Once considered the most powerful force in the industrial scene to the extent of needing to hold back an energetic live show via the restraint of onstage chain link fences, Al Jourgensen and friends find themselves now in 2021 with a fanbase yearning for their early golden days. And while I do sympathize with the masses' desire for another Psalm 69-level album, looking at the big picture of Ministry's evolution is clearly the more fulfilling perspective. They've blossomed through industrial metal, summoned groovy doom, and even tackled thrash. At this point in their career, I'm not really sure what Ministry should be classified as, besides a commendable lack of commitment to one genre. In their defense, that's one of the most exciting aspects of the band, their shape-shifting, jack-of-all-trades musical identity.
Applaudable subgenre diversity aside, the quality of their discography has admittedly been up and down over nearly four decades. Personally, I see The Land of Rape and Honey, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, Psalm 69, and Filth Pig as an exceptionally impressive streak of stellar releases in a row with the Bush trilogy albums being nearly comparable in killer tunes. I might be in the minority of the metal community for enjoying AmeriKKKant considering my love for the Filth Pig-like catchy and atmospheric doom-industrial traits, but I would've slimmed down a few of the song lengths.
Since I'm a fairly dedicated fan with a couple handfuls of constructive criticism on this latest Moral Hygiene release, let's at least start with the good news. There's some fresh new influences popping up, such as a Melvins-esque vocal delivery on "Good Trouble", and the post-punk and slightly gothic Type O Negative comparisons in "Believe Me." Their cover of The Stooges' "Search and Destroy" really works too, as it provides a twist on the original and delivers raw power. There's also feature of longtime collaborator Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) on "Sabotage is Sex" providsd some creative variety and evidence that there's still some zany heaviness present in Ministry's blood. Opener "Alert Level" is a haunting climate change warning piece and carries the same hypnotic groove momentum as AmeriKKKant, but also inherently could have been a couple minutes shorter. "We Shall Resist" had strikingly memorable production. The beats and atmosphere were very modern Skinny Puppy-like and I wish we had more of this quality of programming through the LP. Although the slowburner track deserved an actual satisfying climax, the potential for innovation was proven. Lastly, "TV Song (Right Around the Corner Mix)" was upbeat as hell and very reminiscent of their chaotic thrashy past.
I hold severely mixed feelings about the remaining songs. For example, while the guitar riff in "Disinformation" has an attention-grabbing, alternative Meshuggah or Lamb of God groove, the sample work feels a bit too 2019. I'm not one to shy away from loading an industrial track full of samples, yet during the repetition of Trump murmuring "fake news," the beating of a dead horse was front and center. The overindulgence of samples could be valid criticism lauded at Ministry in general even tracing back to classics like The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, however the hooks and abrasive layers kept listeners engaged back then. Now, the novelty has begun to wear thin and the samples don't punch as hard, becoming a glaring stubbed toe on the foot of half-baked songwriting. "We Shall Resist" and "Death Toll" are evidence of this claim as both filler tracks are no more than a soundscape with samples.
Before I wrap up this review with not the most warm endorsement, I'd like to elaborate that yes, this album has political moments, and no, I have absolutely no issue with that. Ministry has almost always been politically charged, left-leaning, or at the very least anti-authoritarian. I found it shocking when people were taken aback by previous singles like "Antifa." Scanning the themes of all their material, it would appear obvious and inevitable that Ministry would write a song revolving around the counter-conservative cultural concept or rambunctious, black-clothed individuals that represent anti-fascism. In this record, the messages within "Disinformation," "Good Trouble," or "Alert Level" should be viewed the same.
All in all, I don't hate it, but I'm not really hooked. And to be honest, Ministry have released some just okay albums in the past, so this fits in with their wavering inconsistency. Considering they have put out multiple iconic records, I feel they're allowed a few solid swings and misses. Moral Hygiene sits on the shelf with the other only semi-enjoyable LPs in their catalog like Dark Side of the Spoon, Animositisomina, and Relapse. While my overall feelings towards this album are lukewarm, there are also several pieces on here that could be fun additions to their live set.