25th July | SWX
Photos: Michael Brumby
For those with a penchant for the heavier side of things, a poster advertising a Ministry show with Chelsea Wolfe in tow could be too hard to resist. Even in the midst of a July heatwave, donning your blackest attire and thrashing about for a couple of hours at SWX on Wednesday night seemed like the only sensible course of action. How could one possibly pass up an opportunity like this?
You wouldn’t know the sun was shining from the inside of the venue anyway, as Chelsea Wolfe manifested on stage in a swathe of black and smoke, as though stepping directly from the shadows or some other realm of existence. Assuming position, the band launched into ‘Carrion Flowers’, the heavy heart of 2015’s Abyss that set the mood perfectly for things to come. This wasn’t the same Chelsea Wolfe sound that lingered with creeping sensuality from early years, but a beast that’s evolved; powerful and deftly layered by experience.
Yet above the tumult, and snarling accompaniments on songs like ‘Vex’, Wolfe’s voice still carried above with ethereal grace. It’s always a shame when well-spun and insightful lyrics are lost to the music that should bolster its emotional impact, so thankfully that wasn’t the case here. Perhaps the set could’ve been louder generally, though with Ministry to follow this may have been a conscious choice made on the part of one or both acts.
Once Chelsea Wolfe left the stage, final modifications were made for Ministry’s grand anti-Trump production – what else for the AmeriKKKant tour? What can only be described as two giant inflatable Trump-like chickens with anti-Nazi symbols emblazoned on their chests stood at either side of the stage, with a large screen at the centre above Al Jourgensen’s skull-adorned microphone set-up. Anticipation was building for what looked to be an unforgettable show.
As the screen sparked to life around nine with pseudo-psychedelic visuals, an acid-trip Trump proclaimed, “We will make America great again/ We’re going to build a wall/ I know words.” Once the intro played out, Ministry kept us locked in the ‘Twilight Zone’ – an easy highlight from their latest record.
But what started out great took a turn for the surreal, as the audience either locked into frantic moshing practices or stood about mesmerised – maybe even confused – by the catechisms that punctuated visuals on screen and stage. Meanwhile each Trump chicken took a turn awkwardly swerving out of position or partially deflating, and as the Anarchy flags came out sometime between choice cuts from Rio Grande Blood and ‘Wargasm’, it all got a bit much to parse from where I was standing.
Obviously, hardcore Ministry fans stood to gain the most from the evening. Seeing Jourgensen and co. in the relatively intimate confines of SWX is probably an experience some people will never forget. For the rest of us, perhaps the same is true but for different reasons.
Casual listeners and those who were in attendance primarily as fans of Chelsea Wolfe may have felt alienated; this starkly political tour was certainly not for Ministry nostalgia trippers either, but it likewise didn’t seem directed at converting anyone’s ideologies or generating some form of discourse on the deeper issues facing the American political system. Instead, the emphasis of the evening can be surmised in two simple words: “Fuck Trump”.