With music hot, fast and ferocious, the Fireballs of Freedom
Portland, Ore.'s high-energy, screeching rock 'n' roll four-piece
couldn't have adopted a band name more suitable to their
sound. And with their latest release, Welcome to the Octagon,
it's a sound they've both improved and diversified. . It's new! It's improved! But it ain't gonna make you feel any cleaner! In fact, the sound is as dirty as ever and, this time, more likeable.
Following up Total Fucking Blowout, their well-received 1999
debut on Estrus, the band's third full-length boasts a musical
evolution of sorts. There's less distortion and sonic fuzz on this
album. With beats more danceable, tracks more diverse, and effects
and instrumental arrangements more clever, the album demonstrates
band members' willingness to take risks while remaining committed to
the powerfully raw, hard rock at their core. Furthering this
improvement is the refined production that allows for a more crisp
and clear sonic experience. Originally from Missoula, Mont., the
punk-tinged, '70s rock-influenced group, whose members met as art
school students, has taken a small step away from straight-ahead
heavy rock, mixing cautious amounts of soul and funk into the new
album's consistently booming and thunderous tracks.
The grungy "Western Wield" kicks off with solo, hip-hop-style
drumbeats before breaking into a jarring, pleading vocal atop
droning, sometimes dissonant rhythm lines and gritty guitar. The
power ballad "Got My Soul Back" whisks the listener back to the '80s,
when glam-rock ruled and no hair-metal band could survive without an
always cheesy and frequently heart-wrenching ballad. Touching on a
deal rock 'n' roll has lived by since the days of its birth, when
Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil, this moving ballad finds
lead vocalist/guitarist Sammy James, desperate to reverse the deal,
crooning: "I gave you my body/ I gave you mind and soul/But I can't
live without it / ... I get my soul back/ And now you got your song."
In contrast, "Panties Off," with some funky organ and the party-time
flavor of handclaps and hoots and hollers in the background, is the
most fun, upbeat and danceable track here. "We Do It Everyday," which
leads off the album, and "Out of My Head" retain the Fireballs'
classic sound, rocking in the vein of The Stooges and MC5 with
howling vocals, fast-fingered guitar and slamming drums. The jamming,
Sabbath-style closing track "Vs. the Universe" offers layers of
semi-psychedelic playing, fuzzed-out guitar and jazzy beats.
The Fireballs of Freedom have made another mind-blowing rock 'n' roll
record. The dirt just got better.