HardReviews 5
by Martin Popoff

Fireball Ministry - Their Rock Is Not Our Rock
(Liquor and Poker)

Not showy, not particularly doomy or stoner, Fireball Ministry go about their business playing stripped-down classic rock further made easy on the ears through the sawed-off, edgeless production of Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, QOTSA). It's been a formula that has done the band well, as has the campy look and feel of the band's graphic and stage presentation, something that has also framed similar co-ed redneck acts such as Raging Slab and Nashville Pussy. Adding to the easy drinkability is Rev. James A. Rota's laid-back tenor, not to mention the fact that these songs are better than those proposed by QOTSA, that band getting the accolades, but this band nipping at their "ironic" 1974 high heels. Quite charming is Fireball Ministry's easygoing self-confidence, the band having no need to impress as it pens one sturdy, dependable old school hard rock song after another. Still, sometimes, it's a little too traditional - a few uptempo barnstormers with widdly riffs might have roused a couple more "Hell, yeah!"'s outta me.
Rating 7.5

Soulfly - Dark Ages
(Roadrunner)

Folks are talking about how heavy and Chaos A.D. and Roots this is, and the two openers basically put you right there. But things get impossibly more rockin' come 'Carved Inside' and 'Arise Again' where modern death and thrash enter Max's realm. Sure this is heavy, but the last one was too, so surprise at Max's purity of purpose should be diminished by this point, a point where one should just realize how cool Soulfly is, their chillin' days seemingly far behind. And one should also realize that Cavalera is one of the original hardcore roars, nothing contrived and bratty about it... you feel like he's announcing a prison riot or the storming of government offices. Continuity is maintained though with tribal rhythms, a few weird instruments, and yes, through Soulfly's time-honoured barrio gangsta-like shouting and pointing. Riffs are more note-dense and intense (see 'Frontlines' and 'Innerspirit') and just bloody cool, dark and Sabbatherian (via modern Machine Head). As expected, exotic atmospheres and textures eventually present themselves (Soulfly records are wound tight and then unravel), Max using guests again, Max taking another eye-opening trip (Serbia) and incorporating the sounds and emotions thereof. I love the work has gone into this, most of which as usual, can be heard on the second half, with my one complaint being the cold, compressed, synthetic, unyielding, triggered production. I sort of see why - this is a smothering and heavy record - but it causes fatigue fast. Soulfly's supposed to be the Grateful Dead of extreme metal and the sound of Dark Ages ain't warm and spliff-sparked.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 6