Sound: Ministry may technically have released its final album The Last Sucker back in September, but it's obvious we haven't heard the last from vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Al Jourgensen. In what could now be called the official last release from Ministry, the band collaborated with a variety of musicians that have been dubbed Co-Conspirators, which includes the likes of Prong's Tommy Victor and ex-Fear Factory vocalist Burton C Bell. As the title Cover Up might imply, the new 11-track CD features a variety of covers from eras past, with Jourgensen giving his unique industrial twist to each one. There are definitely some interesting moments along the way, but some problems arise when the band drags the songs out a bit longer than they need to be.
Out of all the covers, the Rolling Stones' Under My Thumb has the ability to reach more than just Ministry's usual fan base. Thanks to an '80s-inspired synth line running throughout the track, Under My Thumb feels like it would be home back in the New Wave days rather than in the Stones' heyday. It's almost radio friendly, too, when you match the lighthearted arrangement against Jourgensen's growl. Along with the synth you can distinctly hear an acoustic guitar prominently in the mix, while the electric comes across cleaner than in any of the other covers. It's one of the most successful arrangements, even with it's lack of riffs.
You really can't go wrong with a classic guitar line like the on Deep Purple's Space Truckin', and that particular cover is one of the most well-executed on the album. The band wisely chose Co-Conspirator Victor to take over the vocals and guitar on Space Truckin', and it works beautifully. Vocally Victor can be a chameleon, at times sounding like Sammy Hagar and at others he goes all King Diamond on us. The arrangement might not be as intricate as it is on Under My Thumb, but it wins hands-down on pure likeability.
The most unusual choices for covers are Bob Dylan's Lay Lady Lay and Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World. Ministry and the Co-Conspirators successfully take the Dylan classic and completely transform it into some new -- namely a hypnotic, atmospheric work of industrialism. Does it work? It's interesting, but it also tends to get drawn out and you do get a bit hypnotized by the almost psychedelic arrangement at times. It definitely bares little resemblance to the original, which depending on who you ask, could be a good or bad thing. What A Wonderful World surprisingly remains somewhat true to the original at the beginning, with the focus being on a sensitive-sounding Jourgensen and piano. But in Ministry fashion, the entire industrial crew takes things in it's distinctive effects-laden direction at the halfway mark. // 7
Lyrics: While Ministry is known for having a flair for the political in its lyrics, it's actually kind of refreshing to hear the band do some straight-out classic rock. You get lyrics from the likes of The Doors (Roadhouse Blues), ZZ Top (Just Got Paid), Black Sabbath (Supernaut), and Bob Dylan (Lay Lady Lay), so you can probably imagine that the themes are all over the place. That mix makes for a pretty interesting lyrical journey. // 10
Overall Impression: Aside from the usual industrial flair, Cover Up isn't necessarily characteristic of Ministry. But among the 11 tracks (and a few hidden tracks thrown in at the very end), there are some satisfying results. At times the tracks blend together because the Ministry sound overpowers pretty much all of the covers, but on a track like Under My Thumb the band adds in some unexpected and effective sounds. The other issue is that songs tend to get drawn out, with the band playing the same line over and over again, as is the case with What A Wonderful World. Despite the editing issues it's still a pretty fascinating listen, particularly when you get to hear Jourgensen and friends find their inner Southern rockers. // 7