Ministry – Wax Trax Records – 1981

I’m Falling / Primental

Cold Life

Debut 12″ record by Ministry released  on Wax Trax Records from Chicago. A very different sound to the heavy industrial guitar based sound that Al Jourgensen and Ministry have made popular for the last 20 years. Prepare to be mildly surprised at this debut release by the band.

Text from All Music

Until Nine Inch Nails crossed over to the mainstream, Ministry did more than any other band to popularize industrial dance music, injecting large doses of punky, over-the-top aggression and roaring heavy metal guitar riffs that helped their music find favor with metal and alternative audiences outside of industrial’s cult fan base. That’s not to say Ministry had a commercial or generally accessible sound: they were unremittingly intense, abrasive, pounding, and repetitive, and not always guitar-oriented (samples, synthesizers, and tape effects were a primary focus just as often as guitars and distorted vocals). However, both live and in the studio, they achieved a huge, crushing sound that put most of their contemporaries in aggressive musical genres to shame; plus, founder and frontman Al Jourgensen gave the group a greater aura of style and theater than other industrial bands, who seemed rather faceless when compared with Jourgensen’s leather-clad cowboy/biker look and the edgy shock tactics of such videos as “N.W.O.” and “Just One Fix.” After 1992’s Psalm 69, which represented the peak of their popularity, Ministry’s recorded output dwindled, partially because of myriad side projects and partially due to heroin abuse within the band, but the band continued to resurface through the rest of the decade.

Ministry were formed in 1981 by Alain Jourgensen (born October 8, 1958, Havana, Cuba); he had moved to the U.S. with his mother while very young and lived in a succession of cities, eventually working as a radio DJ and joining a new wave band called Special Affect (fronted by future My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult leader Frankie Nardiello, aka Groovie Mann). Featuring drummer Stephen George, Ministry debuted with the Wax Trax! single “Cold Life,” which — typical of their early output — was more in the synth pop/dance style of new wavers like the Human League or Thompson Twins. The album With Sympathy appeared on the major label Arista in 1983 and followed a similar musical direction, one that Jourgensen was dissatisfied with; he returned to Wax Trax! and recorded several singles while rethinking the band’s style and forming his notorious side project the Revolting Cocks.

In 1985, with Jourgensen the only official member of Ministry, the Adrian Sherwood-produced Twitch was released by Sire Records; while not as aggressive as the group’s later, more popular material, it found Jourgensen taking definite steps in that direction. Following a 1987 single with Skinny Puppy’s Kevin Ogilvie (aka Nivek Ogre) as PTP, Jourgensen once again revamped Ministry, with former Blackouts bassist Paul Barker officially joining the lineup to complement Jourgensen’s rediscovery of the guitar; fellow ex-Blackouts William Rieflin (drums) and Mike Scaccia (guitar), as well as vocalist Chris Connelly, were heavily showcased as collaborators for the first of several times on 1988’s The Land of Rape and Honey. With Jourgensen and Barker credited as Hypo Luxa and Hermes Pan, respectively, this album proved to be Ministry’s stylistic breakthrough, a taut, explosive fusion of heavy metal, industrial dance beats and samples, and punk aggression. Released in 1989, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste built on its predecessor’s artistic success, and In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up was recorded on its supporting tour, introducing other frequent Ministry contributors like drummer Martin Atkins (later of Pigface) and guitarist William Tucker (as well as featuring a guest shot from Jello Biafra). Jourgensen next embarked on a flurry of side projects, including the aforementioned Revolting Cocks (with Barker, Barker’s brother Roland, Front 242 members Luc Van Acker and Richard 23, and many more), 1000 Homo DJs (with Biafra, Rieflin, and Trent Reznor), Acid Horse, Pailhead (with Ian MacKaye), and Lard (again with Biafra, Paul Barker, Rieflin, and drummer Jeff Ward).

  1. Rich
    November 10, 2008 at 12:44 am

    I always thought that early Ministry really owed a lot to mid-period Cabaret Voltaire, in terms of sound, especially on their debut album, Twitch.
    Would love to see an Al Jourgenson radio playlist from back when he DJ’d.

  2. stirmonster
    November 10, 2008 at 6:06 am

    “twitch” wasn’t the debut album. the debut was “work for love” (or “with sympathy” as the american version was known). it was ridiculously poppy and was completely disowned by jourgensen. i have to confess to being rather fond of it myself.

    here’s a track from it (be warned, it’s a very different beast to any other ministry)

    oh, and “cold life” rules. nice one penguin.

  3. Nic
    November 10, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Nice choice, Penguin!
    Always expected the unexpected, eh? 🙂

    I always thought the ‘Land of Rape and Honey’ album was a really interesting approach: the aggression of Metal conveyed through the mechanical sheen of synths and electronics…

  4. Rich
    November 10, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    OH YES!
    I had probably subconsciously blocked out Work for Love.
    I would probably appreciate it now, but I vaguely remember the shock at having heard it (I discovered Ministry around the change-over from Twitch to Land of Rape and Honey).
    A agree with Nic, as well, in that Rape and Honey was pretty damn original.
    Jourgenson’s big contribution to rock was the melding of electro-industrial with the straight up aggression of Punk rock. I remember hearing it and thinking it was the future of music. No doubt countless people felt the same, given how influential it turned out to be. For better or worse.

  5. The Punk / Post Punk Tribe
    The Punk / Post Punk Tribe
    November 15, 2008 at 5:40 am

    I love them Synth period with sympathy (same old madness,revenge etc…) and them industrial period twitch ( Over The Shoulder etc…) after The land of rape and honey/the mind is a terrible thing to taste i give up it become to metal for my taste… on a side note i NEVER find same old madness on record 🙁

  6. Gary Sheputis
    Gary Sheputis
    October 17, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    I grew up with Wax Trax! records (I live in Chicago) and would blow half my paycheck sometimes when I shopped that store!–Wax Trax! was, is, & always will be my favourite record label–that time, that place, & that music will never be duplicated-ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Christian eh Belgian
    Christian eh Belgian
    April 1, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Funky Ministry = cool. Metal Ministry = ridiculous, in it for the teener’s money. Stopped loving Ministry after the first Revolting Cocks 12″. And do check that Dancetaria 7″ by Front 242 on Wax Trax as well!

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