Making Reviews for Nigel #7

The front cover of Ministry's The Land of Rape and Honey

The Land of Rape and Honey

*Artist: Ministry     *Released: October 11, 1988     *Genre: Industrial

*Top 3 songs: The Missing (#3), The Land of Rape and Honey (#2), I Prefer (#1)

Fun Fact: The record label refused to use the image of a burned Holocaust victim's corpse as the album cover, so Jourgensen decapitated a dead deer and took the head. He then drove from Austin to the Sire Records building in LA, personally delivered it to the head of the art department at the time, and said, "Here's your new f*#@$%g cover." We know who won in the end.

Personal ranking: 9/10

Unbiased ranking: 8.5/ 10

Every Sunday night on First Wave (Sirius XM channel 33) at 9 pm (CST) Dark Wave begins: a three-hour show hosted by Matt Sebastion (Slicing Up Eyeballs) dedicated to the “darker side of classic alternative.” I used to always miss the show due to having school the next day (this was before the app, where I now listen to the show on-demand).

One Sunday (5/26/19 to be exact) during my summer break, I attended a graduation party for one of my close friends. The party was outside, so you could tell when it was getting late. It was never my intention to leave the party to listen to Dark Wave, but it just so happened that I did. I got in the car and turned it on, saw that it was barely 9 pm, and switched the station to First Wave. The show had just started. Perfect. I waited to see what song was going to kick off my night drive back home. A scattering clap-drum machine was the first sound to pierce my ears. I looked to see the song information. It was “The Land of Rape and Honey” by Ministry.

I had never heard of them. A sampled, inaudible piece of audio entered, and then the sound of a reverbed cat screech cleared the atmosphere to allow a heavy, sequenced bass riff to take control. I was amazed. I stopped the show, pulled over, and started searching for Ministry on Apple Music. I went to their albums to try and guess which album the song was featured on. It didn’t take more than a second because the song was the title track of the album. I clicked on The Land of Rape and Honey and thought that if the album was worthy of being named after the track, then every track was going to be just as mind-blowing. I clicked on “Stigmata” and heard a light, reverbing high-hat until it was interrupted. Dum Dum Bum DUM. A loud drum machine settled itself in the song. Then at the 0:22 mark, a screech destroyed what was established. My ears and chest were being raped by explosive drums, screeching guitars, and distorted screaming. I knew that I was going to enjoy the drive back home that night.

*        *        *

If you don’t care about the condition of your ears, or don’t mind going deaf before you turn 30, then this album is for you to blast at the highest possible volume on your large, high-quality bass speaker (as I’m sure you possess). Not only will your ears experience the album’s heavy, industrial sound, but so will your chest. Your entire chest will be unable to avoid rupturing from the beat to the overpowering bass and kick drum (probably why the speakers in my mom’s car don’t work as well anymore). That’s the “rape” of the title, and the “honey” is the enjoyment of being bombarded by heavy beats on this “land” that is the album. Of course, that’s not the reason for the album’s title. It takes its name from the official slogan of Tinsdale, a town in Saskatchewan (Canada), “Land of Rape and Honey” (now being changed to “Opportunity Grows Here”). The slogan’s name was derived from the town’s rapeseed crops and a 16-foot statue of a honeybee. The band saw that slogan on a coffee mug decorated with some bees and wheat (the most innocent Al Jourgensen gets).

*     *     *

Ministry started off as a new wave, synth-pop duo with Al Jourgensen and Stephen George in the early 80s. Jourgensen has always had a distaste for their first album, With Sympathy, but he has grown to accept it (and will sign copies of the album for $1000, and then donate the money). Ministry released Twitch in ’86, which was a little preview of what direction Ministry would sonically and artistically transform themselves into later on (you could also cite Ministry side projects that Jourgensen was in, like PTP).

The Land of Rape and Honey is often viewed as Ministry’s first “true” record. A complete 180 turn (not as significant a turn as Radiohead with Kid A) away from their synth-duo roots to an aggressive, heavy and dark sound they will continue to pioneer and perfect. The album was released on the vinyl, CD, and cassette formats. I’m going to go by the tracklisting on the CD issued album (sorry vinyl, you don’t have my favorite song from the album). The flow of the album goes from “guitar” focused to “synth” focused. So, the songs can be split into two categories: guitar (first four songs) and NO guitar (remaining seven songs).

“Stigmata” is the leading song to announce the change within Ministry’s sound. A barrage of guitars and heavy drums instantly cleared the slate of their past sound. Jourgensen used distortion on his voice to completely drown out any memories of his previous voice singing in a fake British accent (yes, he did that and we forgive him). The main attraction of “Stigmata” is the bombastic barrage of heavy kick drums (I still believe the sound was produced from a drum machine) that are felt throughout the track, especially during what I call the “automatic firing” kick drums (you can hear this at the 2:01, 2:32, 3:29, and 4:35 mark of the song).

If you listen to “Stigmata” and immediately don’t crave a mosh pit, have no fear. The other guitar-focused songs will stimulate an overproduction of adrenaline to help you crave being in the pit. “The Missing” hits hard (literally!) with the drums and guitars. Jourgensen’s voice reached a deep, raspy projection to warn us of… WHO CARES! There is no time to focus on lyrics; only time for our ears to be destroyed with the heavy sound. The best part is “Watch yourself. THE MISSING! Watch yourself. THE MISSING! Watch yourself. THE MISSING!” The change in the guitar’s sound before the start of that warning is such a tease of the song calming down; that is until the song fades out (damn it! Why!?!).

Do not worry though. “Deity” will keep your head bashing and your body…moshing (?). “Deity” is another quick track with an explosive guitar, cymbal, and synth section to ruin whatever was left of your functioning eardrum. There’s a fake-out at the end to give you the hope of resting your ears, but NOPE, S#@T BITES BACK! One last explosive instrumentation and screams of “deity” and “if you say so” will kill the hope of your ears ever working properly.

And if “Deity” wasn’t enough to kill the hope, then the opening screech of “Golden Dawn” will do the trick (along with frog breathing/croaking, which will make sense later). The steady beat signals a change of pace and sound on the rest of The Land of Rape and Honey (LRH). The screeching dies (along with the guitars), giving the electronic synths and sampled audio time to shine. The sampled audio on “Golden Dawn” sounds like recordings of religious dialogue. (“The energy of Christ” or “the anti-Christ”?) Ministry would return to sampling religious dialogue on their album ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ (Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs). “Golden Dawn” ends its groove with breathing/croaking frogs (hey, look at that) to clear the way for “Destruction.”

We have more screeching to mark the beginning until *pause* “DESTRUCTION” is announced. “Destruction” is a song of simple lyrics (only one word). Various effects are used in the song: echoing of the lyric, bell, explosion, and steel (steel as in someone banging metal) samples, scattered drums, and a whining screech. Not too much to say about the song, but at this point, your “mosh pit craving” should be at an all-time low.

A distorted, eerie calliope appears after “Destruction,” only for the calliope to be cut off by reverbed percussion. I say percussion because I hear what sounds like a bass drum, snare drum, and a woodblock (look up “percussion woodblock” if you don’t know). These are the sounds that lay the beat for “Hizbollah.” The rest of the song contains a low, steady synth sequence and a sampled Lebanese song (I always got a Middle Eastern vibe and now I know why). If there’s anything to be controversial about LRH, its “Hizbollah.” The song title is a reference to an Islamic, Lebanese political party and militant group known as Hezbollah (genius changing one letter Jourgensen). I’m not going to explore the group, so if you want more info…look it up.

“Hizbollah” is pushed out of the way to make room for the title track. Hell yeah! Now we’re picking up the pace. There’s a sampled audio clip saying what is either “rape and honey” or “thieves and honey” (my money is on “thieves,” so I can say it foreshadowed “Thieves”). The thunderous clap effect, the loud, constant drums, and the chugging synth bass fused perfectly to deliver “The Land of Rape of Honey.” Of course, my favorite part is that “reverbed cat screech,” (probably a bad description, but you can hear it at the 0:17 mark; wish I could upload an audio clip of me doing the sound for some cringe points) just something about that sound instantly draws me to the song. The “mosh pit craving” isn’t back, but you can bash your head as “you climb the mountain” and “break.” Unfortunately, the song fades out, leaving the craving for more of the song. Fortunately, on the other hand, it fades out with a barrage of the “reverbed cat screech.” (Hell yeah!)

A laugh creeps up after the end of the title track. The laugh travels back and forth from the audio channels and then BOOM, an explosion, accompanied by a dark, heavy synth bass. A drum machine spews a “club” beat to keep your head bashing in sync. “You Know What You Are” contains a sample of the track’s title (my favorite sample of this song is “Come on motherf#*@er.” It makes me laugh because I see it as random, but it’ll come back later), and continuous use of the “laugh track.” Jourgensen’s voice sounds possessed. No lyrics are audible from the possessed, processed voice. I’m surprised no other artists have sampled the bass synth of the song, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone did sample it (the bass synth is such a dark groove).

Another song fades out (this time with the “laughing track”), only for the next to begin with a signature Ministry sound: a power drill. “I Prefer” is my favorite track on the album. If you thought I liked the bass synth from “You Know What You Are” you’re WRONG! “I Prefer” has the superior sequenced bass synth. All I hear from the synth is “bop Bop BOp BOP.” Jourgensen doesn’t sing this track. Instead, its sung by Chris Connelly. “I Prefer” isn’t anything too special on LRH. It’s quick, straight to the point, and a nice song to get me in the mood for some “flagellation.”

The last two songs on LRH are “Flashback” and “Abortive.” You can view these tracks as inseparable because “Flashback” immediately leads into “Abortive.” A sampled “now look man,” some orgasmic beats (figuratively and literally), and a distorted synth alerts the start of “Flashback.” On the song, we have Jourgensen singing “motherf#*@er” (the lyric is “laugh like a mother#*@er, so laughing and the word are all coming back together) so that’s fun. The best, and by best I mean funny, parts of the song are the sampled “no, no, no, no” and the lyric “p*ss on her face,” which are both complete and total Jourgensen. “Abortive” is a running beat and bass synth with incorporated samples of audio from NASA. Not really a great track to end LRH. I would have had “Flashback” as the final track (so I can have “I Prefer” on the vinyl), but this was Jourgensen’s project. This was his first baby, of many,  to begin the lineage of Ministry’s sound.

*        *        *

The Land of Rape and Honey is not Ministry’s best album. Many say its ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ. I would argue that The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste is their best, but The Land of Rape and Honey will always be my favorite Ministry album. It’s an album that prepares the ears for albums that were modeled after their elder, biological brother (sorry With Sympathy and Twitch). So, if you’re wondering what to listen to during October (spooky season), I would tell you to forget the “Monster Mash,” burn the s#*t out of “Thriller,” and don’t even think about snapping to “The Addams Family Theme.” Instead, I’d ask you to take a trip to where the sounds are loud, and the beats are heavy. Take a trip to visit The Land of Rape and Honey.