sci-fi franchise, with a DEVO-esque electro-punk core that squelches and tics in a manner not dissimilar to MINISTRY's early synth-pop works.

"HOPIUMFORTHEMASSES" is not a classic, but Jourgensen's ability to entertain the hell out of like-minded miscreants, while firing nails into the hearts of the corrupt and the moronic remains undimmed. Shots of hopium all 'round, if you please.

Author: Dom Lawson
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