In the sprawling landscape of industrial music, few acts have been as influential and irreverent as Ministry. Their recent live rendition of “Revenge” on August 24th, 2023, has sent shockwaves through the music community, marking the first time the song has been played live since December 31, 1984, a gap of almost four decades.
But why has “Revenge,” arguably one of Ministry’s most fan-beloved songs been shelved for so long?
One must delve into the tumultuous relationship between Jourgensen and Ministry’s debut album, With Sympathy. Released in 1983, the album was a departure from the band’s later, grittier sound. It leaned more towards synth-pop, a direction that Jourgensen has publicly disavowed. In a candid interview with Lyndsey Parker of Yahoo Entertainment, he even recounted a moment where he burned the original master tapes in a fit of disdain.
Yet, the story is more nuanced than mere rejection. As detailed in a deep dive by Andi Harriman, Jourgensen’s relationship with With Sympathy is layered. The album, while poppy and loveable, is an essential 1980s dark synthpop record. Tracks like “Revenge” resonate with both new wave and goth dance floors. The album’s cover, featuring a black-clawed hand, roses, and a marble background, is iconic in its own right.
Jourgensen’s main contention has been with the major label, Arista, which he felt forced the album’s pop direction. He’s been quoted saying, “I did not write that fucking record,” emphasizing the label’s heavy-handed influence. Yet, evidence suggests that Jourgensen was already exploring British-inspired synth music before his time with Arista. The I’m Falling/Cold Life 12” release on Wax Trax! from 1981 is a testament to this.
Despite his vocal disdain for the album, Jourgensen has shown signs of softening. He’s acknowledged that without With Sympathy, he might not have become the “maniac douchebag” he is today. In many ways, the album was a catalyst, pushing him towards the industrial version of Ministry that fans have come to love or hate, for better or worse.
So, when the first notes of “Revenge” rang out in the recent live performance, it wasn’t just a song being played. It was a reconciliation, a nod to the past, and a powerful recocking of Ministry’s over 40-year history.
Watch the return of “Revenge” below:
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