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BONFIRE Fistful of Fire

By Daniel Höhr, European Correspondent
Tuesday, April 7, 2020 @ 6:01 AM


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BONFIRE
Fistful of Fire

AFM Records, 2020




Two years after the release of the much acclaimed Temple Of Lies album, the successor to Byte The Bullet, which was vocalist Alexx Stahl‘s debut album with BONFIRE, the Bavarian hard rock veterans have now released Fistful of Fire. Bonfire have been going for over 35 years now and have gone through several metamorphoses as far as their line up is concerned. And yet guitarist Hans Ziller and his bandmates have always been true to what defines BONFIRE‘s sound: earthy riffing, driving grooves, catchy hard rock numbers – and all that oozing with hard rock stereotypes, clichés, and platitudes that are sometimes difficult to bear, unless you‘re completely stuck in the 1980s. Admittedly, all the “burning fires“, the “devils“, the “crying“, the “running for your lives“, the “warriors“ etc are part and parcel of the hard ‘n‘ heavy genre and so are the “rising full moons“, the “glorylands“ as well as the soaring high notes at the beginning of a high-octane riff-driven track. We all love that, it all creates the aesthetics we like, but there is still a fine line between visual, lyrical and musical components that are typical of a form of art – and downright cheesiness. And while we hard rockers expect this line to be crossed – that‘s the fun of it – and the acceptance level of a certain amount of cheesiness rises with the amount of beer consumed, there is still the reality of an overdose of such clichés. And, I‘m afraid, that‘s where BONFIRE definitely are.

I‘m not saying the album is bad. To use some clichés myself, the band is on fire, the eleven tracks (plus three intros) are bursting with energy and Fistful of Fire is certainly one of the, if not the, heaviest BONFIRE albums to date. Each song has a distinct heavy edge, is utterly melodic, and straight to the point. One can hear that Hans Ziller and his colleagues learned one or two things from JUDAS PRIEST while on tour with them and the fresh and dynamic approach to Fistful of Fire is evident. Take “Ride The Blade“, the fourth track on the album. This song has unbridled energy, high-velocity lead guitar work, soaring and immensely catchy vocal lines. Or the riffy mid-tempo rocker “Survivors“, which will make you turn up the volume of whatever device you‘re playing it on. The allusion in the title of the mandatory ballad, “When An Old Man Cries“, is blindingly obvious and while the song itself is well crafted, it again takes it cue from hard rock ballads of the 1980s. This is nothing bad of course, as the 1980s are rightly regarded as the Golden Age of hard ‘n‘ heavy music but listening to it, I feel it‘s been done over and over again, it‘s been done to death and frankly, it‘s been done in a more interesting and exciting way. The simplicity of DEEP PURPLE‘s 1972 blues ballad “When A Blind Man Cried“ (the B-side of the “Never Before“ single), on the other hand, is timeless and goes right under your skin. I seriously doubt if anybody will say the same about BONFIRE‘s ballad of a similar title – and yes, they were asking for the comparison.

At the end of the day, Fistful of Fire is a well-crafted, energetic album whose undebated plus points are its heaviness and the outstanding skills of the seasoned musicians playing and singing on it. It rocks, it grooves, it has everything you are looking for in a hard rock and heavy metal recording. So no doubt it will find its audience and delight BONFIRE‘s fans and others. However, drowned in hard ‘n‘ heavy clichés and platitudes, the album will put off people looking for something that goes beyond polished and sonically updated 1980s standards, both lyrically and musically. One can definitely move on in musical directions other than heaviness and at the same time stay true to one‘s roots and style. And, sadly, I fail to see that on Fistful Of Fire.

3.0 Out Of 5.0


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