U.S.S.A.: The Spoils

While seemingly out of nowhere, it’s strangely fitting that Ministry’s Paul Barker and The Jesus Lizard’s Duane Denison would cross paths enough times to start up an act of their own. Barker, since leaving longtime collaborator Al Jourgensen, has only seemed to pop up now and again to DJ. Denison’s been involved with Tomahawk, but that’s become more and more of a side project. Pick up an accredited clinician/session drummer in Johnny Rabb and a Mark Hamill-esque newcomer Gary Call to sing, and “let’s make a record.”

The result is The Spoils, something that often recalls Ministry’s early (and I mean early) days and influences, even before Barker was even in the band, though more laid back. Industrial’s noisiness is present, sometimes right up front (“Wasteland”), but often it’s Denison creeping around in the back while Barker keeps things in lockstep with Rabb.

What it ends up sounding like is an amalgam of modern aggressive rock outbursts and slithering, low-key restraints. If there’s one thing that Barker, Denison and Rabb want you to know it’s that they’re in complete control. Precision isn’t a goal, it’s a necessity, even with all the spacey noise.

The album’s opener and best cut, “Dead Voices,” is everything that could go right from this unusual foursome— minimalist, almost new wave, with barely any guitar work but the chorus and a clean but resonant vocal melody from Call. One of the most mature singles of this genre to come out in a long time.

That sophistication never quite leaves the band throughout the remainder of The Spoils, but it is absent from Call from time to time, the least experienced member of the group. Sometimes his vocal lines are overwrought, wandering into vocal territory that smells of egotistic commercial metal.

Despite this occasional nuisance, there’s a lot to love about The Spoils for fans of industrial before it was eaten by metal, and following that, the rock world in general. Wax Trax! would be happy to have it.

In A Word: Articulate