Forgotten Classics - Fireball Ministry

I'm beginning to believe that I'm one of the few people on the planet who has even heard this album. And of those people, I think I might be the only one who likes it. But I'm gonna stand up for it, dammit!

While “The Second Great Awakening” far from rewrites any particular piece of heavy metal, it carries a sold, thumping, beat-based standard for stoner metal and the broader metal genre as a whole.

The preeminent feature of Fireball Ministry’s second album is that it presents the listener with an album that is both unique and instantly recognizable. The structure of a song like “King” doesn’t do anything especially new, but it does the same old trick in an interesting way, with a crisp, simple, addictive guitar riff throughout. If metal has taught me anything, it’s that the ability to create a memorable tune that the listener finds his or herself humming days later can be equally important, or perhaps even more important, than creating a new sound through an exercise in artistic vision. “The Second Great Awakening” achieves this modest goal from end to end, with only a couple dead spots on the entire album.

The album is slightly (and maybe I’m being generous by using that as a qualifier,) overproduced, which strips away a lot of what could have been effective grit from the base dirge riffs. That said, what results is an album of semi-destructive stoner metal with very sharp edges, which through intention or accident, creates a unique feel all its own. Without that, the album may have been too similar to a Monster Magnet album. Maybe the guitar lick on “Master of None” is sharper than it should be, but for a change of pace, I’d take that over another album of riffs lost in the miasma.

James A. Rota’s (most recently of the Neil Fallon side project “The Company Band” fame,) vocal styling is eerily reminiscent of Ozzy’s, particularly during the verses of “Flatline,” which, if the album could be said to have a single, that would be it. The chorus of the song is in contrast to the down-and-dirty verses, but the song is an easy listen, and the hook doesn’t let go.

The back half of the album, from the rapid fire (and possibly taken from Judas Priest) riff of “Rolling On,” to the echo-y and empty feel of “He Who Kills” sounds more like classic rock on steroids than it does true heavy metal, but that’s a fine line to tread, and those songs are effective in their own right.

The overall point I should focus on is that Fireball Ministry has constructed an easy to grasp metal album that achieves a lot without breaking any particular barriers. It’s solid without being flashy; a blue collar album from a work a day band, if that doesn’t sound like too dramatic an assessment. There’s a lot to like in the polished guitar work and simple, infectious riffs.

Give this a shot. I can’t promise it’s for everyone, and exclusive fans of the heaviest of metal may not find much, but those who just like to bang their head and groove along on their drive to work owe it to themselves to scope this one out.

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