Ministry / Chelsea Wolfe / The God Bombs Opera House, Toronto ON, April 14

Ministry / Chelsea Wolfe / The God Bombs Opera House, Toronto ON, April 14
Photo: Riley Taylor
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The Opera House had a new addition on Saturday night — someone placed giant inflatable Trump-chickens on either side of the stage. With crossed-out swastikas on their bellies, the props signalled a night of calm discourse to follow. After all, when has a Ministry concert ever been anything but calm?
 
The sheets of freezing rain outside meant that only the brave showed up for openers the God Bombs. The pale basement-dwellers did a good job riling up the crowd with their traditional synth-and-drum industrial. Their cover of the Cure's "Killing An Arab" went well, their cover of tonight's headliner not so much. No need to remind the crowd that you aren't Ministry! Unfortunately for the God Bombs, it was Chelsea Wolfe that almost stole the show.
 
Skeletal, and seemingly eight feet tall in platform boots, the avant-garde musician delivered an eerie and unnerving set. The crowd filled up as Chelsea Wolfe warbled her way through the likes of "Vex" and "Spun." Like a mournful nightingale, Chelsea's voice contrasted with the waves of harsh noise surrounding her. Toronto hasn't heard soundscapes like this since the last time Swans came to town, but the coven of collaborators somehow kept things accessible. Strobe lights pulsed and Chelsea remained hidden behind a curtain of raven hair, occasionally breaking into a bloodcurdling screech that brought to mind images of abandoned hospitals and vengeful, ghostly brides.
 
Not content to look and sound evil, Chelsea Wolfe smelled evil, thanks to a bracket of burning incense side stage. It's a cheap, but effective trick. By the time the nightmarish sway of "16 Psyche" bubbled forth, Chelsea Wolfe had firmly staked a claim to being one of the most innovative live musical acts of 2018. We would all do well to listen.
 
Following that horror show, Ministry's anti-Trump crusade couldn't help but feel camp; 45's big orange face filled the screen, drawing groans from the sold-out crowd. "Twilight Zone" wasn't the best opener, with its mid-paced grind, and microphone issues did not help. The audience was not responding, and even an appearance from Fear Factory vocalist Burton C. Bell on "Victims of a Clown" couldn't shake things up. For one horrible moment, it seemed all our fears had come true: Ministry have succumbed to old age and irrelevance. Industrial is dead.
 
Then, without warning, they dropped "Señor Peligro."
 
It was an unrepeatable moment. Bodies went flying, the strobe lights came back on, and it was like the entire venue was strapped to a nuclear bomb and detonated. Energy levels skyrocketed, and by the time Burton reappeared for "We're Tired of It," the lacklustre opening was a distant memory. Al Jourgensen and company have had a wild 35-year career, and few industrial bands can boast more hits. "LiesLiesLies," the 9/11 Truther anthem, made a furious appearance, but it was the old-school triple whammy of "Just One Fix," "N.W.O." and "Thieves" that reduced the die-hards to blubbering wrecks. It almost made up for "Antifa," a song that featured the phrase "we're not snowflakes" emblazoned in impact font across the screen. Ugh.
 
Al Jourgensen's anger has always been a feature of Ministry's music. Now, he sees that anger justified. The Trump bashing is good for a quick jab, but it's the seething nature of the band's thrash riffs that really set them apart. As it stands, Ministry aren't going anywhere. The industrial world cannot afford them to.