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Al Jourgensen of Ministry performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres) Steel City Gets Riveting, Power-Packed Show With Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour By ERIC AYRES Staff Writer PITTSBURGH – It was 1989 when industrial metal pioneers Ministry […]

Al Jourgensen of Ministry performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Steel City Gets Riveting, Power-Packed Show With Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour

By ERIC AYRES

Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH – It was 1989 when industrial metal pioneers Ministry started an underground revolution with thrashing, distorted guitars over rave-like beats like no one had ever heard before.

Fast forward to more than 30 years later, and Ministry is still breaking new ground while flaunting the greatness of the ’80s underground hard rock and metal scene.

Buzz Osborne of the Melvins performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Last week, Ministry brought it’s Industrial Strength Tour to Pittsburgh for a show at Stage AE on the North Shore. Just like the Ministry from the late 1980s, the band appeared on stage in a steel cage – with a chain link fence separating the band and the audience.

This prop alone set the stage for potential chaos. But what unfolded in the Steel City on March 4, 2022 was a night of pure, unbridled fun – especially for old-school metal heads who were drilled with a triple-shot of nostalgia from three bands whose music still stands the test of time today.

For this leg of the Industrial Strength Tour, Ministry brought along killer supporting acts for the ride. Legendary pre-grunge trailblazers the Melvins and sludge-metal mavericks Corrosion of Conformity helped deliver a combination punch behind a knock-out tour that people in its path should all be buzzing about.

Slightly delayed from the COVID-19 pandemic, the tour celebrates the 30-year anniversary of Ministry’s landmark fourth studio album “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste.” It also is a tour in support of Ministry’s latest album – its 15th full-length studio release – “Mental Hygiene,” which just dropped last year.

Also last year, Ministry marked its 40-year anniversary as a band. Formed in 1981, Ministry’s frontman and creative force Al Jourgensen has been making music that bends genres and attracts fans from all walks of life – mostly fans clad in Gothic-black who have a love for subterranean hardcore and heavy metal. His band helped pave the way for many acts with industrial metal influences, like Nine Inch Nails and many others.

Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Jourgensen himself, like his devout fans, is a character – complete with a shocking appearance. Never shy to push the envelope or politically charged narratives, the 63-year-old dreadlocked ringleader projects a bold stage presence – even from behind a teetering chain-link fence. Reportedly a former hardcore drug addict, it has been written that Jourgensen had been declared legally dead on three separate occasions. His array of tattoos run from his body onto his face, and in 2012 – apparently on a dare from his daughter – he reportedly fixed his lack of body art by getting 16 facial piercings in one sitting.

Now an TSA nightmare at the airport security checkpoint, Jourgensen is a jarring figure on stage, commanding the room and barking into the mic with the authority of a drill sergeant.

Although Jourgensen is the sole constant figure in Ministry and often serves as multi-instrumentalist on the studio albums, he has always surrounded himself with great musicians to back him on tours and for other live sessions and performances. The current tour is certainly no exception. The Ministry lineup of today is a rocking one, with Paul D’Amour – founding member of Tool who performed on that band’s first two releases – on bass, and Monte Pittman – veteran metal guitar player whose resume includes a long-time tenure as Madonna’s guitarist, on the six-string. The band is rounded out by seasoned players Cesar Soto on guitar, Roy Mayorga on drums and John Bechdel on keys/programming.

The band churns out Ministry’s repetitive, mechanical beats and rhythms with real live instruments. The pulsating, organically robotic “industrial” sound is actually danceable in most cases, and it’s a sound that was likely a precursor to what would become the wildly popular genre of EDM (electronic dance music) generations later.

Ministry delivered a heavy dose of fan favorites from its four-decade career, including killer cuts like “Thieves,” “N.W.O.,” “Just One Fix,” “Burning Inside,” “Stigmata,” “So What,” their version of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” and other nuggets from the band’s early heyday albums.

For the encore, the steel cage fencing was removed, and the band offered up two new selections from the latest “Moral Hygiene” album – the first two tracks, “Alert Level” and “Good Trouble.” Both tunes fit right in with the rest of the songs from Ministry’s lengthy catalog. With no shortage of political topics for songwriting fodder in recent years, Jourgensen didn’t hold back with “Moral Hygiene,” a title that came after the original name “Truth Decay” was scrapped. The content may rub some people the wrong way, but Ministry has never settled for rubbing people the right way. Fortunately, live music has a way of bringing people together, and Ministry did just that – despite ending the night with a ripper – Iggy and the Stooge’s “Search and Destroy.”

The undercard for the show was first-rate. Corrosion of Conformity launched into a short 45-minute set that brought classic drone-metal fans back to their youth. Veteran road dogs, COC were grungy even before the early ’90s Seattle scene was dubbed grunge. The band was on point, and could have played longer beyond the set-closing gem of “Clean My Wounds.”

Frontman Pepper Keenan led the charge with COC founders Mike Dean (bass) and Woody Weatherman (lead guitar) nailing it down, along with newest member, Englishman John Green, a former band roadie who brings a dynamic punch to the group on the drums in place of the late Reed Mullin.

Fans were thrilled to see Keenan just hanging out and chatting with everyone at the merchandise booth during Ministry’s set. The down-to-earth nature of the rocker should probably not be surprising, notwithstanding his impressive resume of collaborations with metal royalty and the fact that he may likely have Metallica frontman James Hetfield’s personal number in his cell phone contact list.

Another band that has royal roots in rock history and a reputation as being “musicians’ musicians” is the trio the Melvins – who nearly stole the night with a raw, high-energy set.

Buzz Osborne of the Melvins performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne clearly has the best hair in rock’n’roll, and the fact that it has turned white in his seasoned age only makes the stage lights make it glow even more admirably. He and bassist Steven Shane McDonald wore what appeared to be weird silk kimonos on stage while rocking out.

The Melvins have been an underground champion of alternative hard rock and punk-metal for decades. They emerged in the 1980s from California, but have early roots in the pre-grunge Seattle scene.

Like it or not, they can’t wash off the permanent stain of stories linking Nirvana’s early history to them. Legendary stories and rumors nail Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain to the Melvins, which is reportedly the first band he’d ever seen live and the act that motivated him to become a musician. Cobain hung out with the Melvins and eventually toured with them before he and Nirvana became a media obsession and exploded as “next big thing.” Melvin’s drummer Dale Crover even pounded the kit for Nirvana on several early tracks before Dave Grohl joined the band, and the blistering songs from Nirvana’s first full-length album “Bleach” have a clear Melvins influence.

But the Melvins have forged their own legacy through the years, and their live show was an all-out, white-knuckle crusher. They already had the crowd eating out of their hands during when late in their set they broke into nuggets from the 1993 release “Houdini” – the parseltoungue puncher “Hooch” and the fuzz-riffed head-banger “Honey Bucket.”

It was about this time of the show I was preaching to someone next to me that back in the day, metal fans would mosh and crowd surf religiously, but nowadays, most veteran metal fans are 50-plus years old, with gray in their hair, creaks in their bones and less pep in their step. Most of them (us) just stand there during metal shows grinning widely and raising clinched fists.

Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Before I could even complete that thought, I looked up to see a full $12.98 cup of beer careening through the air in slow motion – like the hubcap full of spilling lug nuts in that scene from “A Christmas Story.” And like Ralphie, I said murmured “f-u-d-g-e!” as the hanging droplets of flat Iron City spread out over the head of everyone in the middle of the crowd.

And I realized: I was in the dead center of a swirling mosh pit.

As time jolted back to normal speed, I said “not today, Satan,” and made a quick exit to the mellow safety along the wings of the floor. I was not the only sissy – others followed, watching out of the corners of our eyes the crazy soldiers pummeling each other in a swirling, blissful body slamming frenzy.

While I’m not ready to be transported back to my youth via the emergency room, the amplified live music and cool vibe of the show was enough to catapult me happily back in time to more than three decades ago.

While unscathed, I left sore that night. It was the first time in a long time I walked out of a concert with my face literally hurting from smiling too much.

Check out more from the band and the ongoing tour at ministryband.com.

Al Jourgensen of Ministry performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Ministry performs during the band’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Dale Crover of the Melvins performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Al Jourgensen of Ministry performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Ministry performs during the band’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Paul D’Amour of Ministry performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Al Jourgensen of Ministry performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Buzz Osborne of the Melvins performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Al Jourgensen of Ministry performs during Ministry’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Ministry performs during the band’s Industrial Strength Tour stop on March 4, 2022, at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Eric Ayres)


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