How dark? Like some Skull-laden Train that got derailed half
Eddie Lancekick | Pacific Northwest | 08/07/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Dark Side of the spoon was release by Ministry in 1999 and was their final record with Warner Brothers. Following the slower, more basic sounding Industrial album "Filth Pig" and coming before the recently released Anti-George W. Bush Concept albums "Houses of the Mole" and "Rio Blood Grande", this particular album was one of the bands least commercially successful albums to date. Despite the single "Bad Blood" which also received heavy acclaim after being on the Matrix soundtrack, Dark Side of the spoon quickly slipped through the cracks and was forgotten, and when it was remembered, it was segregated from the rest of Al Jourgenson's enigmatic, eccentric, and harsh sounding discography. I myself did purchase this album in 2000, only to eventually let it sit on the shelf and collect dust.
First off, we have to see what the fans are mad about. What, you ask? It's the fact that Al Jourgenson changes his style on nearly every album. He incorporates different themes and speeds, mixes up the mixes, battens down the hatches, and ultimately PROGRESSES as a musician. The problem is best described by James Hetfield, the lead singer for Metallica; "People keep wanting another "master of puppets" album, but we already did that, so we're moving on". Apply the same thing to ministry. Personally I'm not like most ministry fans, and I don't grovel all over the older releases like "Land of Rape and Honey" (1988) and Psalm 69 (1992). Therein lies the problem; no matter what this band does, we still find ourselves wanting more of what they already did, and in my case I was partial to "Mind is a terrible thing to taste" (1989) and "Filth Pig" (1996). So what do you do? You find the right time to listen to it, you don't give up on it, and you just keep throwing it in once in a while. Sooner or later you'll get it. Sooner or later it should grab you. That's what Dark side did for me.
We need to also realize with all of the negative fan hate for this album, that it was during a rough time in Jourgenson's life. His former guitarist, William Tucker, had committed suicide by cutting his own throat, and Al was deeply immersed (like, uh, so many rock icons) in a cruel cycle of drug abuse that was taking him down the road of no return. For all the issues at hand, Dark side of the spoon still as its strong points.
My thoughts on the album: The first track opens up with some familiar Ministry patented screeching synth coupled with razor edge metal guitars. Jourgenson himself is singing in his normal yelling mode, which as fans know is a distinct sound all its own that could never be copied. "Supermanic Soul" is really pretty choppy in both beat and rhythm, and Al's lyrics are short and blunt, punching you in the gut with realism as he shouts, "I've pulled the trigger in the record room". A dark, crazy, and disturbing song that is a good opener for the album. The sound on this album kind of reminds me of the style they had on the album "The mind is a terrible thing to taste". Supermanic Soul rips off into track two, which is a slow, doom-ridden driver of a track called "Whip and Chain". Whip/Chain starts out with some heavy drums that thunder slowly along until the guitars come in with an even slower, deep, groove that is backed up by some heavy, drawn out bass sounds. Jourgenson's vocal style here is not "yell" but more just talking as he starts angrily saying the lyrics in a poignant and preachy style that really is great in getting the message across. The tune increases in power when Jourgenson yells out "Who did the talking then, the whip or the chain?/You've got pleasure from the sentence of pain/But then they get you with the burden of shame/The true measure is the one that remains. Again, a dark and driving song that I feel is one of their top songs in the past decade.
Just when we're reeling out of that dark, brooding song that was track two, we're thrown into a fast and furious anthem that is "Bad Blood". Blood is a classic Ministry song in that it's got all of the elements: Jourgensons screaming vocals, fast guitars and a great beat. The songwriting on this album is great as so many times the lyrics coupled with the themes that are behind them really connect well with the audience (unless their eardrums are blown out I suppose). That's evident with the eventual lyrics that are driving along with a super fast guitar and hard hitting bass...
He's finally come alive
Out of these mediocre plentiful things all the time
A steady stream of madness
Conscious to a flood
The clock is ticking for Bad Blood
Tracks four and five are "Eureka Pile" and "Step". Both have their good sides, and both seem like they belong somewhere in the Ministry universe as they have a lot of different electronic as well as industrial sounds coming in and out of them. The lyrical approach is vastly different on both, almost like Jourgenson is sometimes an insane man screaming out the window at the street below, while other times drowning down into some sort of monotone 1950's congressional anti-communistic recording. Each song is okay, but definitely not the powerful or dark tunes that came before them.
Track six is "Nursing Home" and clocks in over seven minutes long. The sound here has some carnival sounding themes coming out of the shadows and is a slow, grinding industrial sounding song that takes a while to take off. Jourgenson gets with the program eventually and starts ripping off some narcotic induced ninja madness of a nursery rhyme on the chorus before the song starts zooming out into la-la land with the continual carnival sounds, which eventually must lead to a circus of madness. This song is really on the point of madness, or maybe prog rock, and considering the albums title is partly a spoof on the famous Pink Floyd album, should we expect any different? Track seven is "Kaif"...whoah, turn up the bass, well if you want to blow your speakers. Dark again. Deep again. Slow again. This is like some Skull-laden Train that got derailed halfway to hell. The sound bogs along before Jourgenson comes in and we immediately realize the song has some promise...Al screams his supersonic wail with "Where did the times go-ohhhh-oh?". Overall a great dark and driving song as seen on earlier tracks, and yes I'll admit, though I said the band progressed, there is some Filth Pig sound hanging around here. The drums are crashing over and over as the bass line is by now seeming glued in full force reverb. Wanna wake up? Wanna feel gloomy? Just push play.
The following track is Vex and Siolence, and is really showing that Al must be so damn depressed about something that he's set the La brea Tar pits on fire and is now being lowered into them for this track. Good grief, I'm really seeing this song as a hint that this was a rushed record maybe. The lyrics don't come through near as strong and though he's executing it well it just kind of gets dull. I guess I can only take so many dark, driving songs but by now everyone is dead, their skulls are crushed, we're aware of the pain, the suffering, and so forth. Yeah, the train is derailed, and even the evil souls standing beside it are ready to lighten up with some 1997 Metallica.
Final track is called "10/10" and is just an instrumental, but a great one at that. It comes out with some great guitar and drumbeats and doesn't seem so gloomy or doom sounding but more impending peril. Make sense? Well we're not in the chasm, we're on the edge and we're looking back over our shoulder. The song now and again interrupts the cute little guitar pieces to have a thundering shred of a solo coupled by heavy bass break the monotony. Later on a saxophone comes in and plays a beautiful little part that is Jazz sounding which of course, is really weird here, kind of like a demon in wolf's clothing at this point. 10/10 has a lot of atmosphere and overall has a great beat to it and is one of my favorite instrumental tracks of recent memory.
Despite it's shortcomings, the overall sound and vision of this album is not something to sneeze at. I don't think it deserves five stars or four but definitely 3 1/2 which even then, is nothing to sneeze at. The more I listen to this album, the more I enjoy it for what it is, and not what it is not."
"Dark" is a good description.
Paul L. Raukar | Eveleth, Minnesota United States | 05/20/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If the hotline of HELL had call waiting, this album would be on "repeat.""
Why So Much Hatred For This Album?
D. Pereyra | 06/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Dark Side of the Spoon for some reason is seen as Ministry's worst album to most people (even Al Jourgensen said it was really bad) but I strongly disagree with that. There are definitely good songs on this album but it takes a few listens until it starts growing on you. Dark Side of the Spoon is Ministry's darkest and heaviest album but because of the lack of popularity this gem has been greatly overlooked by most fans. I am a HUGE Ministry fan and I absolutely love the albums "The Land of Rape and Honey" up to "The Dark Side of the Spoon", I actually like those albums better than the stuff they did in their Anti-Bush Trilogy. This album is not for all Ministry fans but it is definitely worth a listen if you are willing to give it a chance."