The Ministry show at the 9:30 club Wednesday night was kind of a downer. A loud downer, but a downer nonetheless.

The band is one of the founding fathers of heavy music, as it's called these days. This is a band that is supposed to be very, very loud, in other words--but even a band that doesn't believe in moderation could stand to concede that turning all the knobs up to 11 isn't going to automatically fool a crowd into thinking it's witnessing a great show. The samples (such as the lines Ministry borrowed once upon a time from a George Bush speech about "Good and evil, right and wrong" for "N.W.O.") were lost in the din. Same for some guitar solos and whatever that saxophone player was doing while he was up there onstage with the band.

Sure, most of what makes up Ministry's sound is the combination of Al Jourgensen's bullhorn of a voice piping in over a swarm of angry, buzzing guitars on top of the cadence of a martial drumbeat. But without a good sound mix, they start to sound like any of a hundred other meat-head heavy music bands out there. It's not a tragedy, perhaps, but it is sort of a shame.

The show was brutish and short. Ministry played two brief encores, alternating a new song with an old song both times, where they pulled out "Jesus Built My Hotrod" and closed with a cover of the Black Sabbath song "Supernaut," which started strong, sputtered around for a while and then just sort of gave out.