Fireball Ministry 

FMEP Small Stone

Who cares if "stoner rock" bands like that term or not -- there's something very fitting about the phrase that makes it hard to give up. When I think of stoner rock, I don't think of stinky hippies doing their little chicken dances to Grateful Dead bootlegs; I think of thick, sludgy riffs fueled by a punk sorta aggression. If these boys are "stoners," they probably used weed as their gateway drug into the wonderful world of psychedelics and amphetamines. This influence colors their music; there's nothing sedentary or peaceful about bands like Nebula, Fu Manchu, Electric Wizard, or Queens of the Stone Age.

Fireball Ministry is definitely one of the best groups to load a bowl in a long time. From its extended cover of Judas Priests' "Victim of Changes" -- where FM frontman Rev. James A. Rota II flips into an amazing Ozzy-like falsetto -- to originals like "King," "Maidens of Venus," and "Choker," the Ministry delivers a heady sermon of heavy-fucking-metal. While acts like Spirit Caravan can disappear into thick fogs of effects-laden riffs, FM keeps the adrenaline pumping from start to finish. The band also makes sure to pay tribute to many influences. Besides Judas Priest, it also hits up Alice Cooper's "Muscle of Love," Aerosmith's "Movin' Out," the Misfits' "Cough/Cool," and one of the granddaddies of rawk, Blue Cheer's "Fortunes."

If there's one flaw in FM, though, it's that the band gets a little too stuck in hero-worshipping mode. The Ministry is capable of writing tracks that could burn the pants off more mainstream alt-metal acts like QOTSA, but they ain't gonna do it hiding behind another act's best work.


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