VERSUS: Streetcleaner vs. Psalm 69

VERSUS: Streetcleaner vs. Psalm 69

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them to each other, to see which one was the better record.

In this edition of Versus, we are treading into the mechanical and factory-laden sounds of industrial metal. Bands that include synthesizers, keyboards, samples, electronic drums, and aggressive guitars. Two bands that have been cited as some of the biggest names in the metal field. One band, cited as one of the major influencers of the genre, influencing many popular bands like Fear Factory, Isis, Converge and Devin Townsend. The other, a band that would make a more commercial and heavier version of industrial music that strayed away from the rock-tinged version of bands like Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy. So, let's check out these popular releases of the genre in this matchup I'm calling "Remanufacturing The Metal Machine".

In this corner, we have Godflesh with their 1989 debut album Streetcleaner. Featuring heavily distorted guitars, with the guitars sometimes used to make noises and not to play actual chords or notes, along with machine-like percussion booming in the mix over the guitar and bass. The album would go on to be considered a cornerstone of the genre and influential to countless bands that would inspire them to create their own take on the sound. How does this English band's iconic debut stand on the pantheon of industrial metal?

The album opens with the brooding distortion of "Like Rats". Vocalist Justin Broadrick's deep gutturals, matched with the bass heavy driving notes into the bombastic drum hits behind him, showcase that industrial sound. G.C. Green's bass is thundering and pulsing on the verse, creating a slow headbang feel to the riff, almost forming a groove. In the song, you can hear the influence and style that Fear Factory would try to capture on their debut album Soul of A New Machine. "Christian Rising" starts with a dirge like guitar strike, before picking up into a drum-machine like pattern with the bass following along to it.  A lot of reverb and delay on Broadrick's vocals, along with hopping between ear to ear in the headphones, creating a feeling of unease and anxiety in the aesthetic of the song. "Pulp" begins with that gritty bass tone, with wailing guitars behind it and machine gun like drum rolls. Broadrick's vocals are buried behind the heavy drumming and bass in the mix, letting the band be more front and center to create that manufactured, programmed industrial sound.

I like the opening, almost jagged like guitars and pulsing bass opening on "Dream Long Dead". The waning and unease of the song, creates a doom and gloom energy to the song, which I like a lot. The wailing guitars in-between verses pierces higher in the mix, with that thumping and driving bass behind it. There is almost a breakdown before the halfway mark which actually sound really heavy for the time of release. On "Head Dirt", drums are front and center in the mix, with guitars used to just create ambience in the form of distortion walls in the background. I felt the drums were a little more programmed and mixed better on previous songs, this one seems to have odd timing on some of the cymbal hits, or don't have the same punch in the clip used for the drum, but that could just be me. "Devastator" starts with a primal scream from Broadrick before being accompanied by Green's gurgling and grimey bass. Drenched in random sound clips, and audio noises, the song almost acts as an interlude before Broadrick comes back in at the end.

"Mighty Trust Krusher" starts with eerie distorted guitars hanging in the background, with random peaks of bass popping through in the mix. Drums are thunderous on the track, mixed with Broadrick's call to the skies and wailing guitars. The song gains a pulse with driving kicks and a chugging riff behind him on the verse section. The harmonies on the chorus, mixed with the barking and shouting vocals of Broadrick are unique in the performance, and something not quite heard in the record thus far. With "Life is Easy", Green's bass is so prominent and present in the song and rings so good in the speakers before the vocals kick in. The song channels the atmospheric and doom elements with its funeral dirge feel and instrumentation. The album's title track opens with ambient drones and an audio clip of someone talking about hearing voices, creating an evil and dark presence before the song kicks in, with driving drums, ringing guitars and chugging bass. The song is heavy in nature and more to the sound of what some might consider industrial metal to sound like. Double bass makes an appearance, adding heaviness to the track and speed to a more midtempo record thus far. Probably one of the heaviest songs on the album. The album's closer "Locust Furnace", drums are drenched in reverb with distorted bass and feedback ringing in the opening. The song channels the post-metal sound that would be more prominent on their next record, mixed with industrial metal sound the band has delivered this far. With drum-machine super speed hi-hats at certain parts, drums pulsing and pounding in the song, the song is a very entrancing and dark closer to this industrial classic.

In the opposing corner, we have Ministry with their fifth album, 1992's Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and The Way to Suck Eggs. The album is actually called ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ, but the band and fans refer to it as Psalm 69. This would be the band's breakthrough record, featuring two of the band's most well-known songs appearing on this album. These songs, their music videos, and the popularity of industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails, would break industrial rock & metal into the mainstream. Mainly industrial, the album does feature elements of speed metal, rockabilly and psychobilly music. Did vocalist Al Jourgensen and company deliver an album that could top their opponents?

The album opens with "N.W.O.". With its driving double bass, military sound effects, and electronic drum feel to the song, the band is starting off fast. The simple guitars add punch to the mix. Jourgensen's vocals, drenched in effects, into his feedback tinged scream into the chorus, give Ministry that trademark sound. I like the wailing guitars behind the main riff at the halfway mark of the song, The song can kind of be one-note or repetitive, which I feel if the song was shorter, it would be better, but it still is a good opening track.

Then comes "Just One Fix", one of the band's most famous songs. That recognizable opening riff, which many fans have joked that Rammstein has based their whole sound on that guitar tone. I love the driving drums and that riff over it is so good and makes you instantly bang your head. Jourgensen's under-water sounding vocals create a trippy feeling to the heaviness of the song. I like the bridge section with the clip of the song's title with the riff picking up the pace and the grinding guitars in the background as the pace of it builds and builds into Jourgensen's scream. A more dynamic song with peaks and valleys, it is a great song and my favorite song on the album. On "TV II", the opening riff, almost has a black metal sound to the playing, guitar tone and production. Even the drums kicking in has a black metal sound to it. Jourgensen's vocals are raw, almost hardcore or punk sounding in delivery, with the random guitar and drum strikes in-between. The band tries to go as fast as they can and being a straight metal band with almost no industrial elements to the song until near the end of the track. "Hero" has an upbeat building drum opening, with a thrash sounding opening riff, very classic thrash like in the vein of early Metallica. The verse section is similar to the previous track and more metal sounding and less industrial, but I still dig it. The riff is so catchy and memorable, with an awesome guitar solo at the halfway mark.

The other big song from this album, and the second single from the album, was "Jesus Built My Hotrod". Featuring Gibby Haynes of the band Butthole Surfers in the opening and throughout, the song is off to the races after his spoken word part. The song does have Jourgensen delivering an almost southern honky-tonk parody vocal performance, showing Ministry's lack of seriousness. Shining a humorous element in the vocals and tone. Weirdly, it almost has the feel of a Primus song lyrically, but over a heavy metal riff, and it oddly works. "Scarecrow" showcases a drum sound similar to their opponent's album. The simple riff playing in the background as the reverbed soaked drums punch through in the mix sounds so good and creates atmosphere. A more slow-downed song, the song is still heavy in its performance, giving the listener a reprieve from the last couple high octane songs. "Psalm 69" opens with harmonious choir vocals, thundering drums, ringing guitars and a feeling of the intro of an epic blockbuster movie. A thrash heavy riff kicks in about the quarter mark, with driving drums and Jourgensen's under-water sounding vocals again, which on this song I think don't work. To be honest, I am not a fan of this vocal effect, which would be overused on later albums. He has a great voice like on "TV II", and he should use it more, but on later records it has become a crutch. On "Corrosion", after a sound effect heavy opening, the pummeling drums and aggressive guitars kick the song into hyperdrive, almost overloading the ears with layers upon layers of sounds, banging drums and noises. The album's final track "Grace" starts with a pulsing bass effect, mixed with distorted sound clips into a feedback wall. More of an experimental track, playing around with drone, elements of harsh noise, and wall-to-wall effects, it is an eclectic closer to the album.

So as we punch out from our shift on the industrial line, who won this matchup of the industrial genre? In my opinion, I think Ministry and Psalm 69 is the winner of this matchup. I can hear the influence of Godflesh's debut album and the unique and groundbreaking sound of the genre. Although, I feel that some of the album can be a little lost in itself or seeming like it needed to be reigned in at certain points. Psalm 69 had some of that elements in the opening track, but was more restrained throughout and was pure on heaviness throughout the record. The songs are also more catchier and memorable, which makes sense why the band would be more commercial then their opponents today. Both are heavyweights in the genre if you want to get into industrial metal and are worth checking out if you want to study the history and popularity of this genre.

Godflesh would release a follow up to Streetcleaner with Pure in 1992. Pure, although labeled as an industrial metal album, would show the band venture into the post-metal genre and would receive positive reviews from critics. The band would go on to release four more albums before breaking up in 2002. The band would reform in 2009 and would release their first record in twelve years with A World Lit Only By Fire. The band would release a new record in 2023 called Purge and was well received by the fanbase.

After the breakup, Broadrick would form the post-metal act Jesu. The band would focus more on the post-metal sound, including elements of industrial metal, drone and shoegaze music. They released their self-titled debut album in 2004 to positive reviews and from fans, filling the void that the Godflesh breakup caused. Their most recent record was 2020's Terminus, before Broadrick put the project on hold to focus on a reunited Godflesh.

Ministry would go through some rough times in the band's history following the release of Psalm 69. With lineup changes affecting the band's touring and in the studio, along with Jourgensen's drug addiction, Ministry would break up in 2008. The band would reform in 2011 and release a new album, Relapse, in 2012. Following this release one year later, Ministry would release From Beer To Eternity, with Jourgensen stating this would be the band's final album, following the death of guitarist Mike Scaccia. This would again be debunked when Ministry released Amerikkkant in 2018 and then Moral Hygiene in 2021. The band will release their sixteenth album, Hopiumforthemasses on March 1, 2024 at the time of this article. Only time will tell if this truly will be Ministry's last and final album.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VS: Streetcleaner vs. Psalm 69 - Online Poll - StrawPoll
What’s your opinion? Vote now: Streetcleaner, Psalm 69…

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