Bonfire - Fistful of Fire

Bonfire Fistful of Fire cover
Fistful of Fire
AFM Records
Bonfire, believe it or not, have almost been going on in one form and under one name or another since 1972. The vehicle for sole original member guitarist and composer Hans Ziller; they did achieve some commercial success during the 80s, during the time that Claus Lessmann was their frontman (and he was with them for the longest time). They never really managed to get in the premiere league of melodic bands, being Europeans although they probably sounded more American than more American bands… in recent years and after a falling out between Ziller and Lessmann, the band went through 2-3 singers (incl. one time Accept and Bangalore Choir singer David Reece) and while they rerecorded their best of songs with him for “Pearls” they ended up securing Michael Bormann’s (ex-Jaded Heart) services, only for a couple of months, and while waiting for a contractual clause that forbid him from recording with anyone, they just decided to mint, relative unknown Alexx Stahl (ex-Roxxcalibur – NWOBHM cover band), who helped Ziller out with preproduction, as a singer.
Since then the band has released three albums to mediocre response. Their recent concert locally was a bit of a catastrophe drawing very few people, although names that don’t have access to big promotional channels these days seem to suffer a similar fate. It’s not down to smaller names though, as even mid-tier bands seem to be losing traction, unless they latch themselves to bigger packages in a situation that only seems to be killing much of what was left still standing after the transition to the digital “era”. That’s kinda sad, since “Fistful of Fire” seems to be the first, album with Stahl that sounds closer to what it should, since the previous two efforts he was a part it, felt a lot more mediocre, with the band trying to balance out, their newfound dynamics within the band.
“The Joker” is a fluety, mellow and melancholic, yet electrified intro that leads to “Gotta Get Away”, which starts with a very gilmour-esque riff, before Stahl screams his balls of, for the song then to move in a more 80s Bon-direction. I still don’t particularly like Stahl’s top notes, that seem to go to nasal, but he gets the job done and you can’t really deny that the song is solid.
“The Devil Made Me Do It” is another cool tune, little darker, little heavier etc., but ultimately rather melodic, despite Stahl’s piercing screams here and there.
“Ride the Blade” is even heavier and more 90s, with more present guitars, fuller vocals that refrain from the cheap thrill of unnecessary, screaming and a cool chorus that works well.
“When An Old Man Cries” is a powerful and rather sad half ballad that gets rather bluezy. It’s a little by the numbers and Stahl’s heavier voice, despite a nice rasp seems less agile and able to carry it the way it needs to.
“Rock N Roll Survivors” is more of a fist pumping anthem about “Rawk” that feels pretty cookie cutter, although it is not the most annoying example of its ilk. I cringed a little – with the whole “fight for rock” shouting etc, but not as much with the rather sweet soloing, that seems to go on for quite a while actually!
“Fire and Ice” is a heavy yet melodic mid-tempo, with quite a spirit, which has a nice riff and build up during the verses, but a bit of a letdown chorus…
“Warrior” keeps up the slightly cringeworthy titles, while more keys than you could swing a sword at herald its arrival. I’m not big on the verses, or the chorus, which has some of the best melodies on the album, but lyrics that not only feel a little silly, but also kind of artificially forced onto the melody. What could have been one of the better songs of Bonfire in over a decade sort of ends up sounding like one that had a headlong crush into a Hammerfall B-side.
“Fire Etude” is a neat guitar solo instrumental, which doesn’t outlast its welcome.
After that soft reboot moment, “Breaking Out” comes around with some very spirited and urgent sounding verses and a half decent chorus, during which Stahl sounds more Hansi Kursch than Lessmann… which is not “that good”.
“Fistful of Fire” comes around with a mean riff and ecological messages, considerably heavier, but not as inspired as the rest… not to forget, unless the band is touring with Firewind, both bands might have albums that feature a big rest fist in the cover. Ehm, 2 finger it and you got the “Blood of the Nations”…
“The Surge” is another short transitional instrumental that leads into the pretty out and out melodic metal of “Gloryland” that’s pretty good, but not exactly close to anything else on the album. It sounds quite excitable for a song, which closes an album.
An acoustic version of “When an Old Man Cries” is offered as a bit of a bonus, that’s probably a bit of an improvement on the album version.
First pretty album with Stahl, who I am not the hugest fan of, and one that can stand up to some scrutiny against the band’s better moments. It’s marred a bit by production that could have been a tiny bit better, but not to the point where that becomes a problem and the latter part of the album becomes a little patchy but not to the point of detriment. The issue is… is it too little too late to save Bonfire from just going boom like a firework?