Ministry – The Land Of Rape And Honey
Ministry are a band that have never thwarted controversy and before we even begin to discuss the music here, its the album name itself and the album art which both strike first. The album title, a play on the words from the bible story whereby God told Moses he would bring the Israelites out of Egypt and into a land flowing with milk and honey, is actually a slogan from a small town in Canada whose main industries are rapeseed and honey. The album cover is an altered photograph taken of a TV showing a Holocaust documentary. Of course the record label were going to object and refuse to print such an offensive ideology and of course Al Jourgensen wasn’t going to take no for an answer. So after spotting some deer roadkill in Texas, he cut off the head and drove to LA where he proceeded to enter Sire Records offices with the head, found the head of the art department and threw the rotten deer remains onto his desk exclaiming “Here’s your new fucking cover”. History tells us Al got his way. History and media also tell us that the industrial genre has a questionable relationship with extreme right-wing ideologies and one cannot avoid thinking that hard-line mentalities such as that just exemplified by uncle Al, simply do not help the situation.
Of course neither does littering the title track with a samples of Nazis screaming sieg-heil to Hitler (from the 1979 film The Tin Drum). Jourgensen claims the art and samples are a paradox, a juxtaposition and that he is in no way a Nazi sympathizer, and that he is a “lefty liberal and almost a communist”, perhaps backed up by the fact that, while on The Land Of Rape Of Honey Tour in 1990, he launched into a verbal tirade against George Bush senior. Its quite clear that Sire Records didn’t understand his politics, considering they shipped out Ministry CDs to troops in Baghdad fighting in the Gulf War as a means to get their blood going.
Right through her chest”
Is there a better way to describe the sound of The Land Of Rape And Honey? The track from which those lyrics are lifted, Flashback, is a brutal, synth heavy industrial punk song that captures the insanity of Ministry in 1988. The record label forced synthpop of With Sympathy was long gone, the dominant Adrian Sherwood sound on Twitch was only maintained in terms of production skills learned by Al. This is the record Al Jourgensen had always wanted to make.
Uncle Al has admitted to being what he calls a functional addict during the making of TLORAH, taking cocaine and injecting heroin, spending record company advances and remix monies on getting high. The drugs combined with two motorcycle crashes were not enough to finish him, TLORAH was invincible and inevitable! Cutting up reel to reel tapes with a razor blade for up to 14 hours at a time, throwing these slices on the floor and randomly piecing them together to see what works seems like an incredulous way of working, especially upon hearing the album, which sounds focused and forthright, and certainly not like a hodgepodge of ideas. Samples were recorded in real time – there were no digital sample libraries in 1988 – in fact the guitars on Ministry fan favourite Stigmata, which opens this album, are all sampled. With Paul Barker now in the Ministry lineup, Jourgensen had completed the infamous Hypo Luxa/Hermes Pan production duo, allegedly named after two male Greek prostitutes. Dismissing Barker’s influence to the Ministry sound, as Al does, is a mistake – the added groove and rhythm is undeniably, at least partially, attributable to Barker’s skills.
The Land Of Rape And Honey became a pillar for the industrial boom in 1988, which also saw albums by Skinny Puppy, Front 242 and Front Line Assembly be released. While the albums from these respective artists were/are all great in their own right, none of them had Ministry’s precision, the in for the kill approach and none of them had that crossover appeal TLORAH had. Thanks to its infusion of guitars, TLORAH managed to grab the attention of the metal world and garnered Ministry a larger fan base. A fact not missed by Skinny Puppy’s lead singer Ogre, who asked Jourgensen to produce their next album, 1989’s Rabies. They went on to create such industrial greats as Rodent and Tin Omen, no mean feat considering the tension during the recording process – Cevin Key of Skinny Puppy did not want Al there in the first place and Dwayne Goettel was killing himself with heroin.
The Land Of Rape And Honey succeeded in selling 600,000 copies in the US and peak at 164 in the Billboard Top 200. But the reality is that nobody who listens to this album cares about the numbers. TLORAH is about feeling, its about exorcising demons via the powers of industrial music! It is undoubtedly the purest industrial album Ministry ever recorded so perhaps it comes as no surprise that this is Al Jourgensen’s favourite Ministry album.