Written by Xavier Cattarinich
I Know Words
Victims of a Clown
TV 5-4 Chan
We’re Tired of It
Release Date: March 9, 2018
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Al Jourgensen - Vocals, guitars, programming, keyboards, samples John Bechdel - Keyboards Sin Quirin - Guitars
Cesar Soto - Guitars Tony Campos - Bass Derek Abrams - Drums DJ Swamp - Turntables
For anyone who has followed the band over the years, it should come as no surprise that the current socio-political climate in America would have sparked inspiration in a man who once created a trilogy of albums--Houses Of The Molé, Rio Grande Blood, and The Last Sucker—to express his disdain for George W. Bush and his policies. And thus, we come to Jourgensen’s latest stab at the conservative establishment: AmeriKKKant. Not sure what to make of the title, which essentially is a clever way of saying ‘American hate speech’? Then the cover art—depicting the Statue Of Liberty doing a face palm while the Declaration Of Independence burns in her other hand and warplanes and search lights scour the skies over New York City—conveys Jourgensen’s views in no uncertain terms. If you’re a Trump supporter, alt-right sympathizer, or proud white supremacist/xenophobe/fascist, then I strongly suspect that AmeriKKKant will not appeal to you.
The opening track, “I Know Words”, wastes no time in belittling President Trump, relying on trademark Ministry sampling of a pitch-shifted (i.e., slowed and very dumb-sounding) PotUS bragging about making America great again, building a wall, and knowing words... stupid words... like war. War. War. The samples, against a backdrop of record-ripping and ominous Middle Eastern-sounding cello arrangements (be afraid of ‘foreigners’, very afraid!), eventually assert that ‘We will make America stupid again / We will make America great again.’ Too much confusion. I can’t get no relief.
“I Know Words” leads straight into the “Twilight Zone,” one of the album’s singles, in which Jourgensen rants about the stupidity of his fellow Americans. He laments waking up on November 9, 2016, feeling disgusted and depressed and wondering if the election was all a nightmare, or if America had slipped into the Twilight Zone. ‘The truth,’ rages Jourgensen, ‘is under arrest.’ I’m sorry, Al, but that’s fake news.
The nightmare continues in “Victims Of A Clown,” in which several well-chosen samples from Charlie Chaplin’s speech in The Great Dictator inject a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak collection of songs. ‘I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white,’ says Chaplin, who eventually exclaims the refrain of the track, ‘You, the people have the power! Let us all unite!’
“TV 5-4 Chan” and “Wargasm” take aim at America’s racism and xenophobia, as well as its obsession with violence and firearms, the latter song framing the political elite’s addiction to war in psycho-sexual terms and featuring some spoken word segments courtesy of Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell. While most of the album falls in the mid-tempo range, “We’re Tired Of It” is a lightning blitz condemning the Christian alt-right’s hypocrisy and the sanctification of ignorance. It’s a track that would have been right at home on Psalm 69. The album’s first single, “Antifa,” is undoubtedly the most controversial song on AmeriKKKant. Written from an anti-fascist point of view, one might easily interpret the song as an anthem glorifying the Antifa movement, factions within which have been widely criticized for resorting to violent activism that arguably harms their cause more than it aids it. That said, its driving rhythm edges out “Victims Of A Clown” as the most compelling song on the album.
Musically, AmeriKKKant emphasizes straightforward mid- to uptempo metal riffs over the electronic programming typical of the industrial genre. All in all, it’s a relatively accessible album lacking the intensity of Psalm 69 and Rio Grande Blood. That said, the effective layering of cello arrangements in several songs, the use of harmonica over lumbering riffs in “Twilight Zone,” and the creative use of samples and turn-tabling, courtesy of DJ Swamp and guest Arabian Prince work well with Jourgensen’s extensive use of Trump and old film/TV samples. On the down side, three songs (“Twilight Zone,” “Victims Of A Clown,” and “AmeriKKKa”) stretch past the eight minute mark—too long, given that none of them really build to anything remarkable, and the greater reliance on samples over vocals does get tedious at times. More to the point, it dulls Jourgensen’s fury. As a whole, I find AmeriKKKant to be an enjoyable, if not an overly spectacular listen. The album fizzles with its two lacklustre end tracks, “Game End” and “AmeriKKKa.” Still, in a time when the extreme metal underground is often viewed, rightly or wrongly, as a breeding ground for fascist voices, it’s inspiring to see bands like Ministry standing up to ignorance and intolerance.
Final Rating: 7/10