“Fistful of Fire”

By Colonel Angus

Bonfire is one of those bands that I used to see a lot in the metal magazines like Kerrang and Metal Hammer.  I did hear some of their material in the late 80s but while it had all the right elements of strong vocals, great riffs, and catchy tunes, the albums left me wanting and they were missing that special “x-factor” that is needed to get my attention.  Periodically, I would hear their new record and gave me the same results.  All the ingredients were there but the musical stew was missing something.  Fast forward many years and Fistful of Fire lands in my lap to review.  I would be lying if I said that I didn’t walk into this with a preconceived notion that I was going to be underwhelmed like before.  I don’t know if it the inclusion of Alexx Stahl on vocals but I am doing a 180 degree turn and really loving this disk.  I don’t recall the records that I heard previously but this one is a winner from start to finish; almost (I’ll get to that later in the review). 

The album starts off with a short intro piece called the “Joker” and in short order, the album starts to rock with “Gotta Get Away”.  The momentum really doesn’t let up throughout and even mellower track “When an Old Man Cries” fits nicely into the track sequence without causing a lull in the proceedings.  My favorites seem to change daily with Fistful of Fire but the title track, “Warrior”, and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivors” always make my daily playlist during this weird pandemic time.  As I mentioned earlier, this disk is almost perfect except for two minor missteps.  The first one is the intro/instrumental “Fire Etude” which starts off fine but they descends into basically “Eruption” by Van Halen.  The other is the inclusion of “When an Old Man Cries” acoustic version added to the end of the CD.  I know there is this idea that you have to add extra or bonus material but in my opinion, it is unnecessary especially when the “main” record is so strong.

Bonfire has gone through many line-up changes over the years with only Hans Ziller remaining as the sole original member.  His guitar work along with additional guitarist Frank Pané is stellar throughout.  Their riffs are heavy and melodic and the solos fit the tracks perfectly.  Ronnie Parkes and André Hilgers are a great rhythm section and put in a solid performance while Alexx Stahl and the others build on top of that solid foundation.  From my research, Stahl was just a temporary replacement at first to fill out commitments but was later upgraded to full-time vocalist status.  This was fortuitous as Stahl is a great vocalist and is a much better fit than David Reece.  I don’t normally mention production as we have gotten used to a certain level of quality but I would like to point out the production on Fistful of Fire is beefy and full and does the music justice.  The overall feel of the record takes me back when metal was fun with catchy melodies that would be running through your head for days.  This disk makes me want to revisit their earlier material to see if I missed something first time around.  Even if I come back with the same opinion, Fistful of Fire will remain a great record and I look forward to the next release from this line-up.