Some might say Trump’s been largely unchallenged by the rock music community.
Presidents have endured all manner of lampooning in the media and provided plenty of fodder for punk, metal and rock n’ roll critiques. Suicidal Tendencies released “I Shot Reagan” in 1983 and a broad spectrum of politically-themed music has skewered every president since. Things slowed down during the Obama term, possibly due to his relative alignment with predominantly liberal artists. But despite Donald Trump’s first year, which could objectively be described as the most unusual presidency in recent history, there’s been surprisingly little irreverence from popular music. Al Jourgensen, however, has been around a long time. At 60 years of age, he’s not only responsible for some of the most angry, politically motivated music of our generation but he takes pride in wielding it with an unmistakable vocal and thunderous, increasingly epic production. Thus, with AmeriKKKant, a man who should be more worried about whether he gets enough fiber in his diet has ground out some of the most ferocious Ministry sounds since The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste.
This is the 14th studio album from a band that came from something more akin to dark disco. Ministry travelled the road with Nine Inch Nails and Front Line Assembly into heavy, angry electronica, and finally shed most of their goth fan base by gravitating toward guitar-heavy industrial metal. This is where Jourgensen and his collaborators have been sitting for most of their recent career. That formula has not changed on AmeriKKKant but there is an unmistakable effort to bring back some of the rage and dark melody found on The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and Psalm 69.
The first track is a three-minute intro decorated with audio of Donald Trump as dancing clown — chopped, screwed, and stuttering through “We will make America great again!”, then juxtaposed with a convincing remix as “We will make America stupid again!” In his first year, Trump and his administration has provided an all-you-can-eat buffet full of material to be mocked, and Jorgensen mines it for everything from the most obvious samples to obscure media clips that put things in context.
Horns and scribble scratches play an unusually large and up-front role on much of this album, but this unfortunately comes off as a lazy dramatic element which detracts from the otherwise heavy sound. Giant-sounding drums are timed with guitar riffs to invoke s a looming storm. Jourgensen’s holler, processed to sound like a demon roaring out vocals from deep inside a well, works beautifully, but such details as harmonica on “Twilight Zone” and brass on “Victims of Clown” feel unnecessary and detract from an otherwise crushing weight.
As on other Ministry records, you’ll find the signature “TV” track, in this case “TV 5/4 chan” — a reference to the notorious internet chat room from which many of the more reprehensible internet memes and movements arise. It’s a punishing quick-edit of news samples and chopped up guitar riffs. “We’re Tired of It” is about as hard as you’ll ever hear the band, and is sure to be a playlist staple for both hardcore and metal fans. With a tempo and format reminiscent of “Deity” from The Land of Rape and Honey, instead of an electronic lock-step we get a much more familiar sound of distorted death metal riffs.
Despite re-exploring familiar territory, AmeriKKKant sounds fresh and satisfying for old fans and a new audience. If it’s not breaking new ground, it does a great job showing off the relics of the old. At this point in his career, you might expect Jourgensen to wind it down, but he appears more alive and angry than ever. Some might say Trump’s been largely unchallenged by the rock music community; it’s inspiring to see someone with a little seniority rise to the occasion.