It has been 40 years since Al Jourgensen founded the band Ministry… and what a long, strange tip it’s been! Originally part of the Chicago alternative/punk scene, he eventually switched his attention to an aggressive synth-based sound. Forming the band Ministry in 1981, the band’s dark synth groove caught the attention of Arista Records, who eventually signed the band. By the time their debut album, WITH SYMPATHY, was released in 1983, the label had ‘encouraged’ the band to go in a more commercial synthpop direction. While the album was successful, Jourgensen’s relationship with Arista was not and Ministry left the label. And that is where things began to change for the band. In a short amount of time, the group went from synthpop hopefuls to industrial music pioneers and never looked back.
Although Jourgensen has remained the sole constant member of Ministry, he’s managed to work with some pretty talented musicians including Paul Raven, Martin Atkins, William Tucker, Bill Rieflin, and many others. Ministry’s darker music began with albums like TWITCH (1986) and THE LAND OF RAPE AND HONEY (1988). The band’s popularity rose with the release of albums like THE MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO TASTE (1989) and PSALM 69: THE WAY TO SUCCEED AND THE WAY TO SUCK EGGS (1992). Everything on top of those albums – including FILTH PIG (1996), DARK SIDE OF THE SPOON (1999), AND ANIMOSITISOMINA (2003) – were icing on the cake. However, Jourgensen had a very busy schedule with many side projects including Revolting Cocks, Lard, and Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters and he finally shut down the Ministry machine in 2008. However, he realized that Ministry still had a lot to say so he revived the band name in 2011 and a decade later, he is still going strong.
MORAL HYGIENE is Ministry’s fourth album since they rose from the dead and their 15th studio release overall. The album is the follow-up to 2018’s acclaimed AMERIKKKANT release and features guest appearances from former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra (“Sabotage is Sex”), singer and rapper Arabian Prince (“Alert Level”), and British singer/guitarist Billy Morrison on a cover of the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy”. Lyrically, the album picks up where AMERIKKANT left off but is less angry and confused and more reflective and emotionally powerful. Every song offers new surprises, taking the listener on musical journeys that criss-cross several genres in just a span of a few minutes. Along with the aforementioned tracks, other standouts include “Good Trouble”, “Broken System”, and “We Shall Resist”. While not an easy listen for those raised on the type of peppy pop ear candy that can be found in the Top 40, MORAL HYGIENE is a reminder that music can sound dangerous and still be good for the soul.