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Friday, November 06, 2009

CD Review: Fireball Ministry - The Second Great Awakening reissue

Fireball Ministry - The Second Great Awakening reissue
2009 Metal Mind Productions
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



November might be considered Fireball Ministry Awareness Month given the coinciding release of The Company Band's full-length debut featuring James A. Rota, Dave Bone, Clutch's Neil Fallon, CKY's Jess Margera and Fu Manchu's Brad Davis along with this reissue of the Fireball's breakout recording from 2003, The Second Great Awakening.

Originally a trio upon the release of Fireball Ministry's 1999 debut Ou Est La Rock? the lineup was later shuffled to include remaining members Rota and guitarist Emily J. Burton plus the addition of bassist Janis Tanaka and drummer John Oreshnick to jack The Second Great Awakening with fortified amplitude.

Fireball Ministry, though they could've easily have been relegated as a Fu Manchu or Kyuss knockoff, remains snugly nestled in the hearts of stoner and distortion rock junkies. There's something effortless and simplistic about the way Rota and company stamp and slide all over The Second Great Awakening, even if there's a sense of derivitive repetition staking it straight in the cajones.

Most people coming to this album observe The Second Great Awakening is more gloss and less spit than Ou Est La Rock? No coincidence when you acknowledge The Second Great Awakening recruited the technical polish of producer Nick Raskulinecz, most famous for his work with Foo Fighters, System of a Down and Queens of the Stone Age. Any question why The Second Great Awakening sounds major league?

Raskulinecz extracts the most muscle he can from Fireball Ministry on this album and even 2005's Their Rock is Not Our Rock. The Second Great Awakening flexes and flexes some more on "In the Mourning," "King," "Flatline" and "Choker." Is it safe to accuse The Second Great Awakening of od'ing on rock 'roids? Well, yeah, but mainstream rock acts ought to sound this good while beefing up to the tune of AOR-friendly mixes. You can't accuse Fireball Ministry of deliberately crashing the mainstream, not with music still yielding voluminous grit and grime beneath the veneer.

"Daughter of the Damned" is both Fu Manchu and Kiss in its Frehley-kissed riffage while the stepped-up "Rollin' On" bears more than a few shades of Priest. Of course, when you cut this album down past the chugging strums, the beastly power chords and drop-kicked, cowbelled tempos, The Second Great Awakening is possibly the album Ozzy Osbourne would've loved to have recorded himself in one of his downtime years following Down to Earth.

As many people have commented, Ruta frequently makes the best Ozzy outside of the Blizzard himself. Hard to picture the real McCoy settling for laid-back greasy hick rhythms as Fireball Ministry dials in for themselves. Thus you have the dense rawk dirge of "Choker" to replicate not only Ozzy's forlorn sheepishness for much of the ride, but also Zakk Wylde's cumbersome chords and drawling guitar solos. That being said, Fireball Ministry is much heavier in their efforts, which gives them passage for any perceived transgressions.

While sludge rock in its purest form deserves to be mucked up not dressed up, Fireball Ministry inherited a Midas touch of production on The Second Great Awakening largely due to the runaway success of Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age. Was that their fault? Not necessarily. Almost no radio courtier is going to remotely think of sprinkling one of their hammering tunes with gospel-oriented organs as provided by Rob Tucker on Fireball Ministry's "Maidens of Venus."

This reissue comes with some nifty goodies such as demo versions of "Daughter of the Damned" and "Flatline" plus a banging bonus song "Dark Descend," which might've been conceived over an evening spent with Ozzy's Bark at the Moon and Kiss' Creatures of the Night. The The Second Great Awakening also comes installed with enhanced videos of "Flatline" and "Master of None" for your extras-craving fulfillment.

Needlessly criticized for all the wrong reasons, The Second Great Awakening is a mostly entertaining sludge rock service for the down-tuned devout.

Rating: ***1/2

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