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Breaking Mad - 75%

GuntherTheUndying, June 24th, 2016

If one had to form a judgement of Al Jourgensen based solely on his many musical endeavors, chances are he’d be presumed one crazy bastard. Al himself would probably not throw the label away, given his life’s work helped fortify industrial music and has stroked the dongs of everything from metal to new wave. The first thing that popped into my mind while turning on the Surgical Meth Machine was that I was listening to an album of those “TV” tracks spread across Ministry releases—those abrasive, nonlinear cyclones of sensory overload. Al himself even called this a record of “Side FX Include Mikey's Middle Finger (T.V.4)” multiplied, and that’s an accurate statement. Surgical Meth Machine seems like the next logical step in Ministry’s mental decline into industrial metal, now with a side of one of the world’s most dangerous drugs! Exciting!

The “TV” pieces, rare as they are, are non-sequitur bursts of sampled cacophonic madness. To hear a whole album rooted in the chaotic industrial bits is actually quite refreshing, if you consider a frenetic overdose of musical erosion an invigorating experience, mind you. Samples of arbitrary quips and augmented instrumental overtones clash into the metal edge of Ministry’s golden years. These songs are notched up to a level of brusqueness previously left locked to the works of Mr. Jourgensen—take Ministry et al., add meth. Al sounds fine as a vocalist, as expected, and his lyrics touching on social commentary, today’s music, rich people problems, and the glory of Devo all serve to enhance the nonstop electronic screwballs hurled by Surgical Meth Machine’s track-marked arm.

The start of the record explodes with the same tenacity and frantic pace of Ministry’s thrashy era, no doubt stemming from the chops of the late Mike Scaccia during his stint next to Al in the Ministry machine. However, as any release fueled by Walter White’s special candy, the journey corkscrews through the kingdom of industrial thrash and becomes even wilder. Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys fame takes over vocal duties on the stomping “I Don’t Wanna,” while the samples and lyrics grow battier without dropping the metallic edge. The record ends on a handful of industrial spatters spouting off sampled dialogue over digital beats, but these minor segues lead to “I’m Invisible,” which is the best song here. The trippy keyboards and spacey guitar lines give it a sleek atmosphere; it’s nice to end the album on a calmer note after thirty-five minutes of engineered schizophrenia.

Well, Uncle Al hasn’t missed a beat. His true strength, although his vocals and instrumental work are fine, is behind the studio, turning knobs, splicing this, splicing that, taking sounds and making them do the nasty. Surgical Meth Machine is rooted in the Ministry style yet a sizable distance from Al’s other musical conquests. It certainly lives up to its name.

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