Bonfire – Fistful of Fire (AFM Records)Monday, 13th April 2020
The best veteran acts in any genre need that mix of chemistry, ability, and trust to make things work. Case in point: German melodic hard rock/metal band Bonfire. Their debut album Don’t Touch the Light came out in 1986, and here we are in 2020 with their latest Fistful of Fire. Only guitarist Hans Ziller remains from those 80’s days, but he’s assembled a very credible crew of musicians ever since – including Seven Witches bassist Ronnie Parkes, Valley’s Eve guitarist Frank Pané, ex-Rage drummer André Hilgers, and powerhouse vocalist Alexx Stahl. Allowing the quintet to execute and shape the material ensures a diverse, forward-thinking record that is catchy, sharp, and able to run all edges of their influences.
Alexx of course can soar to the Halford/Dickinson-like heavens in metallic splendor – check out his upper register work for “Gotta Get Away” and the double-kick monster “Fire and Ice”. He also knows now how to carry a mid-tempo melodic hard rock anthem such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivors”, plus wrap his head around softer nuances when a ballad like “When an Old Man Cries” comes into the picture. As far as Bonfire musically, they’ve always been adept at mixing up those AOR/melodic hard rock aspects in terms of framing keyboards/orchestration around the conventional musical hooks and heaviness. It’s hard not to get enthusiastic about the music/vocal combinations for the crunchy “The Devil Made Me Do It”, or the Accept meets The Scorpions 80’s-like swagger of the title track. Neoclassical guitar execution allows the 81 second “Fire Etude” a brief reprieve from the normal songwriting action, while “The Surge” also is a minor instrumental diversion before kicking to high metal gear for “Gloryland”. Are there tunes that this scribe feels are a bit overtly ‘commercial’? Sure – “Warrior” with its 80’s ivory touches and smooth chorus screams arena-level thoughts, but that can be easily put into shuffle or skip mode. Bonfire succeeds because they mix up the mid-tempo and faster material with the proper ballad or instrumental showcases without necessarily beating the listener into submission – understanding that the ebbs and flows are needed to maintain interest in a full-length.
If you miss some of the hard-charging effort and execution of the late 80’s melodic hard rock scene with a modest amount of heavy metal infusion, Fistful of Fire is that record you’ll treasure from Bonfire. Solid choruses, massive hooks, and passion oozing out of every note – another rare time when an older act has the attitude, mechanics, and resolve to put out a strong release this deep into their career.