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Fireball Ministry
Norfolk, VA 27 Dec 2005

by Travis Becker

An opening slot for a seasoned, respected, touring act is all a band needs sometimes to take that final leap over the top of the trenchs. For a group like Fireball Ministry who seemed poised at the verge anyway, a chance to open for Clutch represents a generous visit from old Satan Claus and a lot of help towards achieving their New Year's resolutions-if selling a bunch of records was in their toast this midnight. When this traveling festival of metal and pseudo-religiosity hit Norfolk, tucked right in the middle of the holiday season, good cheer and newfound respect were both on the itinerary. 

Fireball Ministry took the stage in support of their newest release, Their Rock is Not Our Rock, and played like they had something to prove. And maybe they did. Since their first record, 1999's Ou est la Rock, Fireball Ministry has hovered somewhere between the rough grooves of stoner rock and the smoother, hookier sound of classic metal. Like Sampson holding a pillar of Marshall Stacks with one arm and a monolith of Orange goblins with the other, the band seemed wedged in the midst of metal, struggling to truly find an identity of their own. Some unexplainable, intangible "it" was just missing from their sound. TRINOR finds the band taking strides towards addressing that issue, but still lacks the edge that puts an album into the class of the truly great. Brand New Sin is an apt comparison here, not in terms of sound, just in the fact that both bands write great songs, and amazing hooks, but feel a little too overdone when the timer pops up. Fireball Ministry's live set, however, redeems them completely.

Playing to a crowd of Clutch-faithful stands as a monumental task for any band. More than a few bands have crashed and burned in that role. Fireball Ministry managed to keeps its wings with a tight set culled largely from their aforementioned new release. 

James A Rota II is an imposing presence on the stage, leaning over his guitar authoritatively. His vocals are very melodic on record, and he managed to recreate the sound perfectly in concert with just a little bit of Lemmyness growling beneath the surface. The rest of the band clearly follows his lead, with second guitarist Emily J Burton complimenting Rota nicely on vocals as well as the axe with a little bit dirtier sound than what made it on record. The rhythm section was anchored by the absolutely gigantic John Oreshnik who seemed to dwarf his drum kit completely. The snare almost cowered beneath his sticks. The performance was highlighted by "It Flies Again" from the new record. The song is metal perfection featuring a huge riff and a chorus that should be on the radio at least once an hour. "Two Tears" stood out as well. The song is featured on Their Rock is not Our Rock in a slightly different arrangement from the one on Ou est la Rock, that album's most memorable track. The only complaint with their set was that the sound was a little murky at times. On songs like "Under the Thunder" a little crisper mix would have helped the hooks stand out just a little bit more. "Flatline", a track from the band's second album, The Second Great Awakening, also had much of the crowd throwing fists and horns in the air.

Fireball Ministry seems destined for greatness. It's only a matter of time before enough people hear those huge hooks and the harmonic solos to really get the band off the ground. Opening for a band like Clutch that really seems to be hitting its stride, gives Fireball Ministry a shot at a different audience, but one that is loyal to the end. Given the tendency Clutch is embracing to stretch out, that audience may even be more appreciative of a band that hits the stage and gets right to the point. Watch out for this band. They're starting to find their legs and once they do, it won't be long before they're kicking the crap out of the music industry. God knows it needs it, and this ministry knows it. 

CD Info and Links

Fireball Ministry  - Their Rock is Not Our Rock

Label:Liquor and Poker Music
Ratings:(Live Show)

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