I’ve seen this happen before in other peoples careers. Firstly, an album with enormous potential - something that puts them right on the cusp of the mainstream. And then.... whatever happens next fails to follow through. The moment is lost, momentum is abandoned. Sales enter into diminishing returns, radio & television concentrate on another fad.
But that’s another matter completely. Ministry are lost in record company netherworld. Set free from Warners after a redundant, ill-timed, superfluous, underperforming and unpromoted “Best Of”, they exist in a no-mans land - signed to the place where bands go to die, Sanctuary, home of has-beens and never-weres such as Rob Halford of Megadeth
After this there’s nowhere to go but down - at least in terms of numbers. But whilst you go, you might as well take as many of the rest of them out with you whilst you can. In some respects this fiercely uncompromising barrage is nothing more than a sequel to 1990’s seminal 'In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up'. And like most sequels it ups the ante. Instead of the breakneck frantic 1990 live album (predating the platinum 'Psalm 69'), 'Sphinctour' offers the 1996 model - touring the vastly underrated, psychotic 'Filth Pig' album - assaulting your ears.
In 61 minutes, Ministry offer little variation - you can have vast swathes of guitar and fast drumming, or vast swathes of guitar and slow drumming. Whatever speed it is, it sounds like walls moving in, and buildings collapsing around your ears. However, whereas Marilyn Manson and all that, have spotwelded the Ministry blueprint to shock tactics and swearing, Ministry though are the originals. Predating Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and just about everyone else you can think, creating dense massive sprawls of industrial music that sound like the hangover from a psychotic drug episode.
Even now, ten years after recording, 'NWO' and 'Just One Fix capture the psychotic madness of Redneck America. President Bush babbles on about “Right & Wrong“, and “New World Order” whilst Al Jourgensen screams incoherently, and it sounds like the rest of the world is collapsing around your ears. It shows either how prescient Ministry are, or how little the world had changed in the past decade.
The live performances are absolutely precise, spot on, perfect representations of the Ministry sound. Undubbed, direct to 2-track recordings of a band naked, exposed under the spotlight glare, and fighting the idiocy of the world.
Like most people, off in a world of their own, trying out new ideas and sounds, Ministry are often on their own, and (like the Pixies and the Velvet Underground) the type of band that may not have sold much, but everyone who heard them started their own band. If you want to know how amazing the possibilities of rock music are, and what it can offer, you can certainly do worse than start here.
8Mark Reed's Score