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After clinging to the Synth Pop/Electronic scene for the first quarter of his music career, Al Jourgenson decided to up the ante with his band Ministry by introducing some new elements to the already exploding Industrial/Electronic genre that was about the crossover to the mainstream within a couple years. Sure you had Canada's cocain-flavored nightmare pet Skinny Puppy, and very futuristic claustrophobic Front Line Assembly, England's creepy LSD-induced Throbbing Gristle and Occult-obsessed Coil, Germany's EBM kraut meistros Front 242, and even the more gloom-ridden New York masters of pain The Swans and local Chicago acts such Big Black.....but Al was going to rise to the very top and scream til he was either blue in the face or just killing time between his well-known drug misadventures. Al and Ministry did so with a little known album called "The Land Of Rape & Honey".
The first thing one notices is the guitars. now Big Black were one of the first bands to combine drum machines and guitars, but Ministry are the ones that introduced the speed. Not to mention a very Punk-like vibe that WILL blow your speakers out. Al Jourgenson's performance as a guitarist is simplistic but very sufficient enough to make the songs come to life and not to mention his voice has also changed from the somewhat whiny New Romantic style of "With Sympathy" and "Twitch" to a more deranged snarl. No, he hasn't started shooting up yet, but man he sounds pissed and ready to take on the world. Also in place of the somewhat soothing ambient textures of "With Sympathy" and "Twitch" are the more grittier, dirtier drum beats and the first presence of film samples. Way more dense and machine-like. A complete makeover you might say. Bassist Paul Barker is carefully mixed in some songs, but in others it's a not as more noticible. Nonetheless it doesn't detract from the quality of songs.
Lots of headbanging and foot-tapping moments here. "Stigmata" starts off with Al Jourgenson screaming from his damaged mind and is an instant hit. This is one of the very few songs that gets played in the Goth clubs where the even more amusing Goths themselves will stop dancing to melodramatic Robert Smith songs and crappy Electronic-Dance music and actually blow some steam out of their systems seeing how they are so miserable(plus it's hilarious to see them actually TRY to mosh) and mopy their lives are. "The Missing" speeds the tempo up a bit just to get you ready for "Diety". This is what I am talking about. Imagine Motorhead with a rapid-fire drum machine and that's what you're going to get. Very simplistic but it's very speedy. The fastest song on "TLOR&H" and the first for Ministry. Excellent job Al. "Golden Dawn" is NOT at all like "Diety" but more of a laid-back trippy instrumental with horror movie samples screaming "the Antichrist!" and chants of what seems to be Aleister Crowley to be conducting a ritual. This is the kind of song you want to sit back, toke-up with some good pot, and stare through the smoky haze at the world with bloodshot eyes and dialated pupils filled with disgust. For an instrumental, this is excellent stuff. Al's guitars has a somewhat Loop-sound to them. Check that band out if you have the chance. The title track is just pure vintage bona'fide 80's industrial. "You Know What You Are" starts off with a somewhat demented laughter and goes right into the pulsating synths, throbbing beats and Al Jourgenson's schizophrenic-like screaming. Obviously he's got a vocoder adding the effects on this cut. Other tracks such as "Hizbollah" and "Flashback" are just as good but doesn't stand-out like the tracks previously mention.
All and all, "The Land of Rape & Honey" is a hit for the Ministry camp. Fortunately their streak would last for another two albums before putting out some shoddy albums, but for now this is the core Ministry sound and it's great stuff. Highly reccomended if you're wanting to explore Industrial music or find one of the very first albums that linked Metal and Industrial together. Drugs, Occult references, loud guitars....how can one go wrong?
'The Land of Rape and Honey' occupies a grey area - is it metal or is it not? There are riffs, guitar solos, and general heaviness in evidence; and yet this is unconventional, original stuff. Guitar is swathed and embalmed in layer upon layer of digital processing, reducing it to a mewling and broken thing that resembles nothing on this earth; these anitmusical strains are augmented my sythnesisers, drum machines, samples and thunderous bass.
What makes this album so fatally compelling is that Ministry's electropop roots are still in evidence; yet these very roots have been peverted by something foul and sickening that rots them from the inside. Vocals sneer in their extreme nihilism; distorted, multitracked, processed in every possible way. Lyrics are savage, brutal and uncompromising. The music creates an atmosphere of savage menace; the percussive, heavily industrial metal pulse of tracks such as "Stigmata", "The Missing'", "Deity" and "I Prefer" contrast with the bleak and anti-musical drone of "Flashback", "Destruction", the title track and my personal favourite, the throbbing and horrific "You Know What You Are". Guitar solos appear frequently, but they are often atonal, shrieking, squalling - they are not so much sequences of notes as the screams of mankind being torn savagely apart.
This album will not be for all; the sounds here are so relentlessly cold and bleak they will likely alienate many metalheads used to more conventional material. Ministry, especially on this album, are at a direct point between industrial noise music and metal; it is the sound of the apocalypse. Back in my younger days (I should point out I was a fan of death and thrash metal at this point) this album shat me up so badly I couldn't listen to it for a long while - this is one of the true sounds of evil. Highly recommended to those looking for something off the beaten track.
Every few years or so, I start to diversify so as to keep my perspective fresh with other styles of music, and while this was not my first Ministry album it is one of my favorites. It has an incredible atmosphere with its evil distorted insect vocals, Al Jourgenson's trademark booming drum sound from hell, and keyboards so heavy that they can often be confused with guitars. The bass has a good presence on this album too, providing solid support and distinct riffs and rhythms.
To wit, some of the better tunes on display here: the familiar keyboard riff of "Sitgmata" opens the proceedings with its fuzzy whine and a hair-raising howl from Al using the distortion filter to maximum effect. Its repetitive riff and driving beat really carry the song well. Then we have the double header of metal-sounding songs that will have you hard-pressed to tell if the riffs are keyboards or guitars; "Diety" and "The Missing".
"Diety" roars by like a Metallica tune in full-on thrash frenzy with thundering drums and a chunky riff, and "The Missing" is more mid paced with a deliberateness about its forcefully rearranging your head to another part of your body.
"You Know What You Are" is a simple and repetitive number with drums and keyboards that set a trance-like feel with occasional screams of the title to reinforce the (creepy, eerie) mood, similar to "Faith Collapsing" on the album after this one ("The Mind is a Terrible Thing To Taste"), and "Flashback" is more of a pure industrial tune with its uptempo beats and more obvious keyboards. The title track oozes by in a menacing crawl that sets yet another highly creepy mood--the vibe of this album is outstanding.
Be open-minded and give this seminal album a try, you may like the mood and feel of it quite a lot. Metal is just as much about mood, feel, and vibe, and Ministry had it in spades on this album. And again, you'd be hard-pressed to tell that those are not guitars providing those catchy, powerful riffs. Give this a chance and then proceed to the more metallic "The Mind..." to see the progression that happened between these two albums.