Tonight, two giants of industrial metal collide at The Albert Hall in Manchester. Headlining are the US genre pioneers themselves, Ministry. Whilst opening the show is an artist at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the magnificent Chelsea Wolfe. Though somewhat rooted in same genres, these two artists feel like an odd pairing with divided fan-bases. Even before the show starts it is easy to overhear attendees saying they’ve come more to see Chelsea Wolfe than Ministry.
The show begins and it is still bright out, with the sun shining through the beautiful stained glass windows of The Albert Hall. This light somewhat juxtaposes Chelsea Wolfe and her band, who take the stage all in black. The set tonight is one of her most sparse, resting on skeletal pounding drums and songs carried by just one or two repeated riffs. Her band provide a strong and heavy backing, adding subtle atmospheric touches with keys and samples. But it is Chelsea Wolfe who shines in the limelight, dressed in a fantastic, black gothic dress with cuffs that threaten to touch the floor. Her voice sails across the room, with a range that sounds like it is getting stronger with each tour. The way she combines ethereal lows with high pitched banshee wails is powerful and stirring. Her forty minute set feels all too brief, with the snaking riff of ’16 Psyche’ being the set highlight. The set concludes just as her and her band really hit their stride, with Chelsea Wolfe sinking to her knees, lost in the sheer passion.
The atmosphere in the room changes drastically as giant inflatable chickens baring anti-swastika logos and Donald Trump haircuts are blown up and left to chill out on the balcony above the stage. Industrial metal pioneers Ministry perform with seven members tonight, even making room for a somewhat out of place turntablist to scratch the decks! Vocalist, guitarist and band leader Al Jourgensen stumbles onto the stage looking a little bewildered. A big cinema screen hangs above the band, with crazy, psychedelic visuals throughout as well as crassly animated images of Trump being beat up with boxing gloves, and Hilary Clinton breathing fire like a dragon. Ministry’s entire live setup is ridiculously grandiose and overstimulating, eventually feeling like a bad acid trip, but it doesn’t take long for the crowd at the front to start moshing away.
Ministry focus very much on their latest (critically panned) album ‘AmerKKKant’. Their whole set is a relentless barrage of chugging riffs, pounding drums and shouty vocals, with Jourgensen often screaming through a megaphone. ‘Punch In the Face’ is a particular lowlight of the set that sees some crowd revellers bursting into hysterics, and by the time ‘Antifa’ rolls around, eyelids start to roll as masked flag-wavers take the stage. Fortunately Ministry win over the crowd after the first hour, focusing on early ’90s classics such as ‘Thieves’, ‘NWO’ and set highlight ‘Just One Fix’. It’s obvious Ministry are far from their peak and their set tonight feels rather lop-sided, with no real peaks or troughs. But no matter how silly their performance gets, it is obvious crowd-goers leave the show thoroughly entertained and weirded out!
Ministry + Chelsea Wolfe performed at The Albert Hall on Friday 20th July 2018. Words by Chris ‘Frenchie’ French.