Groundbreakers: Ministry – The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste

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In an earlier edition of Groundbreakers, we inducted Fear Factory‘s Demanufacture into our very own hall of fame. As important as that album was to the development of heavy metal, it itself owes much to today’s inductee, Ministry‘s The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste. Along with other machinist stalwarts KMFDM and Godflesh, Ministry helped spawn the subgenre that would come to be known as industrial metal, one that still exists today in various fashions. Moreover, the legacy of Ministry’s most pivotal release can still be found in the deepest, darkest reaches of extreme metal.

Just like their counterparts in KMFDM, Ministry began their career crafting dance-hall anthems, but there was always a slightly harder edge, a greater disgust for the status quo found in the pulsing electronic beats of the early releases. The band released two passable industrial albums before Ministry frontman and all-around crazy person Al (Alien) Jorgunsen rediscovered his love of the electric guitar and recruited bassist Paul Barker to the fold. The two (plus session musicians) would record The Land of Rape and Honey, a nasty, drug-fueled dive into the seedy underbelly of electronic music, but this time the violent rhythms were given extra bite with the inclusion of rock elements on certain tracks.

However, it was on 1989’s The Mind Is a Terrible Thing that the band finally and fully embraced metal. Combining elements of thrash metal, dance music, and horror movie samples in a hate-and-booze-addled cocktail of misanthropy, Jorgunsen and Barker raged against everything that pissed them off about modern life, but this time, they brought some friends. At some point during the heated writing sessions that spawned the nine vitriolic tracks that would inevitably be pressed to the album, Al realized that Ministry had grown beyond the simple confines of a band and grown into a full-blown performance piece. No fewer than 11 additional musicians would lend their talents to the final product, and a 20, armed, ten-headed, two-drummer-ed monstrosity would eventually wage a bloody tour campaign across the nation.

Legend has it that the recording process was especially chaotic. The rock-and-roll lifestyle was certainly in full swing in the studio, with band members writing and re-recording each others’ parts under a pallid haze of rage and debauchery. Accounts vary as to who did the majority of the writing, but what is clear is that interpersonal conflicts seethed and that battle lines were routinely drawn (and crossed). When asked about that album, members of Ministry waste no time slandering each other and claiming credit for the majority of the album.

So what did all that turbulence produce? A razor sharp album with pummeling groove, martial percussion, and venomous conceit. Throbbing rhythms and sneered vocals repeat and compound themselves in mantra-esque fashion to lead listeners down a winding path of anger and self-destruction. It may not sound extreme in comparison to many metal acts that draw influence from Ministry today, but it was certainly a hellish blitzkrieg against metal trends at the time of its release, one that left charred rubble across the landscape. Riffs that could have been lifted directly from lumber factories tear and cut their way through each track while machine-gun drums fire and recoil like gatling guns cutting down lines of robotic enemy troops. All this carnage unfolds under the direction of Al’s maniacal dictator vocals that drip with a burning phlegm likely caused by the napalm and heroin coursing through his veins. The end product is nine distinct, banging classics with a cinematic scope worthy of the best of James Cameron’s sci-fi films.

The band would go on to release a multitude of albums, break up, and reconvene again, but The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste stands tall as the most influential record in Ministry’s discography. The mechanical fusion of electronics and metal would directly influence bands like Rammstein and Fear Factory, but the industrial rhythms and computerized hatred that Ministry breathed through seared lungs into the metal world can still be found in more extreme bands like Cloak of Altering and The Amenta. For this reason, we are proud to induct The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste into the Groundbreakers Hall of Fame.


Groundbreakers is the Toilet ov Hell’s Hall ov Fame where we induct some of the most important and influential metal albums of all time. Catch up on previous entries into this hallowed bowl.

Neurosis – Souls at Zero
Death – Symbolic
Fear Factory Demanufacture
Voivod – Killing Technology
Today is the DayTemple of the Morning Star
Avenged Sevenfold – City of Evil
The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed
Acid Bath – When the Kite String Pops

(Photo VIA and VIA)

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