'From Beer to Eternity' is the third “final” Ministry album, for those keeping count. But as the Bible says, no man knows the future, not even Al Jourgensen (look it up if you don’t believe me). I don’t think all that many people really mind though. The first time that final album promise was broken was last year, with the release of 'Relapse' (read my review of that album here), which seemed to be very well received by critics and, more importantly, the fans.
This time it’s for real though. The only reason Jourgensen resurrected Ministry this time is because he and guitarist and longtime collaborator Mike Scaccia came up with a cornucopia of blistering material perfectly suited for the industrial band during some intense jam sessions. Tragically, only three days after finishing his guitar parts for the new album, Scaccia died of a heart attack while performing at a concert with his other band, legendary Texas thrashers Rigor Mortis. Not only was Scaccia an indispensable member of Ministry, he was also one of Jourgensen’s best friends. But as Uncle Al says in his recently released autobiography 'Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen' (read my review of the book here), Scaccia’s death was indeed a heartbreaking tragedy but it’s also very likely the way he would’ve wanted to go out: on stage, surrounded by family and fans, doing what he loves. We should all be so fortunate when it’s our turn to shuffle off this mortal coil. Scaccia also has 'From Beer to Eternity' as an epitaph, and it’s a remarkable memorial for the fallen guitarist.
The album is also a splendid testament to Ministry’s legacy too, since it’s the end of the band’s recording career. 'From Beer to Eternity' contains all of Ministry’s signature traits: thrash guitar riffs, mechanical-sounding electronic noises, layers and layers of sampling and plenty of acid hate directed at Republicans (with some added vitriol for President Obama too). The name of the album is, of course, a play on words, something the band’s been known to do on occasion, dating back to 1988’s 'The Land of Rape and Honey.'
"Hail to His Majesty (Peasants)" takes a while to get going, but once it really kicks in, it really reminds you that Al Jourgensen and Ministry are still the best at this type of music, and they’re going out on top. "Punch in the Face" is just that, audibly speaking, and the first single "PermaWar" reminds me of the 'Filth Pig,' album, which was one of the sludgier ones in the industrial titans’ catalog.
"Perfect Storm" features the first of many insane Scaccia guitar solos. He could definitely shred and it’s easy to see why Jourgensen doesn’t want to continue without him. It’s only natural to build up the dead when we memorialize them, but just listen to Scaccia’s guitar playing here if you think I’m exaggerating. If only we could’ve heard him perform this track live with Ministry. This song unquestionably belongs on a Ministry highlight reel. Jourgensen wasn’t lying when he said Scaccia recorded some of his best work on 'From Beer to Eternity.'
Both "Fairly Unbalanced" and "The Horror" are scathing attacks on Fox News and Republicans, two targets Jourgensen has made a second career out of going after. The latter song utilizes a groovy bass line courtesy of Tony Campos, propping up looped samples of Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s ridiculously bone-headed statement that pregnancy from rape is something God intended.
Prepare to worship at the altar of Scaccia again while listening to "Side F/X Include Mikey's Middle Finger (TV4)." It’s an incredibly fast and chaotic attack on the pharmaceutical industry. Scaccia’s inhuman guitar playing is accompanied by samples from television commercials for various prescription drugs, intercut with Al repeatedly screaming “I feel like s**t!”
The final four songs are a bit removed from Ministry's more recent 21st century output. "Lesson Unlearned" is actually reminiscent of the band's early to mid-1980s New Wave sound, albeit with heavy metal guitars. "Thanx but No Thanx" starts off with a recitation of William S. Burroughs’ poem 'A Thanksgiving Prayer.' The song possesses a distinct reggae tinge as well as the de rigueur chaotic percussive elements that Ministry has perfected. And is that a Middle Eastern melody intertwined in "Change of Luck"? "Enjoy the Quiet" is definitely a letdown though. Is this supposed to be some sort of joke? The last-ever Ministry song and it’s basically just radio static? I was hoping for one final Scaccia guitar jam.
If this truly is the end of Ministry – and it is unless Jourgensen wants to risk being called a hypocrite – then 'From Beer to Eternity' is a magnificent coda to one of the most storied, influential rock and roll legacies. Few albums – if any – have encapsulated a band’s body of work so succinctly while simultaneously displaying a fascinating evolution in its sound. 'From Beer to Eternity' is essential Ministry and a piece of art that Jourgensen and most especially Mike Scaccia should be extremely proud of. The album’s closing song is lamentably titled though: we really do not want to have to Enjoy the Quiet.