Fireball Ministry - Oú Est La Rock? (Bong Load Record) 1999
1. "The Man"
The Rev. James A. Rota II (guitars/vocals) and Rev. Emily J. Burton (guitars) together offer up their metallic debut to their faithful congregation. Humble beginnings for a band that will get better with time. However, that is not to say this independent debut CD is a dud. Far from it. "O˙ Est La Rock?" rocks hard and has that same old school, doomy vibe that the band perfected on "The Second Great Awakening". If you can imagine a mixture of classic bands like Grand Funk Railroad and Uriah Heep combined with the metal edge of Priest and Sabbath, you can get an idea of the assualt to the ears that Fireball Ministry offers. I think the main difference is in the production, which is much thinner than on the band's Nuclear Blast debut. Having heard that CD before this one put things in a different perspective than if I had heard this one first. However, for what it is, this disc is an enjoyable listen. Addition musicians on this CD were: Rev. Jimmy Z. D'Amico (bass), Guy Pinhas (bass); John Oreshnick (drums), former Megadeth drummer Nick Menza (drums on "Two Tears" and "The Man"). Had my copy autographed by James Rota and Emily Burton when they came through Albuquerque in June 2006.
Fireball Ministry - FMEP (Small Stone) 2001
1. "King" (4:40)
If you read my review of their "Second Great Awakening" CD you will see that I was an instant fan upon listening to the CD a few times. However, after seeing this band live, opening for Dio, I became a Fireball Ministry addict. Fireball Ministry were just outstanding on the stage and completely blew me away. I stood directly in front of bassist Janis Tanaka the entire time and was amazed at here old-school heavy metal stage presence and her Geezer-like bass playing. Likewise the entire band was excellent and pumped up my "metal pride". I almost got into a brawl over one of Janis' picks. (Man, I had the thing in my hand! Hey Janis if you ever read this review, I want one of your bass picks! You rule!) So what does this have to do with this EP? Nothing really, except that it was because of that show that I began to check into this band further and began an instant search to find this EP, as well as their first independent CD. While the first three songs aren't much different than the tracks that appear on "The Second Great Awakening", other than some minor production differences, it was the five cover songs that I was most interested in. Proving that these guys come from the same roots as I do, they cover five classic songs. "Muscle of Love" is an Alice Cooper cover, "Victim of Changes" is a Judas Priest cover, "Fortunes" is a Blue Cheer cover, "Cough/Cool"is a Misfits cover and "Movin' Out" is the Aerosmith cover that finishes off the EP. Of course, any band that covers classic Aerosmith and Judas Priest is alright with me. "Victim Of Changes" is one of my favorite Judas Priest tracks. Fireball's cover of this epic song is slow and doomy, which actually works quite well with this song. Alice Cooper's "Muscle of Love" is a standout as well, complete with those cool slide bass lines. The thing about covering Priest, Cooper, and Aerosmith is that each of these bands have very distinctive, unique vocalists. The Rev. James A Rota, however, does a decent job covering them all, especially Halford. It takes some guts to sing "Victim of Changes." All five covers are actually well done, although being a fan of most of the originals it's hard for me to be objective and say if Fireball's covers are better or worse. Instead I will just say that their covers are enjoyable! In other words, this CD rocks! How's that for a in depth opinion? I must also make note that Janis Tanaka was not yet a member of the band when this EP was recorded and that all bass was played by Brad Davis of Fu Manchu.
My first introduction to to this band was through reading reviews that labeled this band a Black Sabbath clone. On my first listen of "The Second Great Awakening" I can certainly hear the Sabbath influence, but to call them a clone simply means that the reviewers haven't given this disc a fair amount of spins. Not since Trouble's fourth self titled disc have I heard stoner rock that is this instantly infectious. The slow grooves are very reminiscent of Trouble's signature sound. It is these riffs that make this CD one that has spun many, many times in my CD player since getting it less than a month before writing this review. The vocal delivery, which does sound a bit like Ozzy Osbourne at times, adds so much to the bands overall sound. However, this comparison is merely to get the idea of the style of the vocals. As with the Sabbath comparisons, subsequent listens will show that The Reverend James A. Rota II does indeed possess a sound that is all his. While his voice does have some of those smooth qualities that made Ozzy, he also has a distinct way with enunciation and often uses a bit of grit in his voice to bang his lyrical points across. Some of my favorite tracks are "In the Mourning", King" and "The Sinner" although I really think this is one of those discs that is solid from beginning to end. Unfortunately the lyrics to this album were not included in favor of line-art drawings of the band. However, thanks to the world wide web I was able to read through most of them. Despite their name and the title of the CD, this band's lyrical ideas are pretty vague and are open to interpretation, although they do tend to play off the ideas of the church. Their website, for instance is called "The First Church of Rock n Roll" and their singers name is "The Reverend" James A. Rota. For a better idea of their lyrical direction, check out the lyrics to "The Sinner" below or go to their website and you can read all the lyrics.
Fireball Ministry's third full length CD, their first for the Liquor & Poker label and their first to feature new bassist Johnny Chow (ex-Systematic). As with the band's last album, "Their Rock is not Our Rock" is chock full of meaty, guitar riffs and songs that sound orignial while at the same time being a bit of a throwback to the heavy bands of the 70's, If I were to venture out and make a comparison, I'd say try mixing Black Sabbath with some Blue Cheer, a little BÍC and some early Motorhead. I am not sure that "Their Rock..." is as immediately memorable as "The Second Great Awakening". However, I did manage to listen to this CD about 6x within the first three days of owning it, which to me says that there is something about it that kept calling me back for another listen. With each subsequent listen I began hearing and enjoying the melodies more and more. I did like the fact that the female background vocals were much more discernable on this CD. When I saw Fireball Ministry live in the past, Emily's vocals (and at one time Janis') really added something to the overall sound of the band. I thought this was missing a bit on "The Second Great Awakening", but is very much present here. The songwriting has pretty much stayed the same, with the exception of a few tracks that have moved a bit towards slightly longer songs. Fireball Ministry are not known for being overly technical or progressive. Personally I find this refreshing as the band bucks the current trends in metal where bands feel the need to cram as many riffs into one song as humanly possible. Rather, Fireball Ministry rely on simple riffs and melodies. Having only lived with this CD for a few days, the standout cuts for me are the upbeat "Sundown", the doomy, moody "Hellspeak" and the gritty "Two Tears". Call 'em stoner rock, biker metal, heavy metal, doom, or whatever label you want. The point is, Fireball Ministry know how to rock. I like this CD. Amen!
Had my copy autographed by the entire band where on tour for "Their Rock" in June 2006.
Fireball Ministry are one of the best kept secrets of the underground. Fireball Ministry play hard rock like it never went out of style, and that is part of what I love about them. They don't care about trends in music, or for radio hits. Rather, they just continue to crank out their own brand of smokey, stoner rock.