An Angry, Yet Touching Memorial to a Fallen Comrade
There’s a certain intensity associated with any Al Jourgensen project, and Surgical Meth Machine’s debut album is exactly that. The album was created with engineer Sam D’Ambruoso, and was intended as a tribute to late guitarist Mike Scaccia who played with Jourgensen in Ministry and the Revolting Cocks. The album itself is fast and loud. Each song is played at a rate of at least 220 beats per minute. This fast pace is based off of one of Scaccia’s favorites, “Side FX Including Mikey’s Middle Finger.”
You’re immediately hit with the speed of the album on songs “I’m Sensitive” and “Tragic Alert.” The intense drumming somehow keeps up with the shredding of Jourgensen’s guitar while audio clips complement the lyrics. The audio clips seem a little out of place at times, but it works with the riotous vocals. Jourgensen and D’Ambruoso do an excellent job of making the vocals sound like a group chanting instead of just one or two guys singing in a studio. But, the thrashing continues through songs like “I Want More,” “Rich People Problems,” “I Don’t Wanna,” and “Smash and Grab.” “Rich People Problems” is a particularly fun song because of the content in the lyrics and the amazing guitar solo. Jourgensen jumps in over several occasions in the song with what could be called monologues of different “rich people problems.” The few he includes on the track are actually pretty funny and give you a nice break before the chorus and thrashing of the song punches you in the face again.
“Unlistenable” is the most interesting song on the album. You’re never entirely sure whats happening and it keeps hitting you with a spoken conversation between two people about how horrible today’s metal is. Until one of the voices hits him with the band Devo, which leads into a cover of their song “Gates of Steel.” The cover is actually better than the original song, which is surprising since the two bands are from such different genres. The rest of the album gets a little funky compared to most of the earlier songs. In an interview, Jourgensen states he intended to make the heaviest, angriest album with the opening half of the album, but after he moved to California and received his medical marijuana card, he slowed it down drastically. Jourgensen accidentally connected the slowdown of the album with the incredible guitar solo on “Rich People Problems” and formed a pretty nicely-connected album. The last song, “I’m Invisible,” almost eases you out of the album after the intensity of the beginning.
Overall, Surgical Meth Machine’s debut album is an intense, angry beginning that seems to calm toward the end. Since the album is a tribute to late guitarist Mike Scaccia, one can almost interpret that the album is a metaphor for the emotions experienced by Jourgensen after a sudden death like that. You begin angry and upset at the world that something like that could happen, but by the end you accept it.