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Smash The Control Machine - 81%

televiper11, January 25th, 2013

It was with great regret that I read of the passing of Mike Scaccia this past December. A founding member of seminal speed metal band Rigor Mortis, his career took an interesting turn in 1989 when he was asked to be a touring (and later full) member of Ministry. Ministry at that time was a a band in transition, searching for newer and heavier breakthroughs in their industrial rock template. Mike came in and blew the doors open, adding an intense thrash dynamic to the riffing, tipping the band unabashedly into the metal category for the first time ever. This influence was most potently felt on Ministry's landmark 1992 album Psalm 69, an epic conglomeration of apocalyptic industrial thrash metal.

"Just One Fix" was always my favorite song from that record and the versions available on this single are even better. The 12" edit is a fantastic eight-minute study in tension-and-release. A collaboration with ex-Beat writer and notorious junkie William S. Burroughs (who provided the cover art), this version of "Just One Fix" is stylistically quite different from the album version. On it, Burroughs is sampled: intoning us to "Smash the control images. Smash the control machine." Following this invocation is a poundingly fascistic drum beat from William Rieflin and layered samples of white noise and echoey guitar effects. This gratingly harsh and disturbing atmosphere is accentuated by occasional background screams, distorted voices, and a gnawing sense that some terrible fate awaits you. Ministry lets this tension build for almost three minutes before lock-stepping into one of the crispest, heaviest riffs of their career. "Just One Fix" is one of the greatest riffs ever: ever so simple, precise, and catchy -- courtesy of Mike Scaccia. I've worn out my neck many times headbanging to this. For a track that's over 20 years old, there is a refreshing timelessness to the riffage. Though industrial as a genre, and sampling in general, now feels quite dated. This era of Ministry holds up under the scrutiny of metal's greatest attribute, neck-snapping riffs. Now that we are into the bulk of the song, some other changes become apparent: the audio mix is cleaner and heavier than that album version; Al is using much different effects on his vox - they're cleaner and scarier; there's a dynamic bridge with Burroughs rambling about junkie paranoia over what sounds like shotgun blasts, after which the tempo picks up considerable (taking the song into an almost death metal direction); and the outro solo is longer and more-to-the-fore of the mix. All in all, the 12" edit is probably my favorite Ministry song ever.

If you liked the heavier parts of that version but could be spared the sketchier industrial elements in the lead-up, the Video edit is for you. It's the same version as above cut to a normal run time so as to feature only those elements that appeared on the original album but with the structural changes to vocals and tempos intact. For a quick adrenaline boost, this version is great and I still find it superior to the original album one. Being the Video edit, this is also the version you hear during the video, which is one of the creepiest, full-on despairing music videos I've ever seen.

Finally, there is "Quick Fix." And honestly, this is where things go awry. A few quick Burroughs samples to bring across atmosphere are fine with me but a whole four minutes of his mindless mutterings is too much for me. Ministry basically just gave him license to run roughshod over a simplistic tribal drum beat with occasional white noise distortions and chanting samples. It's a pretty boring track that hardly ever warrants a listen. Regardless of "Quick Fix," this single is a must-listen for Ministry fans, Burroughs nuts, and metalheads in general. "Just One Fix" in both its forms here is the ultimate gateway drug and one of greatest metal songs ever.