“Thieves” gets things off to a pretty incredible start. Though this obviously isn’t the first industrial metal album, of even the first Ministry album to contain industrial metal, it still feels like this is pretty much as good as industrial metal got in the ’80s, with pummeling but mechanical-sounding guitars and all sorts of things that don’t belong in metal (samples, drum machines, etc). And there is other material on the record that matches the intensity of “Thieves”: “Burning Inside”, “Never Believe” (sort of), “Breathe” etc.
But, as I am learning about Ministry, they weren’t entirely committed to “metal” as part of their sound in the ’80s. (Perhaps a nicer way of putting it is that they are more diverse than the label “industrial metal” suggests.) Some of the material isn’t quite “metal” in the sense that I would think of it, though I guess it still qualifies as “industrial” in the broadest sense. (I am thinking of something like “So What”, which goes hard rock occasionally but otherwise does not sound “metal” in any way. But more “Faith Collapsing”, which is just drums and samples, basically. Or “Dream Song”.) Then we have “Test” where there is rap, which is, um, not appealing. He’s not the only white guy who tried this in the ’80s and shouldn’t have, but he’s on that list. The track is like “industrial rap rock” or something like that. It’s, um, not great.
But there’s also less of a legacy of synthpop on this one than on the previous record, which is also nice. (And therefore this is more “industrial”, I guess, than, say, Nine Inch Nails’ debut album released a month or so before this.)
I can’t quite put my finger on it but I don’t think this is quite up to the standard of its predecessor or its sequel. It sounds as dated as its predecessor but that record had the benefit of coming first. And I think its sequel just sounds better (and less dated) than both of the earlier records. Now, I say this having not heard either of those other Ministry albums particularly recently, so maybe I’m full of shit.