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Saturday, February 13, 2010

CD Review: Fireball Ministry - s/t

Fireball Ministry - s/t
2010 Restricted Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

There's a reason why Fireball Ministry are so well-loved in the underground. Same reason which has made Fu Manchu darlings of distortion for quite some time. There's a subliminal feeling you get listening to Fireball Ministry that's partially nostalgic and partially optimistic rock 'n roll still matters today. Albeit there's a pinpointed limit to what they're trying to flawlessly achieve.

Part of Fireball Ministry's allure is the vocal swagger of the Reverend James A. Rota, II which frequently sways into Diary of a Madman-era Ozzy, only with a more booming kick as his canvas. Fireball Ministry are less-interested in heavy metal theatricality and more focused on combined agro and goodtime punches with their albums. In their own way, Fireball Ministry are most concerned in bringing heavy music back to the real, particularly back to the rock.

The sound of Fireball Ministry is rooted in tub-swilled rotgut consumed on the swampy banks of a mosquito-choked outer banks people never used to be privy to. Funny part is, Rota and company have reinvented the green death moonshine trade saturating modern southern rawk and punk by tweaking it with a Cali-bred stoner bite. Consider them potential leaders of a surf 'n swamp indie revolution.

Or maybe not, but Fireball Ministry is back once again with their fourth album of heavy drags, stamped-down tempo-kicks and teeth-clenched riffs. Skynard-esque on "Kick Back" and "Sleeping With Angels," riff-truckin' gnarly with Blue Oyster Cult spacines on "Butcher, Faker, Policy Maker" and Zeppelin heavy on "Followed by a Fall," the self-titled Fireball Ministry makes no pretentions about its business. Open the case for a Saturday chug-a-lug, but drown the ears with amplitude well before you drown the throat with malt.

Fireball Ministry opens with the snare-happy, riff-ravaged opening number "Hard Lines" and from there the album varies its pace between poke 'n prod nods and skate rat tubular. "End of Story" rides a mid-tempo rock trot which encapsulates all this group has established itself upon: a good vibe accompanied by volume and a slinky beat. Similar for "Thought it Out," even better with the aid of hummable Fu Manchu/Foo Fighters choruses driving out of a set of classic Kiss strums on the verses.

"In Their Own Right" is a snazzy closer with juicy guitars lashed out between Rota and Emily Burton painting their cool bonged bridge and rowdy solo section. "In Their Own Right" does bang away like a less glossy Ozzy track which might've fit snugly on No Rest For the Wicked. Ditto for "Fallen Believers," a track reminiscent of the entire late eighties before the hairball nation usurped control of good taste in metal.

As dirty as the press has seen fit to drape around the necks of Fireball Ministry, there still remains a slickness to their output which began as early as The Second Great Awakening. They may not be America's next truly great band, but they play like they believe they are. The production gives them more polish than your typical modern-day fuzz rawk band, which is good, yet there's a hint of trigger-thumbing due to their streamlining. Rock of this vein needs no perfection, which honestly, is Fireball Ministry's only guilt.

Rating: ***1/2


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