Album Review: Ministry – Hopiumforthemasses

Album Review: Ministry - Hopiumforthemasses
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

Taking its title from a play on Karl Marx’ axiom about Religion, Ministry’s sixteenth studio album lands at a time of great political upheaval across the world, and a year when more countries than usual have general elections. As such, Uncle Al and his cohort have delivered a particularly biting political statement for 2024, taking aim at women’s issues, race, the climate and the media among other things.

As this is neither the time nor the place to engage with Hopiumforthemasses’ world view I shall restrict any comment to the purely musical, and leave the curious to discover where Ministry stand on these, and other, subjects. Spoiler Alert: If you’ve ever even heard of Ministry before, the answer will not come as great surprise.

Kicking things off is B.D.E., a slow-moving stomper that brings in gang vocals and an accompanying female presence, in keeping with the essence of the tune. It offers the same opening statement that perhaps Ghouldiggers did for Relapse, feeling a little restrained when you know where the band have been in the past. Goddamn White Trash is built around a guitar line from dual six-string-slingers Monte Pittman and the returning Cesar Soto, that is both blasting of itself, but also lays a platform for John Bechdel’s industrial keys.

Both Just Stop Oil and Aryan Embarrassment are both straight off the Ministry production line of crunching guitars and powerful percussion. Long-time collaborator Jello Biafra makes an appearance on the latter of these tracks (naturally), while the former’s rapid riffing that would not feel out of place on any of the band’s post-Rio Grande Blood records.

Album Review: Ministry - Hopiumforthemasses

TV Song and New Religion pick up that idea and sees the most overt political tracks out with a charging swagger. Up to this point, Hopiumforthemasses isn’t really doing anything you wouldn’t expect from Ministry: it’s fast and spits bile at the perceived ills of the world, but when Ministry is at its best it can entertainingly kick you arse while making you think differently about things.

The album takes a turn for the final third and redeems itself from being a somewhat by the numbers release. It’s Not Pretty uses spoken word and more traditional instrumentation in its first half to build an atmosphere that the harder-hitting, multi-voices second half is all the more powerful for. Ricky’s Hand brings things to a close an industrial gothic flavour, something a little more throw away after the barrage of earlier in the record.

Before that, in my humble opinion, is Hopiumforthemasses’ finest tune: Cult of Suffering. Probably won’t find its way into the live shows, or not for long if it does, but the Hammond organ sound and the anachronistic mood encapsulate Ministry’s ire far better than some of the albums previous tracks.

The overriding objective of Ministry, since their inception and over the course of all sixteen records, has been to musically assault its audience while offering a point of view. And, while one should never fully subscribe to anyone else’s opinion without robustly considering it yourself, the band have always offered a compelling argument.

But with every television programme and every film telling you how you should think, I look to music for some escapism; I love Ministry, but the opening salvos of Hopiumforthemasses are just too heavy on the message for me not to feel like I’m being talked at again.

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