I’m thinking about making this a regular column, giving myself the opportunity to discuss the various available Rock Band downloadable songs (I currently sit at about 205 DLC songs, mostly due to running out of space on my 20 Gig hard drive. I’ll be upgrading to a larger drive at some point in November), packs, artists, etc, and whether I found them to be worth the money. Now, the one thing to absolutely keep in mind with these columns is that I’m a drummer first and foremost. For the most part, I can sight read anything short of thrash metal on drums, and almost as much on expert guitar or bass. Vocals is obviously a different beast, but if I know the song, I can capably perform on a high level at hard difficulty. But I play drums. It’s why I have the game. It’s why I keep playing. It’s what I do. This’ll be obvious as I keep doing these, but this is the baseline from which I’m working. Most of my feedback comes from the drums.
The first track pack from Ministry came out in May of last year. This was actually pretty awesome timing for me, as I had begun the process of using Rock Band to lose enough weight to capably exercise in other ways (I was in really bad shape and had serious ankle and back problems, as I’ve previously mentioned), so I was trying to find the hardest and fastest songs to play and burn the most calories. I had been doing this for about a week when Ministry Pack 01 hit the Rock Band store, and as a fan of classic Ministry, I knew it would be what I was looking for. “The Great Satan,” “LiesLiesLies,” and “Cuz U R Next” are all tier 6 (i.e. tier “devil skull”) for the drums, and five or six for guitar and bass. Al Jourgensen wasn’t exactly known for his singing acumen, so these aren’t exactly difficult vocal songs. When the second Ministry pack, containing “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” “Thieves,” and “Stigmata,” was released, I actually didn’t notice. I hadn’t been enthralled with most of the DLC, and had somewhat stopped paying attention. I was perusing the list last week hyping myself for the release of Rock Band 3 when I noticed that not only was a second pack released, but it had “Jesus Built My Hotrod.” I actually stood up, went over to my Xbox and bought it immediately. I don’t do that very often. Other than “Thieves,” the instruments are a bit easier the second time around, with the exception of Gibby Haynes vocals on “Jesus,” which are anything but easy. I might talk about them more in depth later, as I haven’t put a lot of time into “Thieves” or “Stigmata”
Drums: Ministry proper (i.e. once they left behind their synth pop styles on The Land of Rape and Honey) is an industrial thrash band, and all of their drum tracks are created by drum machines. Now, these aren’t the “Perfect Drug” type drum machines, and the parts are pretty straightforward. The easiest way to describe the drum parts for Ministry songs would be ‘fast’ and ‘unrelenting.’ Of the first three pack, “LiesLiesLies” is certainly the easiest of the tracks, with “Cuz U R Next” being the most difficult. None of these songs have particularly hard to deal with snare/cymbal/tom parts. For the most part, it’s all driving snare and hit-hat work, and not at all problematic for a competent higher tier expert drummer to handle. The problem, though, lies in the bass drum parts for all three songs. If you cannot deal with fast (and I mean fast) kick pedal parts with little to no rest periods, you should probably stay away from playing drums on the first Ministry pack. “Cuz U R Next” is basically a faster version of the drum part for “Painkiller” with less variety, meaning you have to keep up with the 2-3-4 bass drum style for almost the entirety of the song. I actually can’t beat that one without cheating. Now, when I say ‘cheating,’ I’m really talking about purposefully not playing parts of the song in order to conserve stamina and actually beat it. Turning the three kick part into a two kick part allows me to actually get through the song without failing (the other best example of necessary cheating for me is the legendary drum DLC “Blinded By Fear” by At the Gates, where I only play half the cymbal parts). “The Great Satan” can cause problems too, as it is pretty much just fast-paced kick pedal for the entire song (faster pedal work than “Blinded by Fear” and for longer), and “LiesLiesLies” is the only one where your foot actually gets a break from time to time, and is noticeably easier than the other two. If you can deal with thrash metal, I think that this pack more than anything is a wonderful training tool for getting your foot speed up to par and allowing for more explosiveness from your feet. Obviously, they’re excellent work out songs too.
Guitar: The guitar parts aren’t particularly difficult, but they are fast and almost entirely sixteenth notes. Obviously, alternate strumming is required to play these songs on expert, but I think anyone that would even consider purchasing a Ministry pack would probably expect that coming in. There are a few tricky solos in these, and they’re the type of speedy tap solos that can cause you to fail the song FAST if you lose the beat, so that’s something to consider. There are also some pretty nasty chord progressions anchored around the yellow fret in “LiesLiesLies” that might be difficult if you’re more accustomed to constantly shifting your hand positions instead of using your pinky finger (I have that habit, so it usually takes a few iterations before I can get the progression down). Any expert guitar player who hangs around the top tiers shouldn’t have too much difficulty with these songs.
Bass: To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever actually played bass on any of these songs. I expect it to be much of the same as guitar without chords and no solos. Shouldn’t cause too many issues for anyone that can alternate strum.
Vocals: Vocalists need not apply. Al Jourgensen’s vocals are pretty close to monotone throughout the songs, with a little bit of fluctuation on “LiesLiesLies,” but otherwise you’re basically dealing with the standard Ministry low register growl with occasional screaming. Fun for that crowd, nothing special for anyone else.
Overall: This is a good pack for metalheads, Ministry enthusiasts, and folks looking to add more high level challenging drum charts to their song repertoire. If you’re more of a guitar/bass player or singer, I don’t think you’re going to get too much out of this one. But for those who want it, it’s a lot of fun.