Ministry’s Al Jourgensen just can’t seem to make up his mind. For the better part of the last 5+ years, Al has been threatening to put Ministry to rest. The first “final” album came in the form of 2007’s fantastic The Last Sucker (which was also the final record of the so-called “Bush Trilogy”.) Then, not only five years after riding off into the sunset, Al revived Ministry for the appropriately titled, yet underwhelming Relapse. Again, Al swore that Ministry was finished after Relapse, but here we are not even two full years later, and Ministry has returned with yet another “final” album, this time titled From Beer To Eternity.
Earlier this year, Al released his book Ministry: The Lost Gospels according to Al Jourgensen. Throughout the book, Al discussed how he felt about Ministry’s past albums. Known for being a salty-ass curmudgeon when it comes to….well….just about everything, it came as no surprise to learn that Al pretty much hates a large portion of his past work, largely dismissing it as bullshit for one reason or another. So for a man that dislikes his past musical endeavors with the ferocity that Jourgensen does, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that From Beer To Eternity encapsulates multiple elements of the Ministry sound from throughout their career.
From Beer To Eternity kicks off with “Hail To His Majesty (Peasants)” which recalls a sound similar to what was found on Ministry’s breakthrough 1992 effort Psalm 69. The song thrives on a throbbing bassline and countless electronic flourishes until eventually exploding into a classic Ministry guitar riff. This formula is repeated throughout From Beer To Eternity, most notably on the contemplative “Change of Luck,” which is about longtime guitarist Mike Scaccia’s death and the dub flavored “Thanx But No Thanx” which sees the return of Sgt. Major – from 2006’s Rio Grande Blood – who reads portions of William S. Burroughs “A Thanksgiving Prayer.” The structure of these songs will not be unfamiliar for longtime fans of Ministry, but it’s refreshing to hear the band stretch their legs a bit after turning in mostly thrash inspired industrial metal tracks for most of the last decade.
Now that’s not to say that From Beer To Eternity doesn’t crank up the intensity. The Fox News lambasting “Fair and Unbalanced” is a whirlwind riff fest that proves that Ministry can still tear shit up with the best of them and the chaotic “Side F/X Include Mikey’s Middle Finger (TV4)” is yet another fantastic chapter in the long-running “TV” series of Ministry tracks. After listening to these songs, it becomes evident just how important Mike Scaccia was to the Ministry sound. Without his rapid-fire guitar playing to back Al’s layered sonic textures and samples, Ministry without a doubt loses some of their edge.
From Beer To Eternity also sees Ministry (slightly) revisit the sludge metal dirge of their mid to late ’90’s output. Lead single “Permawar” features a crunching riff that erupts into a massive chorus and an extended bridge that recalls shades of “Filth Pig” from their 1996 album of the same name. It’s a strange yet satisfying nod to the past, especially knowing how much Jourgensen (alledgedly) reviles that album. However, not everything on From Beer To Eternity delivers. “Punch In The Face” does exactly that musically, but lacks any real direction or message, while “Lesson Unlearned” sees the addition of soul inspired female vocals that frankly just sound out of place amidst all of the chaos. Similarly, the instrumental interludes “The Horror” and “Enjoy The Quiet” don’t really add to the album as a whole and come across more as Jourgensen flexing his sampling and editing prowess instead of simply creating a sturdy bridge from one song to the next.
Seeing as From Beer To Eternity is Ministry’s third go around on the retirement wagon, it’s safe to say they finally got it right this time. The Last Sucker was a good album that started off strong but struggled in the second half. Relapse (in my honest opinion) was a disjointed, unappealing affair that bordered on laughable a points (“Weekend Warrior” comes to mind.) But with From Beer To Eternity, Ministry put together a career defining effort that nicely wraps ups everything that came before it, whether it’s good, bad, or just downright ugly. Al Jourgensen says that Ministry is finally done this time and if that is indeed the case, From Beer To Eternity is a fantastic parting shot from one of the most innovative bands of the last twenty years.