German veterans Bonfire bear little resemblance now to the band that came second only to the Scorpions in the late eighties as purveyors of highly melodic Teutonic rock.
Most crucially, at least for old sticklers like me, vocalist Claus Lessmann is out of the picture, replaced eventually by Alexx Stahl, who fronts this version of the band which now only features Hans Ziller from the glory days. What will this upheaval do to the band?
Well, on the evidence of first track Temple of Lies it looks like irreparable damage is the answer to that nervously-put question. A churning, screechy heavy metal din crashes out of the speakers, kinda like a tribute band not quite doing Painkiller justice, and not what you’re expecting from any band strutting it’s stuff under the Bonfire banner. At this point, your reviewer is feeling bewildered and upset…
However, it looks like Temple of Lies is just a failed attempt to open the album with something out of left field just to prove that the band is back, burning and relevant to heavy rock audiences in 2018, and normal service is resumed pretty quickly as the rest of the album settles down into the usual Bonfire mix of spirited rockers and heartfelt ballads. Melody is never far away on excellent tracks like Fly Away and Comin’ Home, with Ziller and Frank Pané (also a member of Sainted Sinners alongside short-lived Lessmann replacement David Reece) supplying some nice guitar work and Stahl performing adequately enough for Lessmann to be unmissed for most of the time.
Final track Crazy Over You, a keyboard-splattered slice of pure late eighties indulgence, is where the band score highest, however, unashamedly mining from the same seam as albums like Fireworks and Point Blank to create a quite superb piece of radio rock that’s right out of the top draw, so much so that when I first played it Mrs Strickmann ran upstairs in search of one of her old double denim ensembles in celebration. It doesn’t get much better than that, let me tell you, so well done lads!
Some shaky moments, then, but overall I’d have to say that Bonfire are moving in the right direction with this new lineup. Worth a listen at least.
Bonfire will release Temple of Lies through AFM Records on April 13th.