There have been surprisingly few raging protest albums during the Trump presidency, most have been resigned to stunned, can’t-believe-this-happened status, but with the release of Ministry’s 14th studio full-length AmeriKKKant, the industrial metal legends seemed to be the perfectly poised to increase the unrest threat levels. Unfortunately, the album is tired and squarely in the disbelief camp as well, ending up as a tepid listen.
Ministry is Al Jourgensen a pioneering industrial metal godfather who has been raging against the proverbial machine for the past 30+ years and while his politics know no party, he always does his best work during Republican presidencies. Birthing his career in 1981 under Reaganomics, he fully bloomed with Psalm 69 scorching George Herbert Walker Bush’s ‘New World Order’ with fire and fury. His later career touchstone, 2006’s Rio Grande Blood, successfully attacked W and things seemed perfectly aligned for an assault on Trump’s White House and the state of 2018 politics in general.
Jourgensen instead channels the album art which depicts the Statue of Liberty doing a face palming; Ministry is more exacerbated than fighting mad. Opener “I Know Words” slows down samples of Trump’s statements pairing them with dramatic strings from Lord of the Cello and scratching from DJ Swamp before dripping into the heavier beat of “Twilight Zone”. The crunching guitars, vocal growl and drum programming are Ministry staples but outside of using harmonica and pianos in the mix, the repetitive nature of both the samples and marching wear down, dragging over the eight-minute run time; for a President who seems incapable of not speaking Jourgensen doesn’t dig very deep to vary his vocal clips.
Jourgensen has said AmeriKKKant, isn’t anti-Trump, stating the album is “basically just holding up a mirror to ourselves and saying: ‘Look at this, is this what you really want to be?’”. “Victims of a Clown” goes down the unity path with hip-hop beats and flavor asking that question while calling for a coming together to use our democracy for good. That theme gets a death metal injection on “We’re Tired of It” which is striving to end intolerance and hate over a rapid crushing sound. Both are successful, the two best efforts on the album are completely different forms, showing Ministry can still morph from song to song, but they are the outliers.
“Wargasm” falls into the more mid-tempo cinematic mode railing against the war machine and this countries addiction to continual bloodshed but ends up sluggish, “Antifa” now has a theme song from Jourgensen who blasts lyrically meeting violence with violence, while “Game Over” tries to be a call to arms with heavy metal frantic guitar work from Sin Quirin but never fully drives it’s point home; all three tracks have small slivers of classic Ministry but none deliver the whole package.
The title track and album closer are where Jourgensen and company make their full mission statement over a slow chugging bass from Jason Christopher and drumming of Ray Mayorga. The song samples minimal brass and lyrically describes the fall of our society but trudges forward with its head down rather than its fists up ready to fight. The final lyrics Jourgensen sings are “Well… I guess I don’t know what to expect. Well… I guess that’s all we got…” and that resigned sense of despair sums up AmeriKKKant.