Bonfire – Byte the Bullet review

Label: UDR

Release Date: 24 Mar. 2017

Genre: Melodic Hard Rock

Band Members:

HANS ZILLER, Lead Guitar (GER)
ALEXX STAHL, Lead Vocals (GER)
RONNIE PARKES, Bass (USA)
TIM BREIDEBAND, Drums (GER)
FRANK PANÉ, Lead Guitar (GER)

Track Listing:

Power Train
Stand up 4 Rock 
Praying 4 A Miracle 
Some Kinda Evil
Lonely Nights
Byte The Bullet
Locomotive Breath
Reach For The Sky
Sweet Surrender
Friedensreich
InstruMetal
Too Far from Heaven
Without You
Sweet Obsession

Cast your mind back to 1987. Bonfire’s second album ‘Fireworks’ propelled the band to the forefront of the hard rock scene and established the German outfit as one of the premier acts in Europe. Followed up by ‘Point Blank’, another excellent release and the band cemented that reputation. Since then, fans have always referenced those two albums as the pinnacle of Bonfire’s career with subsequent releases never quite getting the adulation of those two despite some quality music continuing to be delivered by the band.

Now thirty years later, the band return after a slightly turbulent few years following the unexpected departure of original vocalist Claus Lessmann and a slightly revolving door of replacements that saw David Reece release two successful albums, ‘Glorious’ (2015) and ‘Pearls’ (2016) with them and also Michael Bormann, Bonfire’s singer from 1993-94 who briefly returned to the band to replace Reece.

Step forward then Alexx Stahl, with a voice that really captures the spirit of Lessmann and makes him the ideal replacement in the band. Having sung with power metal outfit Viron, releasing two acclaimed albums, he’s also sung in Roxxcalibur who have released 3 albums so far and US speed metal outfit Masters of Disguise who released two albums in 2013 and 2015 and also an EP in 2016.

To cut to the chase, this album captures everything right about Bonfire. From the opening synth led intro, bringing to mind Vangelis and the Blade Runner soundtrack, when the guitars kick in there is a sense of “ah yes…” because this immediately drops into the groove and Stahl’s voice provides the icing on the cake. With a neat nod to the Scorpions in the lyrics, ‘Power Train’ is then followed by the anthemic ‘Stand Up 4 Rock’ and ‘Praying For a Miracle’.

A slightly darker tone and another where the song makes you want to stand with your legs spread and bang your head with ‘Some Kind of Evil’. A modern take on ‘Who’s Fooling Who?’ in the shape of ‘Lonely Nights’ proves that the ballad writing power of the band hasn’t diminished one iota in the intervening years. It’s then followed by yet another anthem thanks to the album title track.

A quick analysis of the album as a whole ticks all of the boxes that we would hope for from a Bonfire release. Those bemoaning the departure of Lessmanm who went on to form Phantom 5 need not worry with this release as Stahl is a more than adequate replacement. Ignoring the recent Reece releases, this is a Bonfire album of the highest order. The lead single ‘Locomotive Breath’ can be seen below and it shows a band once more enjoying what they do.

‘Sweet Surrender’ has a real Scorpions guitar lick feel to it and to remind us that the band are looking to their heyday and want the fans to see this as a return to the sound of ‘Fireworks’ a rerecorded ‘Sweet Obsession’ also reaffirms Stahl’s vocal capabilities.

The only blip in the album is ‘Friedensreich’ a spoken comedic (by German standards) moment that sees the band trying to get someone to repeat a series of lines about [as far as I can tell] Friedensreich Hundertwasser a maverick architect and the author of the ‘Mouldiness Manifesto’. For whatever reason it exists, it’s a minute in length, skip past it and move to the excellent guitar led ‘Instrumetal’.

Closing out with ‘Too Far From Heaven’ and ‘Without You’ along with the rerecorded ‘Sweet Obsession’ this is probably Bonfire’s best album for some time, and, dare I say it, the best thing they’ve released since ‘Point Blank’. A welcome return and deserving of the Bonfire name. 

Review: Adrian Hextall

Score 9/10

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