July 2021 Feature Release – The Sphere Edition
So just like that we find that a new month is upon us which of course means that we’ll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we’re asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don’t be shy.
This month’s feature release for The Sphere has been selected by yours truly. 1989's seminal "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste" album may have been the fourth full-length album for Chicago-based industrial metal legends Ministry however it was also their first to fully embrace a predominantly metal focused sound after the band started their recording career as a synthpop artist in the early 1980's. On top of that, it was actually my introduction to Ministry way back in the day & has subsequently always commanded a strong position in my industrial metal hierarchy. It's been a very long time since I last experienced "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste" though so I'm not only keen to introduce it to some of you lucky people but I'm also excited to see how I rate it in the modern day.
I did a review for this album as part of a DIS vs DAT debate, which I sure look forward to doing these again, and needless to say, I prefer the other band's album slightly over this one, and that other band later became one of my true entryways into industrial metal. Anyway, here's my summary:
The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste has left a different impression in my young mind compared to Godflesh's Streetcleaner. Back then, electronic madness and guitar aggression were an innovative combo. Both albums are known as as the spawn of industrial metal, though Godflesh's debut gets more credit. Anyway, you'll find a lot of standard industrial metal motives such as hyper guitar riffing, distorted screams, programmed beats, and synthesized samples. This album would have, JUST would have, started my industrial metal interest if it wasn't for two sh*tters near the end that brought the score down a bit. Fortunately, it's only down to 4.5 stars because of how great those other 7 tracks are. The Mind is a...revolution starter for a different metal genre that is industrial metal, alongside Godflesh's Streetcleaner, to inspire bands like Fear Factory and Rammstein. I suppose I could one day listen to its developing predecessor, but for this album, this is for industrial metal fans who want their head tossed around. Otherwise, look out!
I must admit, I've only heard two or three of Ministry's albums, but I kind of like what's going on there. They are a band that sound quite irreverent, which is not a very common trait in metal. Their industrial rhythms are not the most punishing you're likely to hear, but somehow they just seem like a fun listen. There is a fair bit of post-punk influence mixed in with the metal on this album. Cannibal Song, for example, sounds very much like a track from John Lydon's seminal band Public Image Limited and So What is another track that gives more than a passing nod to PIL. The rhythm track to Breathe sounds like that Run DMC vs Jason Nevins track, It's Like That and has a real bouncy feel, in complete contrast to the serious environmental theme of the lyrics. It's not something I would listen to often and it certainly isn't the most metal album you'll ever hear, but I could see myself returning to it at some point if I fancy a change.
You may be aware of the commonly used phrase that states that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" & there's rarely been a better example of that idea than with my first revisit to "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste" in a couple of decades. This album represents one my earliest experiences with the industrial metal subgenre (along with Godflesh's legendary "Streecleaner" album from around the same period) & it came at a time when I was deeply entrenched in the extreme metal scene. There was something different & quite special about Ministry & songs like "Thieves" & "Burning Inside" would become regular plays on my Walkman over the next year or so. 1992's "Psalm 69" would see Ministry take off into the stratosphere & become a household name & this has meant that it's "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste" is often overlooked in favour of its younger sibling however I'd like to suggest that it's not all that far behind it in terms of overall quality. Don't get me wrong. I still prefer the thrashier & more consistently metallic violence of "Psalm 69" but when you look at it closely you'll find that "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste" more than holds its own alongside it. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's a genuine classic for the genre & not just because it its timing either.
The album begins with what can only be described as two complete industrial metal anthems in the two iconic tracks I mentioned earlier & there are likely many fans that feel that the album peaked too early & never quite recovered the same level of intensity. However, I'd argue that the more stripped back & atmospheric numbers like the post-punk inspired "Cannibal Song" & closing industrial darkwave piece "Dream Song" are equally as potent only in a very different way. There's not a weak track on the tracklisting actually. Sure, the rap vocals on "Test" drag it down a fair bit however it's far from an embarrassment with its gradual building of tension & climactic crescendo. I definitely prefer it when the vocals take that aggressive approach run through gurgly effects though. That technique has gone on to be a staple of the Ministry arsenal over the years & for good reason. Some of the dance-tempo beats on a few of the tracks sound a little dated by today's standards but there's an air of authenticity & a universal electricity about all of this material that I find really fresh & exciting, even when listening to it in the modern day. This is the sign of a special group of musicians & I think that Ministry were such a group at the time.
If you're a fan of industrial rock or metal then I'd suggest that "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste" should be essential listening along with the records either side of it. Ministry have managed to beautifully layer their interest in more extreme music over the top of a wealth of generally dark influences that include industrial, post-punk, gothic rock & darkwave & have come up with a ground-breaking & seminal work that played a strong role in developing the genre. Is there an element of nostalgia attached to my feelings? I'm not too sure but I can't deny my inclination to label this record as a classic metal release these days.
For fans of White Zombie, Red Harvest & "Broken"-era Nine Inch Nails.
Needless to say from my review, I do not share the same levels of enthusiasm for this record as most of you. Meandering at times with only two songs I actually find palatable and these are still not without fault. I get the layering and how it shows the variety of influences but it is all so boring in the direction they take it I just cannot justify the time it takes to explore the album in full when I am already seeing such little return on my investment from the initial few minutes of each track as it starts off.
I'm with Vinny on this one sadly, this one became pretty unlistenable after the 3rd attempt. "Thieves" starts out fine with its opening riff, introducing the Industrial style and metallic sound effects that sets the tone for what the rest of the album will be, but the repetitiveness of the whole thing mercilessly dashes most positive things I can say about this album. Each track has something that I like about it, like the instrumental transition after the chorus of "Burning Inside" or the repetitive bassline that actually works out on "Cannibal Song", but man, some of these songs I just can't get behind at all. "So What" has relentlessly annoying ad-libs and refuses to end while offering nothing of value past the first two minutes, the synth-y "Never Believe" is wholly uninteresting, the premise behind "Test" is interesting at first but falls flat on its face after repeated listens, "Faith Collapsing" feels like a rehash of "Cannibal Song", and "Dream Song" is an admittedly interesting but still totally dull atmospheric ender. I guess this kind of repetitive riffing and use of ideas isn't for me because I can't see myself returning to this one, which is a shame because I seriously enjoy Psalm 69 to this day. I'm starting to think that Ministry are a one album band for me after I didn't really enjoy Houses of the Molé too much either.