Artist Spotlight: Jourgensen / Barker / Connelly / Rieflin (or; The Ministry Industrial Complex) [Part 8 of 10]

Part 1 here. Part 2 here. Part 3 here. Part 4 here. Part 5 here. Part 6 here. Part 7 here.

Revolting Cocks – Cocked & Loaded (2006) / Ministry – Rio Grande Blood (2006)

Over the course of 2004-05, Al Jourgensen recorded what would be the next Revolting Cocks album. He had been trying to get this thing off the ground since at least 2001, when he told Alternative Press that the new RevCo was going to have Lady Miss Kier from Deee-Lite and Axl Rose on it. Obviously, that never happened, but I lay awake at night thinking of what could’ve been. Chris Connelly was originally going to take part, but he dropped out, very likely because of Paul Barker leaving the band.

While the album didn’t bring back the O.G.s, it did bring with it some heavy hitters. It brings in Gibby Haynes and Jello Biafra to relive some former glories, but also adds Cheap Trick’s guitarist Rick Neilson and vocalist Robin Zander, and has some guitar by ZZ Top’s Bill Gibbons, who was a longtime fan of the band. Also, Stevie Banch from Spyder Baby handles some vocals on “Fire Engine”, an Iggy Pop cover and one of the standout tracks. He was the big new signing for Jourgensen’s 13th Planet Records, but there was an argument about something, surprise, and he got dropped. More on the label later.

Cocked & Loaded was released in February 2006, and the album… isn’t great, but it does have a few good songs on it. Good songs, not great songs. It has the aforementioned “Fire Truck”, and then it has “Caliente”, which is literally just Gibby Haynes ranting overtop of Bauhaus’s “Dark Entries”. Biafra’s track “Dead End Streets”, but other than that, it’s pretty forgettable. With the exception of “RevColution Medley” and “Revolting Cock au Lait” which are trying so desperately to be “Linger Ficken’ Good”.

Meanwhile, on May 5, 2006, Ministry released Rio Grande Blood, part 2 of Jourgensen’s “Bush Trilogy”. He stated that the songs on the album reflected how he was harassed by the Bush Administration after Houses of the Molé was released. He stated they were treated as criminals, and not activists, and that’s what the album is about. He claims that he was targeted by the IRS seven times, and believes his phones were tapped.

Once again, Jourgensen was rebuilding the band almost from scratch. He brought in guitarist Tommy Victor from Prong, and bassist Paul Raven (Killing Joke, Murder Inc., Prong). Mark Baker stayed on as drummer, but was replaced on the tour by Joey Jordison (Slipknot).

Rio Grande Blood shows Jourgensen clearly running out of steam, and having an R. Lee Emery wanna-be on his own song is pretty lame. There are still some great tracks here, but it’s the same territory as the last album, just a sort of thrash metal retread. “Lieslieslies” was nominated for a Grammy, and “The Great Satan” appears here in a remixed form after debuting on Rantology (which has a superior mix of Houses of the Molé’s “Warp City”).

Jourgensen had the brilliant idea to tour RevCo and Ministry together, which in 1993, would’ve been a revelation. But in 2006, when his health was terrible, and the band was not getting along on the road, Jourgensen realized what a bad idea it was.  Tensions were mostly between Raven/Victor and Jordison, or more accurately, Jordison and everyone else.

13th Planet Records

Jourgensen started his own label in partnership with Megaforce Records, called 13th Planet. Jourgensen maintained that this was not just a vanity imprint, but really it is. Other than RevCo, Ministry, and an Al Jourgensen Christmas single (?!), they’ve only put out one album by Prong, one album by Burton C. Bell’s (Fear Factory) Ascension of the Watchers, something called DethRok, and an album by False Icons, the band of Ministry associate John Bechdel. But Jourgensen obviously subscribes to the Martin Atkins/Invisible Records way of running a label, because 13th Planet has put out 3 Ministry remix albums, 2 live Ministry albums, 1 Prong remix album, and 3 RevCo remix albums. There’s also been two more RevCo albums on the label: 2009’s Sex-O Olympic-O and 2010’s ¿Got Cock?, which I will not be covering because they are just Ministry in bad drag and I don’t want to poison my Spotify account.

The label hasn’t officially folded, but they also haven’t released anything since 2014, and Ministry is releasing records through Nuclear Blast, so I assume it’s over.

USSA – The Spoils (2007)

Paul Barker joined forces with Jesus Lizard/Tomahawk guitarist Duane Dennison, and recorded an album in the fall of 2006, after adding vocalist Gary Call and drummer Johnny Rabb (who later joined Collective Soul). Despite having one of the ugliest albums covers I have ever seen, the album is a very good listen.

The Spoils, released in September of 2007, is a sort of shoe-gaze / indie / post-punk album, that recalls The Blackouts more than it recalls Ministry. While Barker and Dennison are the “names” hear, they earn that status.  If you’re even passingly familiar with either of the bands they are most known for, you can hear their styles coming through full force. Even so, Call and Rabb hold their own. Call has a real tortured scream, and I hope he surfaces again someday, because if he didn’t it would be a shame.

There were rumblings of a second album, that some people have claim to have heard, as recently as 2011. However, it is apparently sitting on a shelf in a bomb shelter somewhere, waiting to be discovered.

Ministry – The Last Sucker (2007)

Jourgensen assembled more or less the same lineup from Rio Grande Blood. Victor and Raven were back, but the drums were all programmed, as Jourgensen said he didn’t want to work with any “prima donna drummers”. New guitarist Sin Quirin was added to the lineup, and keyboardist John Bechdel returned to working with the group after spending time touring with Fear Factory and Ascension of the Watchers. Speaking of Fear Factory, vocalist Burton C. Bell sang on three songs on the album.

The Last Sucker, the final part of the “Bush Trilogy”, was released September 18, 2007 to mixed reviews. Even Jourgensen said he was kind of over it. He said that by the end of the trilogy, he started to feel bad for President Bush, thinking he was just a guy who railroaded by his administration. Jourgensen is over it, and it shows. The album is pretty lackluster, and even on tour, he brought Bell to sing the old songs while he left the stage early. The album does have a cover of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”, which, is just a typical turned up to 11 butt rock extravaganza.

Before the tour could commence, Paul Raven died on October 20, 2007 of a heart attack. Ministry was joined on tour by Static-X bassist Tony Campos and Prong drummer Aaron Rossi.

Ministry & Co-Conspirators – Cover Up (2008)

Technically, Ministry was over, and they get around this by adding “& Co-Conspirators” to this album artist name.

Remember how I said “Roadhouse Blues” was butt rock turned up to 11? Yeah, this is more of the same. Three of the songs had already been released, and really the ones that stand up best to the Ministry treatment are Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin’” and ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid”.

Flowering Blight – The Perfect Pair (2008)

In November of 2008, Barker had resurrected the old band name Flowering Blight, and released The Perfect Pair.

Not Lead Into Gold, but not not Lead Into Gold, either. Some songs, “Flowering Blight” and “Holy Sugarwater” (a reworking of USSA’s “Only Sugarwater”) would fit right in on a Lead Into Gold release, but then other tracks such as “The Perfect Pair” and “Even In This Day”, are different from his prior output. Barker uses considerably less distortion on his vocals here, and some songs feature live drums by Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails, about 1000 other bands).

The High Confessions – Turning Lead Into Gold with The High Confessions (2010)

During all of this, Connelly had been cranking out solo albums: 2004’s Night of Your Life, 2007’s The Episodes, 2008’s Forgiveness & Exile, and 2009’s Pentland Firth Howl.

But the most interesting thing Connelly did was team up with Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelly, Minsk’s Sanford Parker, and White/Light’s Jeremy Lemos. The result was The High Confessions, a group that is part psychedelia, part kraut rock, and part droning post-rock. The result is an album that is difficult, challenging, and also a little scary.

Turning Lead Into Gold with The High Confessions has 5 tracks, 6 on the vinyl edition/special edition (both editions are on Spofity), one song is four minutes long, one is over nine minutes long, three are over 11 minutes, and the longest is over seventeen. The real shame here, is that the bonus track is by far their best, and is relegated to the end of the bonus edition (that was pretty rare for a time). “I Thought It Was Snow, Instead It Was Flies” brings to mind a serial killer singing to his victim. Connelly’s vocal is completely unhinged in a way that he’s never quite done before.

If you take nothing else away from this long-ass series, check out this album ASAP. The six-track version is available digitally on Bandcamp.

Bill Rieflin 2010-Onward

Rieflin resumed working with Swans, contributing to 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, 2014’s To Be Kind, and 2016’s The Glowing Man. He also played on R.E.M.’s Collapse Into Now from 2011. In 2012, Rieflin also played drums on Taylor Swift’s song “The Last Time”, and in 2013 he joined King Crimson.

Ministry & Co-Conspirators – Undercover (2010)

Despite technically not existing, Ministry released another (sort of) cover album. Except that it’s part covers, and part re-recordings of old Ministry tracks, including “Every Day Is Halloween”, “N.W.O.”, “Stigmata”, and “Jesus Built My Hotrod”. Released in December, it’s almost the exact same compilation that was released in October by Cleopatra Records, except this version has a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, and the Cleopatra version has an “Electro” remix of “Halloween”.

Chris Connelly – Artificial Madness (2011)

Connelly returned in 2011 with Artificial Madness, with High Confessions’ Sanford Parker staying on as producer (and keyboardist). The album is a vicious slab of post-punk, and it comes off as David Bowie fronting early Wire. There wasn’t any real other info I could find about it, I found where Connelly broke the album down track by track, but it wasn’t particularly helpful.

In short, if you only get one Connelly solo album, make it Shipwreck. If you get two, get Artificial Madness.

Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters – Bikers Welcome Ladies Drink Free (2011)

The idea of Jourgensen having a country alter ego goes back at least to 1995, when it was often touted about in magazines and it was coming out any day now! Well, in 2011, Jourgensen assembled Static-X bassist Tony Campos, Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, a drum machine, and Mike Scaccia, and recorded Bikers Welcome Ladies Drink Free. Jourgensen calls it “country-core” and “heavy western”, but really, it’s kind of bland cowpunk.

Next week: Reunions! Spin-offs! Documentaries!