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Evolution is a slow process. One fraught with tension and experimentation. Each successive shedding of skin reveals a stronger, more capable animal. As avenues are explored and discarded, a template emerges and that groundwork gets built on. The Ministry who released the synth-poppy With Sympathy couldn't be further removed from the one who would eventually unleash the thrashing juggernaut that is Psalm 69, their first true, unabashed metal album. But how did they get there? The answer is here. On a live record that finds all of Ministry's conflicting emotions and influences clashing in the heightened tension of an excessive and aggressive tour recording. Things get heavy and twisted here. The spectrum out of danceable industrial into a nigh-unto death metal industrial arises out of the twin flames of heroin and depression -- a band of pissed off junkies who weren't gonna fuck around anymore. For them, In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up (Live) is a milestone recording.
At this point in their career, Ministry was a dangerous band. Their shows were full-on chaos, with a chain link fence separating the band from its crazed fans. The violence often got out-of-hand and there was plenty of drugs to fuel the fire. While their two previous studio albums had definitely upped the violence, tension, and heaviness of their sound, the songs still felt relatively restrained. Like a tense and frothing pitbull still held hard on the leash. Those restraints are taken off here. The energy exuding from the speakers from "The Missing" onwards is raw, potent, and disturbing. These songs are twice as urgent, twice as heavy, and far more appealing in the live setting. The twin drum attack of Bill Reiflen and Martin Atkins is fantastic, setting a barbarian tempo on the one hand while the other accents and attacks with ferocity. The trance-like state of repetition that emerges elevates everything, especially the riffs. Mike Scaccia leaving Rigor Mortis for Ministry was a faithful omen made good upon. He twists and turns the riffs in a much more metal direction. The three-guitar front line thrashes away with abandon, reveling in the quickened tempos and heavier distortions. Although the creepy samples and weird synth portions remain audible live, they accent more than dominate. Add it all up and the previous studio versions don't stand a chance.
Take "So What" -- here's a song whose hypnotic ragga-groove gets stretched way out and toyed with, building layer upon layer of danceable tension, but when the sheer heaviness of the refrain kicks in, the song just elevates into pure metal catharsis. It's song full of anger, frustration, and pain spun outward. A song that wants to kick your teeth in. I'm sure lots of people lost some teeth in the pit on that one. Or "Stigmata," where the previous drum machine double-bass is replaced by four human feet just pounding it out under a sliding, Sabbath riff that pummels your senses in. This is violent music made moreso because the original versions are so restrained by comparison.
Listening to this now, it's no surprise where Psalm 69 came from. Clearly the band reveled in this uptick in heaviness and tension and decided to press it forward and stake new claims and additions to their sound. The songs on this record are all borderline, transitional, taken away from their original intentions and mutated into something darker, more virile, palpably dangerous, and very metal (like in a length of piping being wrapped around your skull). Time has done little to diminish the impact, even if some of the references are dated. For those deep into metal who dug the sounds of Psalm or Ministry's latter day thrash recordings, this is a good place to look back at where their DNA first grafted itself onto a heavier direction.