The world has moved on, but iconic frontman Al Jourgensen is still angry. Give that man an electronic cigarette
It may have taken 32 years, 12 albums, 14 world tours, one split, several court cases and a small South American country's worth of drugs for them to make it to Northern Ireland, but finally Ministry – who played their supposedly 'final' shows in Dublin in 2008 – are here. 'This is our first time in Belfast, and I like it already,' grins main man, Al Jourgensen. 'And I don't like most places.'
Indeed, the reunited industrial pioneers' iconic vocalist is a tightly wound ball of resentment. 'I hate people,' he spits at one point.
Some of the people he hates include George W Bush, bankers ('They're keeping us down, man') and politicians ('Big government'S watching you,' he rasps mockingly). The political soap-boxing is rather trite, and certainly outdated. Bush has been out of power for more than three years.
Later, Jourgensen demands he's not playing any more until he gets 'a f'ing joint'. Perhaps in 1992 this would have seemed wild and dangerous, but with the singer now well into his 50s, it just comes across as a bit sad (as do the top hat, silly face-paint, abundant eyebrow piercings and ever-present electronic cigarette).
Still, it's all about the music, and in this respect Ministry continue to deliver the goods. It's crushingly loud down the front, and what Jourgensen's sidemen lack in stage presence they make up for in chops.
Journeymen guitarists Mike Scaccia (also of thrash stalwarts Rigor Mortis) and Sin Quirin (from nu-metallers American Head Charge) peel out the meaty riffs and dissonant solos like the pros they are, and there are no arguments with the work of keyboardist John Bechdel, bassist Casey Orr and drummer Aaron Rossi.
Setlist-wise, perhaps disappointingly for longtime fans, the bulk of the evening is drawn exclusively from Ministry's four most recent albums. The material ranges from the punishingly effective ('No W', from 2004's, Houses of the Molé, is the best Slayer song Slayer never wrote, while 'Señor Peligro', from 2006's Rio Grande Blood, is an anthemic powerhouse) to a mid-set lull that lasts until the encore.
The dirge is broken by a handful of compelling offerings from the band's much-maligned comeback album, the wittily titled Relapse. '99 Percenters' and the title track are far stronger than the record's detractors would have you believe.
The faithful are rewarded with an extended encore that revisits the best of Ministry's early years. 'Psalm 69', 'NWO' and 'Just One Fix' sound as good as they ever did, while 'Thieves' and 'So What' take us back to 1989's genre-inspiring The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste. Proceedings wind down with a reasonable cover of 'United Forces' by New York hardcore legends the Stormtroopers of Death.
While tonight's audience is smaller than Ministry might have enjoyed during their grunge-era heyday, the concert represents a richly deserved triumph for local promoters the Distortion Project. With no funding, no awards and no hot air, the operation – basically one man, James Loveday, who still does the door at his own shows – has graduated from club level to the Mandela Hall.
As for Jourgensen, he's having a ball. 'People flipping me off, and throwing s**t at me,' he marvels at the rowdy crowd. 'I love this town, man.' Here's hoping he loves it enough not to leave it off Ministry's itinerary in future.