Fireball Ministry, Viper Room, Los Angeles, CA

This guest post comes from Genji from Los Angeles.  Look for more metal/punk posts from our California correspondent…

Late Thursday night I got the call from a friend inviting me to join him at the Viper Room to see LA‘s Fireball Ministry.  Not being terribly familiar with them nor very eager to leave my nice warm apartment (ie. lazy) I dragged my ass out to meet him, drink a beer and catch a band.  Now Fireball Ministry had been on the very outer reaches of my metal radar, but I hadn’t paid much attention, that is until tonight.  My initial indifference made me late to the show and I missed the Fucking Wrath and Night Horse, two bands I was also familiar with but wasn’t going to cry in the beer that was soon to be in my cold hands for missing them.

The only thing I remembered of Fireball Ministry before was seeing a goofy video of theirs one night after coming home from drinking.  I’d flipped on Headbangers Ball or something and remember being amused at seeing a guy running through the forest and across the land, while the non-descript biker rockers with a girl guitarist were playing a southern tinged brand of stoner rock/metal among the rocks.  The song was cool but I never pursued any of their material.  After the show though, I can honestly say this is one band I’ve been missing out on!

When I entered the Viper Room, I was shocked at how packed the place was with excited fans.  My friend pointed out that sitting in one of the VIP booths in the corner was none other than Mr. Mötley Crüe himself, Nikki Sixx.  Apparently he was gettin ready to enjoy some Fireball Ministry as well.  I have to admit I was a little impressed, I’ve been to tons of shows on the strip and rarely do I see star power like that turn out for bands who aren’t the flavor of the minute or highly established, well respected veteran bands.  At this point I was starting to get excited to see what this band was about.

My attention was immediately captured from the moment the first riffs rang out.  When I started to get that scrunched up metal face I knew I would be in for some serious metal glory.  What’s metal face you ask?  Well it’s kinda like bitter beer face (for those of you old enough to remember that reference).  You know, the kind of face you get when you hear that SOUND that just hits your metal jugular just right?  Well that was me, particularly during the song Guts which has this killer Thin Lizzy-like melodic lick that just slayed me, from that point on I was sold.  The vibe in songs like Man sound like Fu Manchu doing Skynyrd, perhaps because Fu bassist Brad Evans was once a band member.  But it wasn’t until rhythm guitarist Emily Burton started kicking in with the accompanying dual guitar harmonies in songs like Flatline and King that my head started seriously banging.  The biggest surprise to me though came from lead singer/lead guitarist James Rota.  He’s got a great melodic singing style that really makes the songs shine.  He sounds a bit like a lower register Ozzy with a slight southern twang and gruffness that fits this blend of southern stoner rock/metal perfectly.

The only unfortunate moment of their set came when one of the house amps crapped out, apparently not an uncommon occurrence for the Viper Room.  The brief delay caused them to lose some of the momentum they’d built, but they quickly got the crowd rocking again and never looked back.

During the encore, one of the songs they played was Sundown which also happens to be the song of the video I’d seen years ago.  It wasn’t until they started playing this song that  actually started to see the conceptual tie in of that video with the simplistic nature of this band.  In the video, this guy, presumably early man/caveman, is running through the forest and across barren lands, and my guess is that he’s trying to find shelter before the world goes dark at sundown.   Well, this band plays a style of metal that harkens back to earlier, more primitive times too.  When I hear them I’m immediately taken back to a simpler time when metal was not all black/death/grind/sludge/prog -core ish but just simply, metal.  And that’s what I really liked about these guys.  If you’ve never heard of them give them a spin, and if you get a chance to catch them, show them some metal love, I’m glad I did….