Times are changing… and damn, they sure are confusing. A period in American history where no one knows which way is up, fortunately we can all turn to music to blow off some steam in a non-violent and therapeutic way. That in mind, on Thursday, April 19, 2018, The Paramount in Huntington, New York was the latest rally point on the brash, defiant Amerikkkant Tour headlined by Industrial legends Ministry. Support on the tour came from the up and coming Chelsea Wolfe, with opening act The God Bombs to kick things off. Supporting their new album Amerikkkant, the U.S. leg of the Ministry tour began in Anaheim, California back on March 22nd, and will conclude on April 28th in Austin, Texas, but not before leaving an impression across the continent.
Ready to leave that proverbial mark on the Long Island village of Huntington, The Paramount is a fairly cavernous venue, situated as it is amidst an intimate downtown of chain stores, banks, pharmacies, and the usual footprints of suburban American life. Other than the Ministry logo, dark on a white background, resonating at the rush of commuters passing by, there was very little to suggest that a night of brilliant performances was about to take place inside.
Opening up the proceedings were Brooklyn, New York based The God Bombs. Frenetic, energetic, and ready to wake up the slowly filling venue, the band is comprised of Justin Symbol, Edrick Supervi, and Jabbath Roa. Together these guys put forth a display of a Punk-infused racket of Industrial, Alt-Rock, and most importantly – rage fueled stagecraft. A relatively new project, they did a fitting job of jumpstarting the evening performing songs such as “Hexxx,” “Breed,” and “Low Lights.” Offering an interesting take on Industrial music, be sure to check out the trio’s debut EP, Hex, out now.
Next up would be the enchanting, up and coming artist Chelsea Wolfe. The California native has been working hard, touring the world in support of her fifth studio album, Hiss Spun. Certainly making a name for herself amongst fans of a multitude of genres, it remained to be seen how the crowd at The Paramount would welcome the dulcet darkness of Wolfe while eagerly awaiting the raucous, beat-driven headliners.
For every group of ‘90s kids’ now knocking on 40, there were black clad minions aplenty eager for, and possibly only there for, the tall and languid songstress. As the pulse of “Carrion Flowers” blared out, Wolfe and her band – featuring Ben Chisholm on bass guitar and keys, Jess Gowrie on drums, and Bryan Tulao on lead guitar – took the stage almost shyly, with very little fanfare. The music does their talking, and on this night Wolfe took the stage in white robes, slashed on the back with writing. Her pain, the rawness of her art uncovered like fresh wounds, besets the beauty and gracefulness of her songs.
From the new album, 2017’s Hiss Spun, “Vex” sat proudly alongside the nervous energy of “Demons,” the band flawlessly executing each song with supreme confidence. Despite the fact that some fans were not feeding off her energy, there was a healthy roar following each wrenching song Wolfe played. Many clichés get thrown around about certain artists’ live performances, but to say that Chelsea Wolfe is spellbinding is an understatement.
“After The Fall,” “Dragged Out,” and the fresh new “16 Psyche” could have been hypnotic mantras as easily as just plain songs. Surrounding her languid, commanding self at center-stage, Chisholm pulled heavy bottom-end vibrations from his bass guitar that seemed to come from the bottoms of his feet. Gowrie both pummeled and caressed her kit, as needed, riding the emotional waves of the songs as one whole sonic organism. When the last song brought her to her knees, Wolfe’s time was up and the crowd could shake off the magic spell they had wittingly or unwittingly been made a part of.
Lastly, it was time for the one and only Ministry. Around for over 35 years, Ministry is something of an institution, a hybrid of Industrial, Metal, and Punk Rock which helped shape and revolutionize ’90s sonic extremity. The band, led by the inimitable Al Jourgensen, has navigated itself through a host of ups and downs, dealing with the frontman’s addiction issues, the death of a long-time member, not by being tentative but by always going balls-out, in your face, and bringing the intensity. This tour sees them supporting their aforementioned 14th studio album, Amerikkkant, which came out only recently, and is a real kick in the pants for the long lived group.
Immersing The Paramount, band leader Al Jourgensen, or Uncle Al, as he is sometimes affectionately known, clearly meant business. From the large projector screen to the twin inflatable Donald J. Trump chickens complete with crossed out swastikas adorning either end of the stage, it promised to be a wild night ahead. Two wicked podium style microphone stands, each one some type of skeletal bat-creature, revealed the showman behind the sunglasses-wearing Jourgensen. Done up with long dreads and a look that screams Mickey Rourke in True Romance, the energetic singer took the stage with a motley bunch. Opening with “Twilight Zone,” the long intro to Amerikkkant, fans were treated to the latest in the long line of presidents earning Uncle Al’s defiant ire. Featuring the slogan of our 45th president “Make America Great Again,” drawn out eerily and mockingly, the crowd began to get into it.
When Jourgensen introduced a special guest, asking the crowd if they liked Fear Factory, the hall responded with a resounding roar. Then, to many’s surprise, out popped Burton C. Bell, vocalist and co-founder of the aforesaid group, and the band performed the pounding, harrowing “Victims of a Clown.” Bell made the ‘circle pit’ sign with his fingers as he gazed upon adoring fans, but the request was not truly heeded until around the time they played “Senor Peligro,” whose speed and alarm hit the crowd like a fist. Then, taking it back, “LiesLiesLies” and “Rio Grande Blood” showed off the best of that mid-2000s decade, when it was President George W. Bush’s turn to get the Ministry treatment.
Keeping the night interesting, Bell appeared again, this time accompanying Jourgensen on “We’re Tired of It” and new crackling anthem “Wargasm.” Bell performed the chilling spoken word section of the latter, a monologue about the distinctly sexual pleasure certain power-hungry sociopaths get from destroying human life.
For “Antifa,” mask-clad street terrorists similar to the ones appearing at rallies – and perplexingly, at certain live music venues fighting against free expression – came out on stage waving flags. The apocalyptic vibe and anti-government atmosphere certainly makes for some great visuals, and the band performed the music with unflinching energy. As Jourgensen stalked the stage carrying a megaphone, Tony Campos (Static X, Prong, Soulfly) on bass guitar, Cesar Soto (Pissing Razors) on guitar, and Sin Quinn (also guitar) were completely on-point. Up on keys, the amazing John Bechdel (Killing Joke, Fear Factory), held it down along with the goggle wearing DJ Swamp.
With the crowd stoked to rampant levels, Jourgensen coaxed even more from his followers, calling the audience shy and making disapproving smirks and head tilts until everyone was eating out of his hands. It was time to go back in time. It was time to see Ministry play “Just One Fix,” with a rapid transition to “N.W.O.” The pit in the middle, for all it remained a bit spaced apart, certainly saw its share of battery. The two classics carpet-bombed The Paramount, and just when it seemed like they were revving down, Ministry played “Thieves.” The energy in the hall reached kinetic proportions, the air itself sweating as fans of all ages collided and bounced with ferocity. It was not over yet, as a virulent run-through of “So What” turned up the heat even more. After a brief span, Ministry returned to chants of their band name to regale the hungry crowd with “Bad Blood” from the soundtrack of 1999’s Sci-Fi Action flick The Matrix.
Overall, despite the sonic differences between the two main acts, the night – and the tour – is proving to be a massive success. If possible, catch this tour before it wraps up because while Chelsea Wolfe is still reaching her creative peak, Ministry is still at the top.
Photo credit: Stephanie Pearl Photography