In the most heretical rock show I’ve attended, Fireball Ministry opened for Flickerstick at West Hollywood’s Viper Room two years back. The reality-MTV game show rockers went up against the Hollywood metal churchgoers, who naturally had already wiped the floor with them. The Music Television Network is a mortal sin, I say.
So excuse the horse laugh on hearing news that Headbanger’s Ball—the equivalent of a kook show on local public access—is hip to the Fireballs. Common sense dictates that network devils would never green-light a traditional metal video as long as they can profit from sending nausea nationwide with close-ups of the pulling of an obese man’s infected big toenail. Fireball Ministry, however, do not trade in repulsion. Indeed, though a small woman grapples a snake on the CD cover, the serpent is a symbol of healing and wisdom. This serves to illustrate the Ministers as people of substance, not slime. They’ve patiently worn the hair shirt of pro bono big-and-loud rock for years, though every record they’ve made has featured a couple of stunners. A storming cover of “Muscle of Love” on 2001’s FMEP didn’t even raise eyebrows in L.A. parishes.
But The Second Great Awakening is their trademark purist metal with groove, given another life. “King” is the money shot, but every song ably combines thud and melody—about 60-40 Brit-flavored to U.S. arena-swinging meat. James Rota sings more piously than Bob Welch performing “Nazarene.” But that only means that when he hollers about his “black wheel” turning, it’s not so much the lyrical nonsense as how great the voice sounds that leaves you dancing.