Black and white image of Ministry's Al Jourgensen standing at a microphone against a halo of light
Ministry's Al Jourgensen Credit: Derick Smith

In their 40-year career, Ministry have certainly been down more than once, but they’ve never been completely out. They’ve been sacked by record labels, they’ve had so many players come and go that “revolving-door lineup” hardly describes it, and they’ve carried on through drug addiction and the deaths of longtime members. In the ashes of a bombed-out postapocalyptic world, Al Jourgensen will probably re-form Ministry with a band of mutant cockroaches—and their sound will still be completely distinctive. The band took a hiatus after the death of guitarist Mike Scaccia in 2012, because at the time Jourgensen didn’t want to continue without him. But he says he woke up on the morning of November 9, 2016, and thought, “We are making a fucking album—right now.” That was 2018’s AmeriKKKant, Ministry’s first for the venerable Nuclear Blast label. Moral Hygiene, the band’s new 15th full-length, is similarly on-the-nose when it comes to its timely political themes—though you could mix in tracks from their 90s salad days and they’d still mostly fit. The same could be said for their rare covers, which on Moral Hygiene include a slinky, hairy version of the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy.” The formula isn’t fresh, but it still works: savage riffs, aggro beats, and sinister samples.

Ministry are famously cynical about the political system, but on “Good Trouble,” inspired by the life of Congressman John Lewis and the letter he left behind upon his death, they lift up an elected official as a hero who set a positive example. “Sabotage Is Sex,” with guest vocalist Jello Biafra, gives a shout-out to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” over a biting groove that sounds like an anti-cop protest causing traffic havoc on Kraftwerk’s Autobahn. “Believe Me” harks back to Ministry’s gothic synth-rock roots, and its indictment of political malfeasance—eerie, foreboding samples of someone announcing “the President of the United States” on repeat, followed by claims of corruption and deception—certainly refers to Trump, who was still commander in chief when the song was written. Jourgensen has said that he tends to make shittier records under Democratic presidents, but any illusion that a Democrat can or will put the brakes on the world’s apocalyptic descent has to have been dispelled decades ago—leaving in its place the knowledge that benign inaction can be just as deadly as malicious action. Ministry are motivated by righteous anger, and there’s a reason they’ve never run out of material.

Ministry’s Moral Hygiene (Nuclear Blast) is available on Bandcamp.