MINISTRY – Every Day is Halloween: Greatest Tricks
Earlier this month, Ministry released Every Day is Halloween: Greatest Tricks via Cleopatra Records and 13th Planet.
And by all accounts, the record title is accurate; it is a trick.
You will find Every Day is Halloween: Greatest Tricks at most music stores around the country. I actually found out about the album as I walked into a record store and heard it playing. You’ll find it for purchase on Amazon, and everywhere else you would imagine a national release to circulate.
Everywhere, that is, except on Ministry’s website or either of the releasing labels.
In 2004, Ministry founder and mastermind, Al Jourgensen spearheaded 13th Planet Records, his own personal label imprint, a joint production of both Megaforce and Sony Records. Every subsequent Ministry release has seen light via this avenue… even this one we currently have on the chopping block.
The back cover of the album indicates that Cleopatra Records holds the copyright for this latest release, with the logo of 13th Planet prominently displayed as well. Yet, no mention of the record is featured on Websites of Ministry, 13th Planet, or Cleopatra! There has been no promotion, no press… nothing!
Sadly, I can’t give you an answer as to why this is. I considered for a moment that it was just a contractual obligation; one album owed to a record company, and in this case it’s perhaps a greatest hits? But it doesn’t add up. Ministry has never been on Cleopatra Records and this latest release really isn’t a greatest hits record.
No dates are given for the recordings; they could, quite literally, be from any time or any place. In the booklet, the only information given is the copyright info. The tracks are a very interesting hodgepodge of old remixed material and new covers from an extremely eclectic focus.
Ministry was formed in 1981 by Al Jourgensen. After cultivating a large cult following throughout the decade with eerie but undeniably catchy dance anthems, he would release Psalm 69 in 1992, which would go on to be hailed as one of the greatest industrial albums of all time. Combining unconventional electronic synths with metal-influenced guitars and bass, Ministry became one of the defining bands of the 90’s underground music world and toured extensively with Lollapalooza in its heyday.
Jourgensen decided 2008 was the year to end Ministry once and for all, and did so with the release of “The Last Sucker”. Since then, Al has released a few remixes of past albums as well as a collection of covers entitles “Cover-Up”, which brings us up to this mysterious current release.
Every Day is Halloween: Greatest Tricks starts with the title track, “Every Day is Halloween (2010 Evil Version)” which lyrically is a commentary on the goth scene, and how every day is virtually Halloween, dealing with being an outsider and wanting to be accepted for who you are. The song was originally released in 1984 and later re-released 1986 as part of a compilation of B-sides. The main difference between this version and the original is some more modern-industrial elements such as a deeper sound and adding more bass to the mix.
That’s followed by 3 Ministry staples; “N.W.O.”, “Jesus Built My Hotrod”, and “Stigmata”. . . .Only it’s NOT those songs. Instead, these “new” versions are either different takes of those songs, early mixes, or even possibly new mixes by Al for the album!
All the songs have been cleaned-up, and most, if not all, of the original analog noise and vibe is gone. The new version of “N.W.O.” actually works well in this format, and so does “Stigmata”. For me, the grime didn’t work as well for these tracks and hearing it crystal clear is a pretty nice alternative.
At the same time, “Jesus Built My Hotrod” benefited the most from the classic sludge sound, and in this now sterilized version (the intro about Jesus being an architect is gone) definitely leaves something to be desired.
Every Day is Halloween: Greatest Tricks progresses into, of all things, a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”.
I’ll give you a minute to re-read that last statement.
Ministry covers The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”, a lo-fi rocker, with a large dose of industrial metal. It’s done fairly well, although Al’s never been much of a singer and… well… you can just imagine it from there. Where the Rolling Stones’ approach was to record and perform it as if it was being played in a garage, Ministry’s take is much more polished and glossed with a ton of dirty pored over it. In other words, Al’s trying way too hard to stay true to the original while staying true to his own style. The result is a poorly-done mishmash of styles that doesn’t seem to rock as hard as it possibly could.
Then, out of nowhere, the Ministry song “Khyber Pass” comes on. The song was originally released in 2006 on “Rio Grande Blood”, and was a fairly long, subtle, Middle-Eastern influenced track. Originally, the song went on for a good 6 minutes and had a nice nearly 2-minute ambient intro. The new version, a new mix of sorts, strips the serenity of the original and basically destroys it. I don’t know why Al would do this. Then again, the same man has a penchant for remixing everything he does.
And then, out of nowhere, the album saves itself.
Ministry then tears right into a cover of “Stranglehold” by Ted “The Man” Nugent! KICK-ASS! A pretty good fit, a damn good cover, and pretty faithful to its roots! Jourgensen has always had a love of country-fried hard rock, and whenever he takes it on, he shines on like the crazy diamond he is! Then he takes “Iron Man” and gives it a nice molten steel bath! While it does border on blasphemy at times (covering Sabbath is hit-or-miss), it winds up doing a decent job of mixing the industrial sound Ministry is known for with the basic metal riffs of the original Black Sabbath song. Think of it more as the original Sabbath song remixed with pounding industrial drives.
When you get to “Thunderstruck”, it’s hard to sit still! The infusion of heavily distorted guitars and machine precision work incredibly well! There’s a sense of urgency and grandiose to it, almost like there’s an entire stadium full of people chanting along, ready to set loose a storm of anger and fury! The song was actually released last summer as part of an AC/DC tribute album Hell’s Bells: A Salute to AC/DC. He later goes into Jimmy Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dress Man”, but really, they’re nothing to write about here. They’re basically industrialized covers more than anything else.
The album closes with a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. After hearing the original version and Ministry’s… yeah, give me Ministry. Easily. This version actually sounds like someone about to be dragged to rehab by their balls and doesn’t want to go! While original was more of a neo-soul crooner of a track, Ministry rips through the song like mad, adding pounding drums and screaming guitars.
On a whole, I would say it’s an OK disc. Not great, not amazing… but interesting and good. It was fun hearing Al take on so many songs and artists. The mix of both covers and remixes of old songs wound up being entertaining, but I wouldn’t be quick to buy it yet.
Because Ministry And The Co-conspirators: Undercover will come out December 7th, 2010, with all these songs and more! Save your cash for that one! I give it 3 skulls out of 5!
Review by Larry West.